Thursday, 23 January 2020

You can start over at any time

Last week I woke up every night around 2 or 3am, worrying about my story. What story, you may wonder?
I'm glad you asked. (Every writer secretly is, no matter how vehemently we deny it.)
I announced in this post that 2020 is the year of the novel for me. As in, I'm writing my very first novel. I was in high spirits, as is befitting for the beginning of January, and I was also smug because I gave myself a head start by starting to write in the middle of December. Clever me!
Turns out, the joke's on me. 

Writing a fictional story is a whole other ballgame from writing a memoir or a non-fiction self-help book. I'm what they call in the writing biz a 'pantser', meaning I like to fly by the seat of my pants when I write, which in short is: word vomit. I just sit down and write whatever's on my mind, and then hope that it's brilliant. This is largely due to the combination of having no formal training and blogging for over 6 years; blogging used to be the very definition of word vomit. (It has changed a LOT since that beautiful, sacred time; now it's all about pre-planning and curating and creating magic. What a disappointment.) 

Anyways, let's get back to my little major-to-me meltdown last week. As I said, previously to that I was happily typing away, having an idea about my story and the characters, but, as it turns out, no idea where they were going. 
What I did have, however, was a goal word count (20,000 for the month in case you're interested, which boils down to 645 words a day), and that word count was not overly ambitious; it was doable. I don't like to set myself up for failure, and if I've learnt anything over the last 20+ years, it's that if a goal is too far out of reach, I will just give up. I like baby steps, baby. 
So here I was, working away towards my word count and knowing that I could make it.
There was only one problem: I got stuck. 
One of my characters was basically me, with many events copied right out of my own life (and my first book); and the story was going nowhere. It was shit.

Thus: waking up in the middle of the night, wrestling with the story. So I did what every self-respecting writer does: I wallowed in self-pity and denial.
I had invested close to 10,000 words into the book by then, and I was slightly behind schedule. (Translation: I had a shit-ton of work to do if I wanted to meet my goal. Which was totally doable, remember??)
I could still write my way out of this pickle, couldn't I? It was all about hitting that word count, wasn't it? (Pro tip: The fuck NO.)

That's the moment when the Internet saved me. It gets a bad rep, mostly justified, but honestly, for many of us creatives who didn't go to school for our passion, who didn't take classes or have creative friends, it's our saviour. It's our inspiration, teacher, helper, cheerleader -  and once in a while, it offers us the help we haven't found anywhere else at 2am in the morning.

I woke up from a nightmare, drowning in despair as you only can in the early morning hours,  and I reached for my phone as if it were a life raft. Which in this case, it was.
Because I found this article below, screenshotted it, and then immediately forgot how or where I found it. (Remember, it was the middle of the night.) If you recognize it, please tell me! I'd love to give credit to the person who wrote it and thus saved me.
That cut-off screenshot has helped me more than you can imagine.
Because guess what? I've never done a real outline before. It's a 'plotter's' move, not a 'pantser's', and it was new to me until last week. But it's what I absolutely needed to realize to make this ambitious adventure of writing a suspense novel a reality.
And you know what? Even though I had to scrap my almost 10,000 words and start from scratch, it feels so good.
Because even though it hurt like hell to delete all those words and start over, I have a plan now. I have a way better plot than I did before, characters that kick ass and a story that makes me leap out of bed in the morning because I can't wait to write. And isn't that what we all want life to be about?
I often struggle with the why.
Why am I here?
Why do I work so hard towards something that most likely will give me no reward? (Meaning it won't make me rich or famous.)
Oh yes, I fight those demons all the time.
Shouldn't I just work my day job and chill out afterwards?
Believe me, I tried. Turns out, it's just not enough for me. I can't "just relax" after my day job. I need more. And my more is to write. I've written enough about my own life, so the next step is: create amazing new stories!
Stories have always helped me through everything: feeling lonely, being scared, needing advice, craving friendship, needing a burst of courage, wanting a way out.

And I can't find another reason why I'm here but for this: to share stories.
To make you feel understood. Less alone. Less weird.

Since I'm done with my own story, I want to share the ones that have been living inside my head for all these years.
And if that means starting from scratch, that's what I will do.
Even if that means that I have to become a plotter for that.  

Because frankly, I have to. My only reason for jumping out of bed in the morning because I'm too excited to stay in bed is if I'm dying to write something down that occurred to me at night.
It's a curse. And a blessing.
It's the end of January, aka the boulevard of broken dreams - but only if we let it. 
Sarcastic people who hate life may be quick to point out that we have "failed" our New Year's resolutions. That's utter nonsense. We have explored a new path and encountered a few unexpected obstacles. That's all.
We are re-evaluating. Re-calibrating. Starting over.

Because you know what? You can start over any old day. I started over last Tuesday.
This time, it may stick. And if not? I'll start over again.

One thing's for certain: I won't give up. This writing gig is my destiny.
You better stick to yours. No matter how hard - it's worth it.



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4 comments

  1. So far I wrote only a book about my own life. Therefore, I'm convinced it is much more difficult to write a novel! But I know for sure you will manage also this challenge perfectly. Enjoy further your writing.
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
    www.dressedwithsoul.com

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    1. You're so kind Rena, thank you! What's the title of your book? I'd love to read it!
      This novel-writing is definitely a challenge, but I love taking it on and learning more about writing along the way.

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  2. Yay for getting through a writing slump!! One thing that I decided to start trying, which may or may not work for you, is not to measure my writing in wordcounts but in time. It's something V.E. Schwab talks about on her instagram a lot. She says that she doesn't want to devalue the words we end up deleting after hours (or days or months) or work. They helped us get here, too. They were necessary.

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    1. Omg, I love that! It's sooooo true. I bet by the time a 50,000 word book is done most writers have easily written twice as many words.

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