Day 6 of Camp NaNoWriMo
My writing sucks. The characters aren’t behaving like themselves. My prose is flat, unimaginative, but worst of all? I can’t figure out whose eyes I want the reader to see through.
We’ve all been there.
You’ve heard me say it before and I will say it again—perfectionism is a plague that follows all creative people. It can be especially challenging for those of us who have anxiety, who get so locked up in the fear of “standards” that our brains go numb, our ideas dry up (or are so plentiful, we have no hope of narrowing them down to a coherent plot—so what’s the point of trying?) and we decide pursuing our dreams to put imaginary people on paper is just too. damn. tiring.
But I challenge you to stop and be real for a moment. We’re making people and cultures and entire worlds out of thin air. This is not an easy job.
Today I’d like to offer you a glimpse into my new writing style—and I don’t mean the cool ‘my writing sounds great’ kind of style.
This has been my method:
- Write furiously in short bursts; at least a hundred words in a sitting, but take no longer than 10 minutes. (I’ve been writing by hand a lot. Adjust to fit your typing speed.)
- Put down whatever comes to mind, even if it’s in the wrong POV, tense, or sounds ridiculous.
- Read over what you have written and underline your favorite sentences (if there’s nothing that trips your trigger yet, keep writing! Get at least 1 good sentence in for the day.)
- Stop as soon as your brain turns to mush. If you get tired, anxious, or hard on yourself, then it’s time to quit. Short and sweet is the trick; enjoy writing again.
Sometimes it’s better to stop right before your brain feels like it’s been through the blender. Leaving your work on a ‘high note’ to take a break for chores, walking the dog, or getting a drink can keep your brain fresh and excited to return to what you were in the middle of creating.
Here’s an example from my current WIP for Camp NaNoWriMo. The POV character is Clyde, an android, and I’d like you to note how I change from first person to third, and past tense to present. I keep changing things up, letting my creative mind work it out as I go, while I just listen. I listen to myself, to my own thought process, and I trust my subconscious mind to work it out later—but not while I’m drafting.
I circled round the shack to the rusty scrap-metal heap I’d noted on our way into the ranger camp. Tiny blue bellflowers were growing from the tangle of car tire rims, tractor frames, and more than a few broken-down bicycles. The heap was as knotted as a bundle of wires. While Clyde rummages the pile, his back is to the dark open field. It stretches for acres behind him like a yawning gulf in a fathomless ocean full of secret things moving in the cover of darkness. His sensors prickle with heightened awareness, alerting him of every shift in the lazy evening breeze and the half-degree change in air temperature.
/// TK [scare of animal–introduce new cryptid]
(note: TK stands for “to come” and is a great place-marker for details, scenes, or dialogue you don’t feel like writing yet.)
Now I have a great big mess of words. But they’re interesting words, aren’t they? Especially that last part; it’s isn’t quite right, but it intrigues me. This ramble blocks in some details, something is happening, and it doesn’t matter that it’s meandering pointlessly because it is enough for my conscious mind to work with when I’m good and ready. Later on, I’ll structure it, add some drama (a cryptid coming toward Clyde from the wide-open field, probably,) and then decide if it actually serves the plot.
We all write sh**ty first drafts. So why not “let your hair down” and make it really, really messy? There’s no point in laboring over the details when the details will change many, many times before your novel is complete. Have some fun splattering paint-filled balloons on the canvas. Some of the colors will mix and turn to mud, but others will be shockingly bright and vivid and may even surprise you. “I wrote that?” you’ll think. You expected it all to be an awful mess, but look, you have so many bright gemstones peeking out of the the sand and, like a child on an ocean beach, you’ll get to collect them and string them all together to make something wonderful.
Now go write.