Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fear & 5 things I've learned while writing a novel

Back at the beginning of November I undertook the Nano Wrimo challenge of writing a novel in a month. After multiple stress attacks, pulling out my hair, late nights in front of a glaring laptop, countless how-to self-help books and too many cups of peppermint tea these are 5 things I've learned along the way.

1. Nothing beats a chair and a desk.
2. Tea and acoustic music are my friend.
3. The secret to doing anything is to start and then just keep going.
4. There will always be excuses, there will not always be opportunities.
5. Sentences may not make sense, grammar may be shocking, but anything is better than a blank page.

I've always liked writing, short stories and essays were my calling. 50,000 words however was not something I had ever attempted before and I was doubtful, I was nervous, I was shaking in my boots. The easiest thing was for me to not do it. In fact, I went days without writing anything while other days the words flew out of my fingers. The days of no writing and lots of procrastinating (going through every single movie available on my hard drive, cleaning my room and deciding yes, I had to begin reading a 500 page russian novel right this second) were the hardest, and were the days I learned the most.

The main thing I've learned about is Fear. I've had to get over my fear of creating something I didn't like. I've had to get over my apprehension at poorly formed storylines and badly crafted paragraphs. I've had to get over myself. This 'thing' I was writing wasn't going to be a masterpiece and the sooner I accepted that, the sooner I could get working on it. I needed to let go of the idea in my head of the novel I wanted to write, and make room for the novel that it could be. I had to trust that whatever I produced could be edited, as long as I produced something.

It goes back to the basic fear that stops people from doing anything. Fear of failure, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of putting yourself out there. Fear and I are old friends, we go way back. She's been there when I sign up for things, when I join new groups, when I decide to do anything that will change my life
Fear has always been the friend that I run away from, that hangs around and just doesn't get the hint that I want her to go away. Despite this, she's the kind of friend I don't need to get rid of, but the one I need to work with. So writing this month I've learned whenever I realise what I'm scared of, it automatically disables the fear. When you can recognise your fear and call it by name, it's easier to sit down with it and turn it into action. I've written over 50,000 words - I haven't written a 'novel' by a long shot, but a draft is a huge step towards it. Admittedly, I haven't looked at it since I crossed that 50,000 word mark but fear isn't going to stop me from going back and (shock, horror and laughter) reading what I actually wrote, editing it, and writing some more.

If you're interested in taking up this challenge next year you can sign up here. Everybody has something to say, and if you've ever wanted to write a novel this is the best place to start - surrounded by other scared, nervous nano-wrimo noobs and novelists - it's 30 days of literary abandon that (as a first time nano-wrimo participant) I can say were definitely worth it!


  1. Congrats on successfully writing your 50,000 words in November. If you are looking for another challenge try the 3-day novel contest. I have done it twice but failed at my only try at nano wrimo. Maybe next year!

  2. ahah thanks Dion! the official count was 50,088 words... I could have kept going but I think mentally I was too ecstatic about reaching the word count. I just checked out the 3-day contest and it looks awesome and more scary than nano-wrimo! I may just do it... ! will let you know! Cheers!

  3. I was wondering what you'd been doing to keep yourself busy the past month or so.. questions answered, take note, this is my second request for a read :P
    Nice work gee unit