Cage it, slap on a dozen locks, and get ready to tap away at your keyboard (or write your arm off, if you prefer that method).
Next week is National Novel Writing Month—a global event encouraging writers (novice or expert, published or not) to complete a novel draft of no less than 50,000 words within the 30 days of November. It took me until the end of November 2006, to discover this event, but I was determined to participate the following year. I read up on the event and planned how to tackle my project. As 2007 rolled around, my idea was still too weak to claim victory.
To be fair, it’s somewhat rare for a first-time NaNo’er to succeed. To be honest, I came up with every excuse not to accomplish my goal. Friendship drama, roommate drama, writer’s block, too much homework. For the record, if you’re passionate about writing, there is no place for excuses. You either write, or you don’t.
Last year, I pushed through my insecurities and completed a cringing, nonsensical draft that my mind had been swishing around for almost ten years. I guess that first attempt was affected by negative surroundings in addition to a lack of confidence in my abilities. The region near my university didn’t have the most active of participants, so I switched to attending meetups with my hometown’s region. It was a newer, middle-ground group, filled with equally nerdy folks who knew how to have fun with self-inflicted suffering. And it worked. They pushed me to finish before the deadline, and I succeeded.
That year taught me a lot about rough drafts. Namely, that they’re rough drafts for a reason. It doesn’t matter the quality, as long as you reach the quantity. Getting words out, however non-creative they sound at first, is better than staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen. The latter does nothing to steer you away from writer’s block.
The energy of November became contagious. Everyone is in the same boat as you, immersed in worlds far away and yet all within the same room. It also opens up the chance for immediate feedback. You might not necessarily be working on the same projects, but writing in groups is a fantastic way to make the process less stressful. Need to bounce an idea off of someone without taking criticism for it? Shout it out loud. Your peers can offer insight on if an idea will work, hacking off unnecessary efforts before they’re written.
The tiny voice in your head has a purpose, when the time is right. Roughs are not that time. The craft of writing comes with revision, but to even get that far, you need a complete manuscript with which to work. Hammer out the story’s skeleton, then go flesh it out.
Until then, keep your inner editor caged in that dungeon. After all, why think small when it’s your imagination, aye?