When The Finish Line Is So Close…But Still So Far (An End-Of-NaNoWriMo Pep Talk)
So, we have a few days left of NaNoWriMo, and for some of you, the finish line might be in sight. Personally, while I passed the 50k word mark last week, I am nowhere NEAR the end of this manuscript. Truth be told, I’m probably just somewhere near the start of the middle (Oy.). BUT I’ve written quite a few manuscripts before this (sixteen full ones, and a handful of still-incomplete ones waiting for a rainy day/month/year for me to finish them), so even though this is my first NaNoWriMo, I’m relying on over ten years of steady writing experience/instinct to get me through the rest of this book.
But some of you might be way nearer to the finish line than I am. And, thanks to all those manuscripts I’ve written, I totally know what it feels like to be in this stage. You might be totally pumped to be near the end—being near it might give you a second wind to get you through the rest of the manuscript. But, if you’re like me, then the home stretch might seem like the longest part of the journey. The exhaustion, the doubts starting to creep in, the worry that you’ve just wasted X-many days on a book that sucks, or is broken, or no one but you will ever love.
The exhaustion is understandable. No matter how long it takes for me to write a manuscript, by the time I get to the climax & ending, I feel like I’ve been run over by an 18-wheeler and then thrown into a ditch to be eaten by wild dogs. I’m usually going on empty, fueled only by caffeine and a ridiculous/insufferable stubborn streak that hates—absolutely HATES—quitting.
But even that stubborn streak has to deal with the doubts, those horrible whispers that start reciting a list of all the things that are wrong with the book. And usually, that list is very, very long. It’s hard to shut out those voices, especially when it seems that the best solution is to stop and revise. Or just stop all together.
Everyone’s writing experience/process is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about writing a book. But in MY experience, the best way to deal with those negative voices, with that creeping sense of horror at possibly having a POS manuscript, is to ignore them. For now. Put on your blinders, plug your ears, and write the ending. Don’t stop until you’ve written “The End” (or whatever the last words of your book are).
Don’t. Stop. Writing.
I don’t know a single author who writes perfect first drafts. I don’t think perfect first drafts exist, actually.
And when I’m drafting, I give myself permission to write pure crap. When I’m drafting, my #1 job is to just get down the bones of the story. Later, the breaking and mending and filling-in can happen. So no matter how loud those voices get by the end of that first draft, no matter how long the list of things to fix might be, I don’t stop writing. Even if I later wind up rewriting the ending completely, just writing SOMETHING, finishing that manuscript, gives me a much-needed sense of accomplishment and closure.
Even if you need to rewrite every single word, just think about it: you wrote a freaking BOOK. How many people can say they’ve ever done that? Think about the positives; think about what you’ve accomplished—and keep writing until the very end.
Susan Dennard will be posting next week about what to expect during the revision process, so I won’t go into it much right now. But I have this quote taped to the wall above my desk—a quote I’ve had up there for years and years. It’s from one of my all-time favorite books—Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander. And every time I feel like my first draft is crap, or like I should just give up and delete the whole thing, I read it and keep going. Sounds cheesy, and maybe it is, but I think it captures drafting (and NaNoWriMo) pretty well:
"Life's a forge!" cried the smith, as Taran, his brow streaming, beat the strip of metal. "Yes, and hammer and anvil, too! You'll be roasted, smelted, and pounded, and you'll scarce know what's happening to you. But stand boldly to it! Metal's worthless till it's shaped and tempered! Face the pounding; don't fear the proving; and you'll stand well against any hammer and anvil!"
So, stand boldly to it. The finish line is SO close, and even if you drag your feet every last inch, even if you’re carried over the finish line by sheer stubbornness or the support of your friends...Don’t stop writing. You CAN do this.