This July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s a writing challenge, and I set a goal of 30,000 words for myself.
See, I’ve had this story bouncing around my head for quite a while. When I got frustrated at work or at home or at the grocery store, it would pop and say, “You could be writing me…”. You know, instead of doing whatever was causing boucoups stress. Every night before I went to sleep, the characters would stand up and start acting out scenes from their story. I even went to a writing conference and ended up pitching this as yet unwritten manuscript to an agent during a critique. He thought it was a good idea, and that cemented my resolve. I HAD to write it.
So I joined Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July to help motivate me to put my “butt in the chair” (as Jane Yolen likes to say), and get that first draft written down.
At first it was easy to turn off my inner editor and just write. I knew my story because it had been building in my head for months. I knew my characters because they populated my dreams. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
Then, with only 3,000 words to go, I contracted the dreaded Writing Thrombosis. That’s the medical term for Writer’s Block: when your judgmental, inner editor lodges itself between your brain and your finger and all your ideas and words are obstructed.
Suddenly, I couldn’t see past the repetition of the phrase “nodded her head,” or all the adverbs I used to describe how my characters said what, or the fact that my main character was always jumping on and off his horse. I was ashamed of how little tension was present in what was meant to be a climactic scene. My inner editor demanded I go back and fix every mistake before finishing those last 3,000 words and resolving the conflict of my story. What was I going to do?
Experts say when this happens, you should get your butt out of your chair (le gasp!) and go for a walk. Read a book or take a break from writing so that your creative veins can expand and your Writing Thrombosis will ease. Ideas will flow more easily, new possibilities will arise. It is good advice.
But, I tried it, and it didn’t work. I knew where my story was going. I knew how my characters were acting (even if it wasn’t described in the most effective manner). My ideas were there, they just couldn’t get past the inner editor.
So, I purposely wrote a bad sentence:
The boy jumped on his horse and nodded his head.
My inner editor screamed at me. I almost deleted it. But instead, I wrote another:
“I’m going with or without you,” he said fiercely.
I think at that point, my inner editor fainted. And that was all it took. The next 3,000 words came easily again. Some of them were very good words. Some of them were okay words. And some of them were downright ugly.
Most importantly, by the end of the day, I had a completed manuscript. A first draft that could be revised over and over for repetitious words, vivid verbs, imagery, improving my POV, deepening characterization, adding tension… the list goes on. I have a lot of work to do before I am ready to share my story.
But I’m one step closer, and now I sleep a little easier, except for the new characters that keep jumping up to say, “Look at me! Look at me!”