Not sure why I’m being so dramatic about this but here ya go…
Melissa wanted me to join Nanowrimo in November 2008. Nanowrimo requires a participant to write 50,000 words to be considered a winner. I didn’t participate but at first I tried to keep up with the 2600 minimum word count per day. Near impossible. We were right in the middle of TV season (which requires extra blog work for me), the girls’ birthdays were in November and Thanksgiving and Christmas were just around the corner. 50,000 words became a maybe-in-another-lifetime, or at least another-year, goal.
But a plot was forming in my head and characters and suddenly I was excited about getting the story on paper. Not because it was the best plot ever or the best characters or full of the best page turning moments but just because I had thought of enough ideas, that strung together, someone could, if given the time, write 50,000 words about.
But writing was still an effort. I started with one scene that became the opening and then another that I figured would sit 3/4 of the way through the book. The rest though? I struggled through. Filling in all the gaps of the plot was hard. Figuring out who my characters are and where they came from and why they do what they do was really hard. I started calling it my non-novel because surely I would never be able finish.
But I plodded on, maybe more out of a Type A, must-finish attitude than anything. Or maybe it was just something else to fill my quiet nights with. I don’t know but it’s six months later and it’s another one of those quiet nights. I think I’ve figured out my characters, the plot has been written and I’m 459 words away from 50,000.
And it scares me to death to write them.
You would think being that close I would just start spouting off at the fingers and type any conversation I could come up with just to put me past the word count. I remember being in school and adding in all kinds of unnecessary words just to get to the word count goal. But not with this. I’ve spent all day fiddling with the end of my plot, recalculating the “big scene” and picking through my main character’s flaws. I’ve written ideas and stared at the sky trying to come up with the best thing to say. I think because part of me knows when I hit 50,000 words, I’m really close to the end. And when it ends, I’m scared I’ll never go back to revise it, which it needs so desperately. And if I don’t carefully write those last words, I’ll know that I didn’t do my best, that the words I wrote aren’t something to be proud of. And maybe it’s not just the last 459 words before my goal, maybe it’s the whole book. Maybe I’m scared that when I get to the end I’ll look back and six months of work and countless hours of planning, worrying and strategizing later, realize that it’s just 50,000 words strung together than no one wants to read.
Yes, I’m scared to fail.
And I guess in art, there is no such thing as failure. But there is something to be said for the millions of manuscripts that go unread every year, written by millions of authors set out with so much hope and ending with thousands of words to themselves and no one with whom to share them.
Or worse yet, words that they don’t want to share.
So yeah, I’m scared to reach my goal, scared to finish. And yet, I’m going to type this last sentence, open my manuscript and write the best story I know how and just hope I’ll be able look back and smile.