My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

CONFESSION: I want to write a novel.  

I have been concentrating on writing flash and short stories. But this year, I seriously considered joining  NaNoWriMo to force myself to start a longer project.  Besides, all the cool kids hang out at NaNo. They have private groups and private chats. Buddy systems wherein they delight and agonize over daily word counts and their terrible, dazzling prose.  

NEWS FLASH: I am not a cool kid.

But that’s not why I passed on NaNoWriMo.

Creatively speaking, I am more of a plantser. Which for my non-writer friends means a combination of a plotter and a (fly-by-the-seat of-your) pantser. 

Before sitting down to write, I need at least an idea of where my story’s heading, though not all the details. 

Too much planning, I become bored. 

Too little planning, I become distracted. Lost in the “muddled middle” of the first draft.

And when I’m stuck in that dreaded middle, I hear voices. See, my inner critic is not singular. It is a crowd, cacophonous and rowdy. They say, you cannot plot your  way out of this maze because your idea is bunk and you are HORRIBLE at this. Just give it up already. 

Some in the crowd whisper. Their criticisms are icy fingers poking at my confidence, more dangerous because they don’t yell. They are reasonable. Logical. They suggest more practical and quantifiable uses for my time.

Then there are those who say, Who cares? Ray Bradbury tells me, “You only fail if you stop writing.” JK Rowling agrees. “I just write what I want to write,” she says. And Maya Angelou reminds me of the terrible cost of silence. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 

Theirs are the voices I strive to hear. 

REALITY CHECK–Pantsing NaNo would be a colossal waste of my time, effort, and fledgling confidence.

There are still only 24 hours in the day. I have papers to grade, family obligations. I need time to sleep, time to read. Take a walk, spend time with the people I love. I also need time to live in my own head, to create a protected space in which my characters can speak and invite me into their worlds. That is my life’s muddled middle. 

Which has what to do with NaNoWriMo? 

THIS: To get there, I need to focus and I need to plan.

So here it is: 

For the next six months, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  Continue writing and revising one new short story each month, minimum, and sending out into the cosmos those pieces (I hope, think? Fingers crossed) are ready for the spotlight. 

Spring, NaNo prep, character interviews, and chapter skeletons. 

July, Camp NaNo.

Will it be any good?

No clue!

Wish me luck anyway.

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