Every time I sit down to start a new book, I stare at that fresh blank computer screen and wonder: Will it happen again? Will the seed of an idea or character I have begin to sprout, planting roots in the form of backstories, shooting up a strong stem of plot, flowering with more characters and plot twists? In other words, how is it possible that this germ of an idea will grow into an actual fully realized book—and that I will be the one making that happen?
And yet, it happens. Every time I take that leap of faith, it pays off. The story opens up, that alchemical process begins, the new world unfolds, and I get lost in it.
By participating in NaNoWriMo, you are taking that ultimate leap of faith. You are telling yourself that your idea will become a fully realized story, and that you will get a draft down in a month, no less.
This requires an enormous amount of faith. In yourself, and in the writing process. So congratulations on getting this far. Many people never have the guts to do what you’re about to do.
But when it comes to writing, faith can get you started, but it won’t necessarily keep you going. The faith that you need to write a novel is constantly tested—and reinvigorated—by the act of writing one. You’ll be sitting at your computer one morning, with no clear of idea of where a character is going or what she’s going to do. And then she’ll show you. And you will follow. And your excitement in the process will be redoubled, and along with it, your faith.
But that can only happen if you’re writing. If you’re sitting in a café talking about your story for hours on end or taking long walks in a meadow waiting for the muse to strike, I’m afraid you’ll soon run out of steam, and out of faith. When it comes to writing a novel, inertia breeds inertia, and momentum breeds momentum.
In my experience, that fickle muse, she visits when you’re sitting in your chair, hard at work. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a time and a place to talk out trouble spots with a friend in a café or to linger in a field (taking walks is actually a great writer’s trick for finding solutions to knotty problems, but we’re talking about brief breaks that lead to inspired sprints back to the computer). But you have a month. Spend that month wisely. If you do, I bet you will experience that magical moment of staring hard at what seems like a brick wall in your story, only to suddenly see windows, doors—options—you never saw before. That’s your book revealing itself to you. That’s your faith at work.
So, keep at it. Trust in the process. Trust that your story will come. Which isn’t to say that every book you write will wind up a published book. I’ve written several novels that will never leave my hard drive. I’ve come to understand that even the misfires are all part of the process—that they’ve honed my craft or led me to the book I was supposed to be writing.
If you can come away from this month with a finished draft, congratulations! If you come away from this month with a completed draft, a burgeoning trust in the process, and maybe even a love of that process, then you are on your way to a fulfilling writer’s life.
Ready to take that leap?
– Gayle Forman
Find out more about Gayle Forman on the 2011 Pep Talkers page.