For those of you participating in this masochistic extravaganza that is NaNoWriMo, you should have the latest pep talk, a la a letter from Philip Pullman, in your inbox this morning. I think he’s talking to me. My greatest fear so far is that I won’t be able to sustain the work, that it will fizzle out, all ideas will flee the country, no forwarding address. I’ve never written a novel, so even though I knew going into this thing that whatever I produced as a result of it would never be publishable (is that a word?) I needed something to kick-start me into actually sitting down and writing Every. Single. Day.
If you haven’t signed up to torture yourself, here’s the point that really hit home for me:
You know which page of a novel is the most difficult to write? It’s page 70. The first page is easy: it’s exciting, it’s new, a whole world lies in front of you. The last page is easy: you’ve got there at last, you know what’s going to happen, all you have to do is find a resonant closing sentence. But page 70 is where the misery strikes. All the initial excitement has drained away; you’ve begun to see all the hideous problems you’ve set yourself; you are horribly aware of the minute size of your own talent compared to the colossal proportions of the task you’ve undertaken. That’s when you’ll want to give up.
Argh. See I sort of have an outline in my head of things I’m going to do to my heroine, situations I intend to drop on her. I even kind of know how she’s going to deal with it all. But will it last for 50,000 words? Do I really have enough ideas? She’s in the midst of her first trauma now, I’m not entirely sure what she’s going to do to get through this but today’s the day I find out.
Here’s another really pithy bit of advice. I can’t tell you how many times this has sunk me:
One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a sh ip when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place;
Oh if I had a nickel for every idea that I lost because I didn’t write it down IMMEDIATELY, thinking “I’ll remember THAT, how could I forget THAT?” I’d have a pocketful of nickels. Maybe a whole purseful.