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NaNoWriMo Pep Talk – Hitting the Wall

One of the Lansing municipal liaisons for NaNoWriMo asked if I’d write up a pep talk for week two. I decided to talk about that part in my process where the novelty and shininess has worn off, and I realize my outline is broken, and suddenly it feels like the story is crumbling in my hands, and what was I even thinking???

It happens with pretty much every book I write, usually around 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the first draft.

Here’s an excerpt from the pep talk:

This is the time in Jim’s writing process where, like Charlie Brown kicking at that elusive football, I lose my footing and end up flat on my back, staring into the sky and wondering what the heck just happened.

My shiny new idea isn’t quite so shiny anymore. I’ve gotten lots of words down, but they don’t exactly match what I was imagining. And this next part of the outline doesn’t make any sense at all, now that I think about it more closely. Good grief, the Jim who was outlining this thing last month is an idiot. And now I have to fix his mess.

Everyone’s writing process is different, of course. You might zip through the entire month with never a doubt, never a stumble. (In which case I hate you a little bit.) But most of the writers I know, beginners and pros, hit a point at least once in every project, sometimes more, where everything feels like it’s falling apart.

I’ve got eleven books in print from major publishers, and about 33% of the way through writing every single one of them, I felt like I’d missed the football. I stared at the clouds and asked who had swapped my brilliant, perfect outline with this meandering, illogical, half-baked nonsense. This was it. I’d have to tell my publisher I’d failed. The whole world would finally know I’d been faking it all along.

Now for the good news. After twenty years, I know this is a normal part of my process. I know I can get through it. I know that once I climb back out of the Pit of Despair, I’ll discover that hey, maybe this book is pretty cool after all.

Ups and downs are a normal part of the writing process. It doesn’t mean we suck. It doesn’t mean we’re going to fail. It means we’re human. Our job isn’t to be perfect; it’s to get the story down.

You can read the whole thing in the NaNoWriMo Forums.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2015 04:28 pm (UTC)
I don't outline, but at times I suspect some illiterate troll swapped my shiny chapters with troll poo full of bad metaphors, unnecessary adverbs, clumsy syntax, and jarring POV shifts. At those times I wonder why I bother writing at all, and in a language not my own to boot. It helps to know that most writers go through stages like that; even GRR Martin said in an interview that on bad days he looks at his manuscript and asks himself 'who wrote that crap?'
Nov. 9th, 2015 07:00 pm (UTC)
The novel I'm currently working on fought back worse than any I'd ever done before. The first 32-34K words had to be rewritten twice. (I wrote them wrong the first two times, alas.) I think it is finally coming together, although since I was off at World Fantasy con for 4 days, now I have to try and get back in the zone...
Nov. 9th, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC)
I think my wife could have done with this 1/3 of the way through her PhD...
Nov. 10th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I needed to hear this today. I have a script in process that has hit a snag earlier in the process than is usual for me and I was feeling rather low about it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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