In the beginning, it always sucks.
Saturday night I stayed up well past my bedtime and punched out a little over 1000 words. I liked the opening scene, the characters seemed happy with my plot. I crawled into bed and dreamed about the story.
I couldn’t write again until Sunday night, but all day I brainstormed ideas and dialogue and visualized the characters. Midday, my inner-editor suggested I combine the characters from last year’s story with this year’s story (maybe that’s the problem with last year’s novel – right characters, wrong story). It sounded reasonable and feasible. At 8pm, I sat down and punched out another 1000 words.
But, after 2000+ words, I hated the story. It felt flat and the characters sounded forced, so I did the unthinkable during NaNoWriMo. I deleted, not everything, but about half. I let my inner-editor get the best of me.
Last year about this time, I battled the same doubts and deleting temptations . A chapter or two into the story, I threw my main character in front of a car. Then I thought, that’s just silly. Predictable and silly. I can’t possibly write the next 47,682 words from a hospital bed. I went back and downplayed the whole car scene and re-wrote my character riding safely through the intersection.
During my off-writing time yesterday, I read Natalie Whipple’s recent post on writing a first draft, and one tip stuck with me: Write how YOU write. She reminds us, “The only writer you can be is you. The only story you can write is your own. The only way you’re going to stand out in the market is by channeling your own unique voice. So just accept that and enjoy it.”
Day one of NaNoWriMo, I tried to weave a story like I was some great writer whom I won’t name because it’s really embarrassing that I would even think I could write that way. And, as I spelled out the scenes, the characters didn’t like it one bit, and neither did I. When I went back and rewrote in my own style, the pressure lifted and the characters cooperated.
I admit, I still worry the story will play out like a Hallmark movie (no offense, Hallmark, but I’m hoping for something with a little more meat). So, as I turn to my laptop this afternoon, I will be posting two mantras at the edge of my screen:
1) This is only an exercise. If the story reads jerky and nauseating, like a ride on a wooden roller coaster, it doesn’t matter. No one will go to jail, nor will I lose my day job.
2) “Write as you write,” Christi Craig-style. And, forget about crafting the great American novel, for now.