NaNoWriMo 2009: Yes, You’re Making All This Up (And That’s Okay)
I usually have two points of crisis during the composition of a story: during a Groundhog Day-esque rehashing of the intro as I try to find my way into a story, and at about the mid-point of the story where I feel like things should be more coherent than they are and where I panic because I can’t see how the damn thing will ever end. I have also hit that point at 100k on stories that end up being very, very long, and that’s another ball of wax entirely, but the feeling is the same: panic. Despair. Heaps and heaps of doubt. On this particular NaNoWriMo story, I’m blissfully not feeling quite the angst I normally do, though I am feeling a little bit of the "hurry up, you’re plot is wandering!" panic that for me is really omnipresent, ambient noise. But the other nag I’m getting right now, the one that always manages to trip me is this one: "You’re just making all of this up."
As an at-its-face statement coming from the peanut gallery of a novelist’s internal editor, it’s actually pretty funny, because that seems to be the whole point, but it’s only funny if you’re not inside my head. Typed into a blog entry it’s cute; coming at me as I prepare to turn the corner on 50k (I’m gunning for 100k, and this is now a day job, so them’s the stakes) and I get that nag, it’s not so laughable. The long version of the accusation that I am making all of this up is that I don’t know my research, that my characters aren’t real, that the plot is implausible, or, in short, that I have made a mistake. That despite my best efforts otherwise, something in this story is untrue, and if the whole world sees it, they will know it and call me on it, screaming MISTAKE!!!!! and I will probably die. Or something. It’ll be bad, I know that. And it’s almost inevitable that something’s wrong, of course, because I’m human, and I make so many mistakes anyway, and why did I think I could write a novel? Who cares that somebody bought two of them and your first one is coming out in about a month? Isn’t that worse? You want to put MORE mistakes out there for public consumption? Why are you bothering? Why don’t you give this up and go put a load of laundry in. Do something safe. Do something, anything but this.
Anybody else got that going on in their head? Are you getting the remix where it’s not so harsh, just telling you this is dumb, that you have better things to do, that really, what does this matter, what the HELL does a NOVEL matter? Is it telling you you’re bored, that you could be outside in the nice weather, or watching a movie, or something, anything but this?
If so, get your stake or your sword or whatever weapon you prefer, because these bastards are going down.
Yeah. We’re making this up. So what? That IS the point. Yeah, our stories have "mistakes." They’re called our visions and our creativity. They’re our voices. Yes, if we want to try to sell these novels later, we may have to do some fact checking. Yes, some things may be so integral we have to pause to double-check as we write. But even with that, yes, we may write a whole scene based on no-limit poker that isn’t right and we’ll have to rework it later. We can check that. Later. Right now is the magic time, the writing time, the spinning story out of absolutely nothing, of not just thin air but nothing at all, less matter than black holes. Maybe nobody would want to read this. Maybe our facts are actually heinously off. Whatever. This is ours. This is OUR story, right now.
Regarding the boredom–that’s just the light version of "this is a mistake." You said you were going to write a novel because you had a story to share, right? Because you had a vision, a voice? Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, writing takes a lot of practice. Yeah, you might write 50,000 words that later you don’t use any of. But you’re practicing. You’re here. You’re showing up. This is hard, and you’re doing it. You’re cooler than the people who don’t do it. The people who always say they want to write a novel but don’t. The people who have dreams but don’t act on them. Just by showing up, just by writing even the crappiest novel ever written, even that alone puts you several cuts above. But your story isn’t crap. Nobody’s is crap. No voice is a bad voice, no story is a bad story. It’s yours, and when you write it, you create it. Out of nothing. That’s a miracle. That is a fucking miracle.
Yeah. You’re making all of this up. Every word, every idea, every character. Even if you’re writing fanfic, you’re writing something that hasn’t been there before, unless you’re just transcribing something else word for word. You’re writing. You’re creating.
So the next time your internal editor sneers, "You’re making all this up," turn to her (or him) and say, "Damn straight." Then stake the bitch and get back to work.