Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Challenge

The National Novel Writing Month is here and with it comes a heightened awareness of the function of The Challenge.

On the one hand is the obvious, write 50k words in 30 days challenge. For those of us still balancing the demands of Real Life (including family responsibility and day-jobs) with the requirements of Being an Author Who Actually Writes Stuff, making that 1.7k words every day is rough. Especially for a whole month.

But there's also prospect of writing something difficult. This is where I find myself - facing down a story that I love, but is more complex than anything I've written before. (Not more complex than anything I've attempted before. There are a bunch of things I've tried and had to put to one side because I'm just not there yet. ) This is The Challenge to Improve as a Writer.

It wears many hats.
Sometimes it's the struggle to improve my storytelling ability. The elusive quest to put the emotion on the page so strongly the reader feels it.
Sometimes it's the fight to give my characters depth. To make the plot be more than just a sequence of events. To make the story feel like something that matters.
Sometimes it's just about being a better writer than I was yesterday.

The problem with The Challenge is that it raises questions and with questions come doubt and with doubt comes the seemingly inevitable "block". That mind-numbing, finger-paralyzing block that keeps us from putting a single word on the page because it might be The Wrong One. Or the words might be okay but the concept is a Bad Idea. Or that this story is taps something so personal that No One Else Will Get It.

But there is hope. When staring down my own doubt (and the blank white screen of my word processing program) I remind myself of the following.

1. The first word you think of is usually best.
2. Even when it's not, you can always fix it later.
3. A simple word is frequently better than an esoteric one.
4. Even when it's not, you can always fix it later.
5. Every idea has potential.
6. Even when it doesn't, you can always fix it later.
7. Every idea will appeal to at least one other person.
8. Even when it doesn't, you can always fix it later.

The Challenge, really, is not in the story. The Challenge is in the writer and how much we are willing to risk putting on the page.

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