Sandcastles

Forgive me in advance for getting rambly. It’s 11:30pm, I’ve just written so many words, I’m craving midnight snacks, and I’m very red-eyed right now.

I want to tell you about an alternate reality and a universe parallel to the one we’re in right now. The difference is so minor that you probably wouldn’t even notice anything is different about it, but this alternate reality is just a little more boring than the one we’re in right now. And in this alternate reality, I would have zero reason to write this blog post!

Like so many writers in the world right now, I made the commitment to dive into NaNoWriMo and celebrate National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t know, this happens every November, and writers make a commitment to get as close as they can to writing a full novel between November 1 and November 30. The ultimate goal is 50,000 words, and the preference is to do something fresh in between. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m also a rebel. While I’m fully immersed in NaNoWriMo, I use the month as motivation to complete an unfinished novel, regardless of how many words I have left, and usually get a new project rolling while I let the first one cool off. So this month, I’m writing all about a train crash, a reality TV star, and a dragon. I’ve been writing about them in short little bursts for about a year now. In fact, I started this during the last NaNoWriMo after I finished the first draft of The Hummingbird!

So, with NaNoWriMo as my saddle, I took this dragon project by the horns and I wrestled it into submission and slapped the last remaining 20,000 words on the end with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old in a Disney park! Right?

Wrong!

Yes, I’ve made progress in the first week. Yes, I’m proud of that progress. But when you come close to the end of a project, there’s a slump where you feel like A) you might not ever finish the manuscript and/or B) you shouldn’t finish the manuscript. It’s garbage. Why did you even start? Hack up every single word and burn the letters! I had that day yesterday. I started to identify all the inconsistencies, plot holes, pacing issues, and absurdities that I don’t want in my book. And the idea of going back to clean them out and fix it right now was all too daunting. I can’t even look at this anymore! I thought. Oh, the horror!!!

And then I took a deep breath, put on my Spotify, and said, “Just finish the damn book, Jacob.”

And then I wrote 491 words.

I’m no math wizard, but I do know that’s less than 1% of the target goal for NaNoWriMo. But I also know that it’s 491 words more than I had on November 4th. Progress!

Today, I came home and wrote 1200 more. That’s 2.4% of the target goal, and so much more than I had on November 4th or 5th! PROGRESS!

I’m gonna pat myself on the back for that one, especially because there was something I remembered. First drafts always suck. It’s a shapeless blob of molten iron, still too hot to play around with while you’re still pumping it out, but once you have it all in one place and give it a few minutes to cool, it’s yours to hammer and forge into a sword. The first draft is all sand. The third is a sandcastle–or at least, something closer to it than it used to be. 🙂 These past couple of days, I’ve been looking at that sand, daunted by how much water it’s going to take to shape it later, but thrilled and enthused by how beautiful this castle can be sometime after I’ve shoveled all that earth into a box and taken the time to let it settle. I got back to my playlists, my “fan casts”, my outline, and I set that goal to type THE END while NaNoWriMo is here to challenge me.

So, what about this “alternate reality”, you ask? One of the top selling authors of all time almost didn’t let one of his best works see the light of day. There’s a parallel universe somewhere where a top-selling novel lies in shreds, covered in hot garbage juice and never to be seen by human eyes, and I find that utterly heartbreaking. I refer, of course, to Stephen King’s Carrie, which he actually threw in the garbage because he was so appalled by his first draft. Had his wife not dug it out of the trash and forced him to keep working, Carrie never would have seen the light of day. How strange is it to think about a world without the teen psychic horror classic? For one thing, I would have had far less nightmares as a kid, but I digress. I guess it’s just good to know we all have our ups and downs!

Anyway, whether you’re noveling in November, trudging through your classes, trying to get a business going, wondering how you’re going to cook the biggest Thanksgiving dinner ever for forty people, or just trying to get to December with as little hassle as possible, allow me to tell you that you’ve got this. The world needs your sandcastle, and it’s yours for the sculpting.

Cheers!

-Jacob

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