Monday, November 2, 2009

The Suckiest Suck That Ever Sucked ™

Thank you Kristen for pushing me to trademark this phrase. I will now be accepting nickels for every usage. (Thank you very much in advance.)

With the kick-off of NaNoWriMo on Sunday (for those of you who live in a cave—kidding, sort of—NaNoWriMo is where writers challenge themselves to write a first draft novel (i.e. 50K) in the month of November. That averages to 1666 words a day/every day), there seems to be an onslaught of blog posts from authors—both published and unpublished—offering their advice on writing a first draft. The number one topic appears to be the idea that you should embrace your SUCK level now. For you to realize that no matter what you do, your first draft is going to be utter crap. In the end, you should not fight this. You should instead accept it now and move forward without high expectations bogging you down. You will not write the next great <insert genre of choice> novel. You will not have a sparkly gem ready to be queried come December 1st. You, in short, are going to SUCK. In fact you will be the Suckiest Suck That Ever Sucked™.

Are you thoroughly depressed yet? Yeah, me too.

I must say, I can see where these authors are going. Their premise is that if you let go of high expectations, you'll be free to write without pressure. You'll be free to soar—to fly. To…erm, you get the point, right?

What do I have to say to this? MALARKY.

I simply can't imagine going into a project that way. Nope. Not gonna have it.

When I begin a story, it is LOVE….twuuuuu wuv. There isn't anything or anyone that can convince me that it isn't the story I should be telling at that particular moment in time. There isn't anything or anyone that can make me budge in the belief that I am the ONLY person who can write the story the way it needs to be written. It's not ego, it's just an all-consuming, passionate love for what I'm doing. For me, that is what allows me to fly—to throw all caution to the wind and just write.

Quite honestly, if I let self-doubt in before I even got started, I would be waaaay too freaked out to begin. It's not freeing for me, it's a hindrance. It's something that has and will leave me thinking I'm the worst writer on the face of this earth. There will be plenty of times when the negative voices will start picking away at my brain—I DO NOT want to listen to them when I'm in my honeymoon phase with a book. And like heck I'll invite them in.

So yeah, I hereby resolve that my first drafts shall NEVER suck.

I hope all of you will do the same!

And to pick up on the common thread this week, I will now offer up some advice, Jen-style, on how to write a first draft. (To be fair, I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I HAVE written two books in very short periods. In total, FI took a little over two months, and if I added up the time spent on BTPM, it would be less than a month. ):

  1. Write the book you want to write. If it's emulating an author/book you love, go for it. If it's testing out some new concept/technique that you've never seen used before, go for it. There are no rules. Write the book you want to write—the one that makes your heart race, the one that gets you so excited that you can barely sit still to type out the dang thing. Do NOT worry what others will think.
  2. Forget about all the "how-to's." Chuck every last one of your writing books out the window. Seriously. There is no one correct way to write and there is no one set of rules that you HAVE TO follow. Do it your way. Make up your own techniques. If you're a linear writer, go with it. If you can't begin without an outline, write one. But DO NOT allow yourself to become bogged down by what you think you're supposed to do and/or your inability to fit into the "writer mold."
  3. Keep Going. Finish. There will be times when writing will be the last thing you want to do, but you have to push through. Writing is hard work. Do not expect to come in and have thousands of words flowing from your fingertips every day. Sometimes you'll have a bad day. Don't worry about it. Shake it off, pick yourself up, and begin again. As Scarlett would say, "Tomorrow is another day."
  4. Do not open the door to negative voices. They're SO shady and capable of crawling through the smallest crack in a foundation. They'll get in eventually, so do not invite them in. You ROCK—you're writing and you wouldn't be doing it if you didn't love it. Don't let anything or anyone steal your moment.
  5. HAVE FUN!!! You're writing. Is there anything else better in the whole wide world? I think NOT.


Okay, so there are my tips. Certainly not all-inclusive, but a start at least. Anyone have anything they want to add? J


  1. Jen,

    I totally agree with what you've said, but with a slight divergence. I'm writing my SFD, totally in love with the story in my head, but knowing - and accepting - that what is appearing on my page is nowhere near the level I want it to be. And I'm OK with that. It's a SFD after all. And I'm pretty sure that once I finish, set it aside and put some distance between me and my baby, I'll have enough objectivity to know what needs fixing, and hopefully, how to fix it. That's the theory, anyhow!

    And to add to your list of tips, what's worked for me is to "write with the door closed", as Stephen King says. For me, knowing that at the end of the day no one but me and the cat need ever see what I write, makes me shake off my inhibitions and insecurities and just go for it. I know others are totally opposite, however, and gain energy for their work by sharing what they write as they go. And that's great too. Ah, thank God for diversity!

  2. Malarky! Lol!

    Well, variety is the spice of life, and since I'm one of the people who wrote exactly the opposite, I guess we've got different viewpoints (g).

    Not as different as you might think, though- I agree that you have to be in love with what you're writing and how you're writing it. Self-doubt is a killer, and there's no room for it. But at the *end* of your first draft, you don't want to set yourself up for the biggest disappointment of your life. Sure, many people will finish their first draft and it'll be almost perfect, in need of only a few tweaks (I know of at least two people on this site alone (*cough*) who've produced query-ready manuscripts just like that (g)).

    But if it's NOT as perfect as you thought when you were writing it- that's okay too. It really is. That's why they have second/ third/ fourth drafts. That's why Markus Zusak rewrote the whole of The Book Thief no less than three times from start to finish before he hit on the spectacular version now published.

    In short, we agree on this- it's ALL okay, as long as it works for you, and you should never fall out of love with your own writing if you can help it. The best way to do that is to believe in yourself and your work.

  3. I have to second both Rachel and Claire. I've accepted that my first draft of anything is not going to be at the level I want it to be. Which saves me (usually) from a really hard landing at the end of first draft that causes me to, at least temporarily, fall out of love with my book. Because if I go through the whole draft honestly thinking it's going to be all great and wonderful, then when the blinders come off at the conclusion of that draft, it's like finding out my book's been cheating on me or something. Or that I was 3 or 4 sheets to the wind and smoking something when I thought it was the Best Thing Ever.

    Almost anything can be fixed and accepting that it doesn't have to be fixed Right Now is what frees me to keep pushing forward.

  4. Tee hee. I hear ya, sista! And I think you've nailed it on how to finish that book fast. I wrote WCM that way; I was NOT going to worry about craft, or should I be doing this, or that? Just pounded the thing out with the thought that the worrying could come later.

    As for the suckiest suck that ever sucked...well, I actually love my first drafts. I'm all like, yeah! Whoot! This is AWESOME! Yeeaaahh! But then I get down to editing. Thbbttt. Going over each sentence, each scene in slow motion. Gak. Everything starts to sound like the grownups in a Charlie Brown Special, "Whaha wah wha hoowhahaaa". And that is when I write to good friends like you to ask, "Jen, do ever think your writing is the suckiest suck to ever suck? 'Cause mine certainly is!" (bg)

  5. I have this mental image of Homer on the phone dissing the other bowling teams :-)
    I agree, though, with everything you guys are saying - it's important to feel confident enough in yourself and your work to keep going, it's important not to get so down that you can't continue or so full of self-love that you can't take criticism, and to realise that writing is FUN and bloody hard work all at the same time :-)
    Kristen I know exactly how you feel with the editing, that's what I'm going through now as I try to type up all my handwritten scenes - I still haven't had the courage to pick one scene to post on the snippet thread or in KidCrit. I don't want it to be the suckiest suck to ever suck! (nickel in the mail, Jen! Canadian nickel! :-))

  6. Your writing is far from "the suckiest suck that ever sucked!"


  7. Rachel,

    I definitely fall into the second camp. LOL. As Kristen and I always joke...I needs, I needs! I totally thrive on feedback and it's SO hard to keep things under wraps when I'm excited by what I've written. I share...I share a lot. The one and only time I managed to stay quiet was when I wrote the original version of FI. It was seriously a test from God to see if I could do it. And I don't believe I was completely successful. LOL. I think I shared snips in private with a couple of writer friends. That said, I didn't post for critique until I pulled my Jane Wilder. If the writing process had taken longer than it did (a little over two months) I would've failed...miserably.

    As for my post itself. Yanno, there's an internal voice that tells me all the time that I shouldn't worry about making things's just a SFD. But for some reason I just can't listen to that, even though I KNOW deep down that it's true. I tune it out, iow. I'm with Kristen -- I think my SFD's are fantastic as I'm writing them. Later I can worry about that other stuff. (vbg)


  8. Claire,

    Well, I think we're both right. (g) As you said, we have to do what works best for each of us. I simply can't convince myself that what I'm writing is crap. :) I may see later that it's stinkin' up the place, but when I'm in the moment, I have to believe it's good. Mostly this is because I HATE revisions. I hate the idea of drafts. I want things to be perfect NOW. And in my mind, it is. Bwhaha.

    And yeah, it's okay if you need to revise and all that. I'm constantly awed by stories of writers who revised their books umpteen million times--Markus Zusak is a great example of that--and manage to pull it off so flawlessly. I'm not the greatest reviser as we all know. (g) But for whatever reason, the switch from thinking my baby is PERFECT to kinda stinky isn't really that big of a leap for me. It's painful, yes...but I think that even when I'm in my blissful "I-can-do-no-wrong" mode, I'm still mentally preparing myself for all of the work I still have ahead of me.

    Erm, if THAT makes sense. lol. Oh to verbalize our methods. Makes us all sound like raving lunatics.


  9. Kait,

    Well, I'd say my blinders come off gradually--a little as I'm writing, but mostly after the high of finishing wears off. I'm okay with that. Realizing your baby isn't beautiful isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I rather enjoy the ignorant bliss of the honeymoon phase. It doesn't last forever, so I say go for it while the getting's good. :)


  10. Kristen,

    Bwhahaha. I LOVE my first drafts too. I STILL think they're pretty damn awesome. :)

    And girl, I have SO many days when I think I just suck. They're inevitable. But if I keep working, I know I'll shake the funk eventually. My favorite cure is to read a passage that makes me crack up. With Maddy, they're pretty easy to find. (g)

    And yeah...writing that first "draft" -- still hate that word -- fast and furious is the BEST way to go IMHO. For me, it's just seems to flow organically and you don't have time to worry about the shoulds and should nots. You just blast the thing into existence. As they say, you can't fix what isn't on the page. JUST WRITE. :)


  11. Deniz,

    I'll keep an eye out for the mailman. ;)

    It's fun being a writer, isn't it? What a mixed bag of emotions, highs/lows, hair-pulling and high-fiving.

    LOVE it.


  12. Carrie,

    Thank you, m'dear. :) Oh...I have something for you. I'll email you tomorrow.