I’ve been having a bit of trouble writing this month. Sure, I’m on track with my word count, but this is the first NaNo I’ve done where my writing is being held responsible, as it were, to something other than my pure, wild imagination to take it where it wants to go. I have a story laid out for me, and I can’t deviate too much from it, because then I wouldn’t be writing the book I want to write.
That’s okay. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing a prequel. The bigger problem is that I’m also holding myself to The Public (ahem, to My Adoring Public) in a way I haven’t had to do before. I feel like this story is going to be really long. Like, longer than TLDTC, because there’s a lot of ground I want to cover, and a lot of explaining to do.
But now that I’ve been learning all these rules about publishing, and what makes a good book as opposed to a good story (not that you can have one without the other, but you know what I mean), I’m getting paranoid that the length is too much, that it’s too slow, or too big, or not big enough, or that I have too many characters, or that the construction is too different from TLDTC and that’s weird…etc., etc.
I think these moments of doubt and panic sneak up on all of us as writers. There’s nothing as nerve-wracking as staring at a half-completed sentence 40,000 words into your first draft and feeling like everything you’ve ever done with your life is worthless, because you’re a hack and a fraud and you deserve to fail because you suck. At least I hope that’s a universal feeling. Otherwise I’m going to need the number for a good detox facility.
One of the reasons I love NaNo is that it helps me take to heart the most important piece of advice I’ve even been given as a writer: lock your inner editor in a box, and don’t let it out until you’re done and the critical eye becomes necessary.
It’s not really that vital to critique your progress while you’re writing the first draft. Let it flow, write what you want to write, and you’ll actually surprise yourself with how good parts of it can be. That happens to me all the time, but I never seem to trust myself enough to let it happen again.
And since my anxiety level is fairly high at the moment anyway, it’s hard to let go and listen to my inner prison guard, who wants to turn off all the cameras and teach my inner editor a lesson she won’t forget so she’ll stop trying to escape. My inner prison guard is old school, and not very nice, but she sure is effective.
However, instead of letting her go to town on my psyche, I’m trying a much more pacifist approach. If you’re not already a fan of the amazing, hilarious, witty, and beautifully drawn Dinosaur Comics, this might mean nothing to you. But for me, it’s just enough motivation to keep the lesson in mind whenever I happen to glance at it sitting next to my computer:
Just write the damn story. Everything else comes later. If T-Rex says so, it must be true. Just write.