December has arrived. This means that those of us who participated in NaNoWriMo this year are doing some much needed celebrating and recuperating. Those that are full of awesomeness may already be working on edits and rewrites. (I, sadly, don't feel that dedicated.)
So I survived NaNoWriMo, but only just.
I am...drum roll, please...a WINNER! Yipee! Somehow I scraped enough words together to achieve my goals. Congratulations to all my fellow participants who reached the 50K words, and even to those who worked hard and met their individual goals. You are awesome!
Now the sad truth of the matter, I really struggled with my project. It was excruciating and painful and not at all satisfying. Before you all stop reading let me explain myself. I loved the idea of writing for a month with pure abandon. I loved the amazing network of fellow writers I met and shared my journey with. I loved the idea of my book and characters. The empty feeling at the end came from the realization that I had lost my voice.
All of you may, or may not, be aware of the vast amounts of information and advice there is for writers. In my attempts to improve myself, I dived in head first. (Word of caution: Always look before you leap. Turns out it is true in every aspect of life. Who knew?)
I soon found myself drowning in the ocean of advice, tips, and information on how to write well, what to do to be successful, what not to do, what to write to sell books, blah, blah, blah.
As I wrote my project for this past month, I found myself constantly telling my characters and story no. No, you can't do that. No, you can't say that. No, you have to keep the word count down. No, no, no. As a result, my characters all went on strike. They carried around little signs blaring words such as "No to no," and "Let us have our voice."
(I'm so not kidding. Little signs and yelling voices in your head doesn't make for a creative environment. Unless you happen to be writing about a strike which I wasn't.)
My plot was stinted, my characters were upset, and as a writer I felt like a failure. As soon as I pounded out those last few excruciating words to reach my goal, I set the whole thing aside. I asked myself some tough questions. The conclusion, I had lost my "chocolate cheesecake." (Words from the amazing Jessica Day George.)
I had lost sight of my goals and dreams as a writer, and as a reader. I became so lost in my own inner thoughts of what made me a failure based on all the advice and tips, that I lost focus on what my original intent even was.
To rediscover my chocolate cheesecake, I went back to my childhood when I read fairy tales. Not the cute Disneyfied tales, but those that involved bloody slippers, haunted castles, eyes gouged out, snakes falling from people's lips, and a hero overcoming all odds to defeat evil. As a teen, I advanced to devouring the works of David Edding, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and Shakespeare. In college I gravitated to the study of Arthurian Literature. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) I loved the tales of knights defeating dragons, ogres, maidens with the bodies of snakes, spells woven by evil sorcerers, and even their own failings. Such tales as those of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight captured my imagination and set it soaring.
These are the tales that inspired me to dream, and first fueled my love of fantasy and science fiction. I may never write a best-seller, but I can weave my own epic tales of adventure, danger, and magic. They may not be perfect, but I can make them shine in my own way.
There will be many people willing to offer advice and tips along the path of becoming a writer. Some will make you better, but some may not be for you. Take what you need to improve yourself and leave the rest behind. Find your niche as a writer and an audience will follow. Don't try to write a book that will please everyone. It won't work. (Even J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien have their critics.) Embrace your chocolate cheesecake, and enjoy every last bite of it!
What is your chocolate cheesecake? What book, or author inspires you to be a writer, or even a reader?