It’s Day 4 of NaNoWriMo, and I find myself already hitting a familiar stage of a new book.

“This isn’t going well.”

“This is not the brilliant, fresh story I had imagined.”

“I should quit writing.”

While I’m not that experienced of an author yet, I’ve finished enough books now to recognize what’s happening. I see the symptoms and know them for what they are now. And I can ignore it, like that gas bubble masquerading as a heart attack. So I scribbled down some musings, both for myself and those who are in the same stage.

Don’t give in to the shiny new ideas. These are your brain’s way of saying “it’s okay not to finish.” There will always be another idea. Creativity begets creativity. So when that idea lodges itself in your skull like an Occupy WriMo protester, scribble down the salient points, then say “You’ll just have to wait your turn.” And get back to the WIP. This is the only way you will ever finish anything.

Do not get discouraged when you realize your WIP sucks compared to that awesome book you read recently. Or even compared to that inexplicably popular YA that made you go “They published THAT?! Monkeys throwing feces at a typewriter could do better!” You are comparing first attempts at something that has been edited, polished, and waxed like a Hollywood starlet headed to the red carpet. This is a normal reaction, but it’s one you have to squelch to get anything accomplished.

Do not stop if it feels like your story is struggling. That doesn’t mean you ride that train right off a cliff. Assess yourself honestly. If you’re way off track, pause for a moment and check your outline. If you don’t have one, try writing down the major plot points. Then start your next chapter back on track and fix the beginning later.

Because here’s the real secret.

The magic happens deep in the story, when you’re lost in the woods and just realized something is picking up the breadcrumbs behind you. Your brain is a beautiful machine, and you will discover themes and symbols you never consciously created. The voice that is uniquely yours will emerge, singing from the rubble of your first draft. And you will utterly astound yourself with what you are capable of. But this doesn’t happen at word 5,000, or even 25,000. It happens somewhere toward the end, when you’re crying into your coffee and contemplating ending the story with, “And then the bomb blew them all up. The end.” This moment is worth the struggle that comes before.

Finally, this is never easy. Don’t sell yourself short and think that you suck because it’s not flowing like wine on New Year’s Eve. Some days it’s fun, and some days you’re just thankful for an excuse to drink a lot of caffeine and eat chocolate. Writing is hard work, but it’s worth it.

YOU are worth it. You have no idea what you are capable of until you try.

Do not give up.

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