As y'all might have noticed, Camp NaNoWriMo didn't work out so well for me this last month. In April, I wrote just a little over 8,000 words of my new #SnowQueenStory. For someone who used to be able to win NaNoWriMo (50,000 words) in two weeks or less, that's... really discouraging. But this is my reality, and reality can be harsh at times.
It's important that I recognize that this is my first attempt at writing a new, original novel since 2014. (I did write a novel-length fanfic that helped comfort and bolster me through the worst of things in 2016/2017. It took about a year to write.) This is my first attempt at a new, original novel after my chronic illness crisis. Expecting it to be easy, and expecting to be able to win NaNoWriMo right off the bat again, wasn't realistic of me.
I did face challenges that I couldn't have anticipated, c'est la vie for us all, right? For most of the month, my chronic illnesses were flaring due to acupuncture, which I'd decided to try out after like a million people recommended it to me--turns out it was not a good idea for me. I wasn't sure it would do anything at all, but I definitely didn't expect it to have such a strong negative effect!
I also got hired as a remote employee for a multifaceted digital services company this month, and combined with some editing projects that came my way, it meant I had more work to do than I've had in a long time. It was actually a little overwhelming--not in an awful way, since, y'know, making money and accomplishing things is cool, but because it felt like my time was being eaten up. Which is ridiculous, because most people do a lot more than I do, so I have time, I just don't remember how to manage it now that I've been so purposeless for so long.. So I'm still in an adjustment period there, which is not NaNoWriMo-favorable
But those things aside, my chronic fatigue and related symptoms make it so my brain works slower now than it used to. The words don't come as easily as they used to (though they come better than they did when I was at my worst--back then my thoughts were like swimming through Jello). Combined with my growing skill as a writer and editor, it makes it really hard to get that first draft down. I want to do a good job, but that means selecting your words carefully and including proper scene transitions and writing the details, and those sorts of things take some real thought. I kept reminding myself of what authors always say--that you just have to get the first draft down and then you edit it to make it good--but there's still that desire to do the best you can. And doing the best you can, in my case right now, means going really slowly.
It's honestly quite frustrating. If I hadn't been so fast originally, it might not bother me so much, but I know what it's like to be able to get a draft down in a blink. I know what it's like to have other writers look up to me as being the Chosen One who can write unnaturally fast. Coming to this from that is hard. It's basically going from Stephen King to George R. R. Martin (both of whom are famous, successful authors, so I guess it's not the worst thing that could happen). But then, if I hadn't been that fast in the first place, imagine how much slower I'd be now!
I've also had a really hard time with all the worries that this brings up for me about my future writing career. The publishing world moves slowly, but there are still deadlines and an audience to appease (all hail). The majority of writing is actually editing, and if it takes me a whole year just to write a book, imagine how long it will take for me to actually get a publishable project! I worry that any publisher or agent or readers I get will become too frustrated with me. And to top it all off, writing this slow dampens the enjoyment and the passion for me because I'm experiencing the story SO SLOWLY. It makes things boring. The pacing is completely off of how it should be for a reader..
So, with this last month forcing me to face the fact that I am now a turtle-writer and that may never change, I've gotten somewhat down on myself again. But as my dearest Julia and my counselor reminded me, this is one of those things I can't change, so worrying about it isn't going to help me. What matters is that I am writing, however slow it is. I am making progress. I'm trying. And the slowness of my writing doesn't mean that this book is going to be low-quality, either. (It might be, we'll see, but it's not a certainty.) I don't know what's going to happen regarding my career worries, but for the moment, I will hold onto hope that the people I get a chance to work with in the future will be accepting and patient, just like my friends ð.
In the meantime, I've decided to focus on the one issue I've been dealing with here that I can change--getting myself out of editor mode and into writer mode. It's not surprising that this has been an issue for me, because, again, since 2014 I've been editing a single book--my #OCDStory. (Also, writing the aforementioned fanfiction, but I edited it as I went.) Plus, now I run my own freelance editing business. So I've been in editor mode for a very long time, and I've gotten quite good at it. Which is fantastic! But editor mode and writer mode are different things. As a novelist named Peter De Vries (whom I know nothing about) once said, "Write drunk, edit sober."
In my case, there is not going to be any actual drunkenness going on, but writing does require a much more creative, free-flowing, and untamed state of mind where you're basically just experimenting with whatever feels right and whatever makes you happy. On the other hand, editing requires a much more structured, rule-focused, analytic state of mind. You're still focusing on what feels right and what makes you happy, but you're doing it in a much more reserved and audience-facing way. And I've had a hard time getting away from that as I've tried to write this new book. My brain keeps wanting to jump ahead (which is normal for me when writing) and analyze and inspect everything about this unwritten book (which is not normal for me), instead of letting it come naturally. Overthinking is not helpful during this stage of the process, at least not for me. I have to save that for the editing--and apparently, it's going to take me a long while to get to that stage with this project
Because of this, I've had to rewrite what I've written/adjust my vision for the story a couple of times so far to get it into that place where it flows more naturally. First, I realized that I was forcing the romance issue, because romance is one of my Things, instead of letting it happen the way the story required. Then I realized that I had written a main character who, while being perfectly fine, wasn't the type of character that I connect with and want to write about. At the same time, I realized that for this to be the story I want, I need to stick a little closer to the original fairytale than I'd started out doing. That second rewrite was significant, and since then I've felt a lot better while writing. There have been a couple of more minor things I've gone back to change--the editor mode is still holding on!--but I'm starting to feel more like my writer self.
I've also been trying out a few other tips I've seen online for getting into the writing mode. For example, many writers online passed around a tip a little while ago about writing in Comic Sans instead of in Times New Roman, because it helps take the pressure off and make the writing feel more informal. Instead of Comic Sans, I decided to use another thing I saw on Tumblr to make a font out of my handwriting, and I've been using that. And I think maybe it's helped? I had my second epiphany about what I needed to change after I started using that font, so, y'know, maybe.
So, I'm still working on this bookâ. And I probably will be for a long time. But that's okay. I'm going to be patient with myself. I'll write my little bit every day, and eventually, I'll get to the end of the story. Then we'll see what's come out of it.
Thanks for reading this update, everyone. ð And if you would please share any tips you have for getting out of editor mode and into writer mode, that would be fantastic! I'll be back next week with a post about my new diet initiative.
Images via megs_pics and cygnus921 on Flickr, me, lisettebrodey_1562129 on Pixabay, and me.
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