The Slough of Despond

Back in November, I finished a novel for NaNoWriMo. (if you’re coming in late, that’s National Novel Writing Month.)

I missed National Novel Finishing Month (December). Who can work on writing in December, what with Christmas cookies to bake, cards to send out, halls to deck, etc. — what were they thinking?

This month is National Novel Editing Month. *smirk* As if I’m anywhere close to fixing commas and hunting down adverbs.

Reactions to my announcement that I’d won in November ranged from, “Cool. What do you get?” to “Why would anyone want to write a novel in a month?”

Yes, I finished. *Patting self on back*

Fortunately everyone is so tired of hearing about it that they don’t keep asking me, “Have you sent your novel out to publishers yet?”

Most of my friends aren’t writers. They don’t know about the hard truth of revision. They think you write it, and then you publish it. Sort of like a blog, but longer.

I am stuck in the Slough of Despond. I sink under the weight of my own bad writing.

Nano month was a great experience for me. It taught me how to write a first draft — just get it down on paper. Worry about revision later.

Later is now.

I have re-envisioned my story at least 3 times. I have started revising 3 times. I have decided that much of what I knocked out at 4 am during November is out.

I have a lot of writing to do. I have many sins to purge.

It’s all right. I have my concept, my characters, my vision. That’s good — getting started can be hard. I’ve already got something to work with. It’s a mess, but it’s something.

The bog that is sucking me down, not letting me lift my pen is called: Do It Right Now Because You Won’t Have The Time Later.

I’ve had my opportunity to write badly, to be silly and not care whether it’s going to work. I’ve had my chance to just write, or free-write, the story as it occurred to me.

Now, every time I sit down to Do It Right, all the writing advice I’ve ever received comes back to haunt me: The Ghosts of Novels Past.

  1. Start with an interesting, enigmatic, forceful, and engaging first sentence. (If ever you want to stare at a blank page for hours, try this.)
  2. Get into the action right away. Stop describing the scenery, giving the weather report.
  3. Where’s the conflict? Come on! Pick those feet up! Every scene must move this story forward!
  4. Why are your characters so lifeless?  Stop describing what they’re wearing! Who are they?
  5. Too much Telling! What happened to Showing? Boring! Too passive!
  6. Where’s your viewpoint? Too distant! Must get inside point of view!
  7. What?!? You’re using first person? Present tense? Bad decision! Can’t you see all those editors frowning on first person / present tense narration? Didn’t you get the memo?

Progress? Well, I’ve got another outline…

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