A few weeks ago I finished the first draft of a novel for 4th-5th grade readers, and set it aside (later I’ll return with fresh eyes and revise). While in this lull between projects, I’ve devoured books and added a few titles to my Favorite Fiction lists. But I feel antsy. When I don’t spend at least a couple of hours writing each morning, I get cranky. At the same time, the thought of beginning a new novel overwhelms me. I know how long and involved the process is. How much writing gets thrown out. How the characters have ideas of their own—ideas that don’t always mesh with mine—and I have to be patient and listen, listen, listen.
Right now I sense the seed of a new story, but it hasn’t yet germinated. Like a burr in my sock, it’s rubbing, and it feels good to scratch at it, but I know I have to let it rub me raw in order to get at the emotions, desires, secrets and fears that will drive the next novel. (Geez, why couldn’t I have been born a comedian?)
I turn to my bulletin board of inspirational tips from faculty and trustees at Vermont College of Fine Arts:
- Put yourself into a place of infinite possibility. Martine Leavitt
- Dare to be mediocre. Katherine Paterson
- Trust that you will become the writer that the story needs you to be. Sharon Darrow
- Write the story you think you don’t know how to write. M.T. Anderson
I read and re-read these quotes, and I sigh and nod and free-write and day-dream and pace and say, “thank you.” Thank you.
2 thoughts on “Starting from scratch”
First, congratulations on the finished first draft of your novel! That’s a huge milestone, and I know you’ll return to it refreshed and ready to sculpt.
Second, I know all too well what it’s like to have the not-writing-daily cranks. I’ve grown to dislike, intensely, the days that go by without an opportunity to write for a couple of hours. And part of that is a result of the two occasions I’ve blogged daily on the BlogHer website.
I’m doing it again this month, and without any real intention (you know how these stories will make their presence known) I’ve started a series that just could end up being a memoir. I’m finally giving voice to the voice that needs to tell this story.
Of course one shouldn’t need the framework of a daily blog challenge, or something like NaNoWriMo, which I’ve not tried yet, to commandeer the discipline it takes to sit down and write every day. But that’s always been my trouble spot, and meeting these challenges is helping me to refine my priorities. I hope to be able to write daily WITHOUT the external motivator. For now, it’s been a godsend.
As for being a comedian—most of them write their own material, so I’m not sure you’d be that much better off. 🙂
I haven’t yet tried NaNoWriMo, but I’ve heard people say that the greatest benefit is the side-effect. It’s not the 50,000 words. It’s establishing the habit of writing daily. Like you say — the external motivator is key.
I’ve been so impressed with your regular blogging, and not just that you’re posting so often, but that the quality of what you’re posting is high. So if an added benefit is that you’re drafting what might become a memoir–that’s golden. I’m already looking forward to reading it someday!