Sunday, September 4, 2011

The End

I am a strict believer in writing through anything tough. Which is exactly what I do when I get to the dreaded middle.

When I first started writing, I would revise and revise and revise. I never finished anything because I was so busy revising things that I didn't like. And I didn't like everything.

And well, let's face it, not finishing anything is sort of problematic. But I was saved--by NaNoWriMo. I stumbled across a website forum of writers all taking about nanowrimo, and I had no idea what it was, but they all kept talking about it and asking each other if they were going to do, and I hate being left out, so I checked it out.

It taught me two very valuable lessons.

1. 200,000 words is not actually appropriate novel length. (I'm a little embarrassed to admit I'd written several very lengthy manuscripts--which were mostly character studies with no plot--and they were all over 200k words. I had no knowledge of word length until I got involved with NaNoWriMo.)


2. I needed to Just. Keep. Writing.

Word count is thankfully something I've made myself familiar with and kept in mind while writing in the future, but Nano challenged me to keep going, to forget how crappy the beginning was, or the deus ex machina plot disaster going on in the middle, or the flat characters and absent motivation. It taught me to push through all that, and get to The End.

Which was something I really needed to know how to do.

After I survived my first Nano and finished the first draft of a manuscript, I went through and read it. There was a lot to not like--there was a ton of stuff I threw out and rewrote, but I had a framework, and revising from there was so much easier for me.

So now, I'm working on a new project. It's a little different than things I've written before, and I've written some scenes that are way too rambly, dialogue that's way too stiff, and worldbuilding that borderlines the definition of info dump.

But if I stopped and revised now, I would get lost in the frustration of those scenes. I might even get stuck in a loop of rewriting the same scene time after time after time. (It's happened more times than I care to admit). Instead, I grab some kids--the sour patch kind--and I keep writing. I ignore the stuff that makes me want to groan, because when I finish and I reread the manuscript, there will be stuff I can keep too, scenes I love, even scenes that amaze me because they're good.

In my WIP, I'm almost 20k words in, and I know I'm going to rewrite a lot of the beginning so it flows more smoothly, but about 5k words ago, I hit a stride, and that makes all that grumbling through the beginning is worth it.


Liz Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray April 2012), is the story of one girl’s fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.

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  1. Just keep writing--so true. It all adds up and that's the only way I think you improve. And now I need to JKW myself, after I find some Sour Patch Kids.

  2. Couldn't agree with you more! I've found it's a real discipline to JUST WRITE and let yourself get through a draft b4 you start revising. You're ploughing along and suddenly you find your stride and it's the most amazing feeling! So worth the struggle to just keep going.

  3. Was your NANO project the book that turned into UNRAVELING, Liz?

  4. Jay, no, it actually wasn't. My NANO project is a novel very close to my heart--one that I'm hoping to go back to some day and rewrite.