I’m Not Dead

I’m not sure what happened to the month of March.

There I was, sprinting to the end of February with my goal of 50k words in sight, withMarch on the other side of the finish line cheering me on like a caffeine-crazed cheerleader, when –

WHAM!

*Strobe light*

Darkness.

The calendar on my computer tells me that it’s April and taxes are due, but I don’t quite know where I am, let alone where my tax forms might be. The last thing I remember was sitting on my couch, munching on goldfish in my PJs, and struggling to mine more words from the old brain chasm.

And now I suddenly find myself in a strange land surrounded by beaches, college kids, and life-sized rejects from the Mattel factory driving Ferraris and Lamborghinis like characters in Mario Kart.

Still, the weather is nice, and I’ve found a home within some sort of wildlife sanctuary where ducks and herons regularly fight for pond visitation rights, which I consider a step up in entertainment from the cat and squirrel bouts I used to watch.

Nevertheless, March is gone, and all that remains is a series of blurry memories involving two Russian movers named Hank and Ice, a mountain of unanswered emails, and – if Microsoft Word is to be trusted – somewhere close to 31k words of soggy, bloated prose.

There was probably some other stuff that happened, but the most important thing, at least in the context of this blog, is that I continued working on my book despite consistent disruptions and several nadirs of creative self-loathing.

That brings the current total number of words excavated and invested into my monstrous pile of fictional slop (including outlines, deleted scenes, and prep work) to just over 129,000.

Which is great –

Seeing that number makes me feel awesome. That’s 20x longer than anything I’ve written to date, and I’m starting to believe I can actually write this thing called a “novel.” Maybe not a publishable novel, but a Frankenstein scrabble monster of characters and plot nonetheless.

Admittedly my progress is slower than I had hoped, and my anxiety around a blank page has scarcely diminished, but I continue on, persisting through the deserts and bogs of self-doubt in my quest to reach the mythical milestone of first draft completion.

On multiple occasions I’ve reached a point where I want to smash everything with an oversized hammer, like a meth-addled Mario fed up with Donkey Kong and his infinite barrage of barrels. I convince myself that I’ve already learned a lot from what I’ve written, and I can use that knowledge to go write a much better, more epic book.

But every successful author worth his ink insists that the most important thing you can do is finish what you start. Otherwise, you end up lost in a never-ending wilderness of half-finished manuscripts and wandering along a circular path of perpetual rewrites.

So, after I’ve taken a break and played a few video or whatever it is I find to distract myself, I fix what isn’t working in the story that’s preventing me from moving on. Or I look for a new approach that reenergizes my interest. Anything I can to continue putting one word in front of the other. It isn’t easy, but there is something motivating in the knowledge that every author I admire and look to for advice has been through the same experience.

Writing a novel is like jumping out of a plane with some yarn, then trying to knit a parachute before you hit the ground.” (Neil Gaiman)

I’m nearing the 50% mark of the initial draft, and I’ve learned more about writing fiction in the last three months than the last three years. At some point I’ll detail the highlights of my discoveries, but for now the writing portion of my brain is cooked, so this will have to do –

The one universal key to success, whether it’s writing, work, or friends and family, is the age old axiom:

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON.

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