With a mere ten days until NaNoWriMo, I have my outline about done, almost complete character sheets and a coffee shop in my kitchen (the most important part, of course). I also have three newbies that I’ve agreed to mentor.
A few days ago, I was talking to one of my newbies and she brought up a tip that I definitely should have included in my NaNoWriMo tips but since it’s become so natural for me, I’d completely forgotten. Nevermind, though, because it deserves a post of its own.
Don’t look back. Beginning writers have this bad habit of reading what we’ve already written before moving on. I did this up until the middle of NaNoWriMo last year until I finally learned that it was only slowing me down.
The biggest problem with reading over what you’ve written is that’s when the doubting starts. Thoughts like, this is awful…what was I thinking and I’m a horrible writer start circling in your head. Discouragement like that will keep anyone from reaching their goals.
The other problem is that you can get so caught up in editing and rewriting that you might never move on. Okay, that’s an over exaggeration but you get my point. Moving that sentence here and rewording that there can keep you stuck in editing, losing focus on your story as a whole.
Last night, while I was finishing Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days, she recommended the same thing. She said:
Each scene has its own mood, and you need to create it from scratch each time. It’s harder to create a new mood when you’re still on the last one.
Another great point.
The issue that held me up was the discouragement. As beginning writers, we’re almost programmed to hate everything we write. We’ve never gotten any real reassurance from anyone other than family and friends who are programmed to compliment us whether they like it or not. That nagging doubt takes the form of your inner editor and can blow your whole story to pieces before it gets started.
Right around the middle of NaNoWriMo last year, I finally got sick of my inner editor constantly buzzing in my ear. I knew that I’d never get done if I kept letting her take over so I made the decision to stop reading as I wrote. I finished NaNo and I finished my novel. I gave myself a month off after all that hard work and then when I began the first round of edits, I was amazed at how good it actually was. In fact, editing was so minimal that I couldn’t believe I’d actually written this masterpiece. But oddly enough, that same work looked like a disaster before I’d given myself a chance to look at it with fresh eyes.
Give yourself and your writing the gift of fresh eyes. This NaNo, dedicate yourself completely to just writing that novel. Don’t worry about how it’s going to turn out or if anyone will want to read it. That’s not the point; the point is getting it written.