Thursday, November 21, 2013

Novel Inspiration

Writing is writing, right?

I should be writing my novel.  NaNoWrimo is over halfway through and, though I am making fairly steady (if slow) progress, I'm not as far along as I'd like to be. Instead, I am going to procrastinate for a while by reflecting on today's pep talk, courtesy of Lev Grossman. 

Like any aspiring author, especially one who writes for a young adult audience, I am angsty and filled with self-doubt. Will I ever finish even one of the partially finished drafts that are piling up around me? 

Lev says, "It astounds me every time, but the books get done. How? It's not about having some triumphant breakthrough moment. Being a novelist is a matter of keeping at it, day after day, just putting words after other words. It's a war of inches, where the hardest part is keeping your nerve. The number one reason why people who want to write novels don't is that they lose their nerve and quit."

Wow, it's like he just popped his head into my cluttered living room and prodded me with a stick to quit procrastinating and WRITE.

And then he goes on to say, "To write a novel is to come in contact with raw, primal feelings, hopes and longings and psychic wounds, and try to make a big public word-sculpture out of them, and that is a crazy hard thing to do. When you look at other people's published novels, they seem gleaming and perfect, like the authors knew what they wanted to do from the start and just did it. But trust me: they didn't know."

They didn't know? Are you sure, Lev? because I've spent years listening to teachers analyze  texts for symbolism and theme and all that literary stuff. That authors don't have everything figured out from the start is exciting and frightening in equal measure. Do you mean that I still get to write if I have no clear idea of how it's all going to play out? Oh shit, does that mean I can't use being clueless as an excuse not to write?

Reading this pep talk reminded me of the first time I tried to highlight the important ideas in a college textbook. I highlighted entire pages, which really wasn't all that helpful, except that it made my book look pretty.  That said, here's the best part of this pep talk:

"What you're feeling is not only normal: it's a good sign. A writer--someone once said--is a person for whom writing is difficult. That resistance you're feeling is proof that you're digging deep. To write a novel is to lose your way and find it over, and over, and over again."

Talk about deep. Oh, wait a minute. Did I say that was the best part? I highlighted even more:

"A lousy draft proves nothing. Rough drafts are rough--everybody's are. Being a writer isn't like being a musician. You don't have to get it right every day. The wonderful thing about being a writer is, you only have to get it right once. That's all anyone will ever see. The  only bad draft is the one that doesn't get finished."

Oh, SNAP. You get me, Lev. Truly.

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