Thursday, 27 March 2014

On Writing Badly and Redefining Failure by Becca Puglisi #ChaBooCha


When Becky contacted me about posting during this year’s Chapter Book Challenge, I was stoked. At the time, I was in the middle of my own NaNoWriMo, and I know how hard it is to plan and write an entire story in one month. So when Becky asked me to contribute, I jumped at the chance. And because I just went through my own process, I’d love to share some inspiration that got me through the month.

The thing that frustrated me the most when I started drafting was how blah the writing was. It was hard enough to get the words down, and once I did, I was completely underwhelmed by them. Then I stumbled across this quote by Shannon Hale:
I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
Yes. Yes! By all that is holy, YES! This is what we do. We shovel words onto paper, as fast as we can, knowing—even expecting—them to be fairly crappy. Don’t worry about correct word choice, proper grammar, or flair. Just get the words down. That’s what you’re aiming for this month.

And that ties in to my second mantra, stolen from Dean Wesley Smith:
Dare to be bad.
I’m a little weird in that drafting is the most difficult part of the process for me. Every day when I sit down to write, it takes forever to get going. For me—and for a lot of writers, I’ve learned—it all comes down to fear. Fear of starting in the wrong place, of wasting time, of going through all this effort and the story not being any good—all of this stymies the writing. It wasn’t until I read Dean’s advice that I freed myself up to write badly. I realized that the only writers who do get it right the first time around are the ones who’ve been doing it for years and have written roughly a gajillion words. I’m not there yet. But I will be, if I keep writing. And so will you. So when you’re struggling through that first draft and you’re afraid that it totally sucks, don’t worry. Dare to be bad, and just finish the story. You’ll have plenty of time to pretty it up later. That’s what the revision process is for.

And that leads to a favorite quote—this one from Kristen Lamb—that we all need to remember from time to time:
Redefine Failure

When I started my NaNoWriMo, I aimed for the standard goal of 50,000 words. It became clear very quickly that I wasn’t going to make it. I wasn’t even going to come close. I had to revise my goal, and I ended up with 30,000 words— barely a third of my novel. At first I was disappointed that I had achieved so little. But then I realized, No. I had planned and outlined an entire novel. Wrote the first third of it with a preschooler underfoot. Wrote 30,000 words that I wouldn’t have had under my belt if I hadn’t tried. Mastered some new techniques that are getting me closer to being able to write those solid first drafts. I had to redefine my notions of success and failure to appreciate all that I’d accomplished in just thirty days.

And that’s my hope for each of you: Get the words down on paper. Don’t worry about the quality. And realize that what you’re doing is A-MAZING. This month is about more than just finishing a book. It’s also about the writing, whether that’s 2000 words or 20,000. With every word you write, you learn. As you learn, you improve. And as you improve, the process gets easier.

You’re doing great, ChaBooCha’ers! Keep up the good work!

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Becca Puglisi is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others. This is one of her reasons for writing The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. A member of SCBWI, she leads workshops at regional conferences, teaches webinars through WANA International, and can be found online at Writers Helping Writers (formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse).
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Give-away!


Comment on this post by March 31st (noon GMT), to be entered into the drawing for a paperback copy of "The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes" by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 31st at noon GMT. You must be signed up for the challenge to qualify. 

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Winners!

 

I am a day late announcing yesterday's winner of  a paperback copy of "The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters."  The drawing was done yesterday, but I decided to announce the winner today along with other winner announcements (to cut down on the number of blog posts and e-mails you get).

The winner is:

Laura Jenkins!

Congratulations, Laura!


And for the prize being awarded today:


Chapter book Challenge member Linda Schueler generously offered this next prize, a copy of The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel. The winner was drawn by a random number generator, and the winner is:
Ashley Willoughby!

Congratulations, Ashley!


19 comments:

  1. Congrats Ashley!
    I agree that with every word you write you learn. And as you learn, you improve. I've done a lot of that this month.
    Thanks for the post.

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    1. It was my pleasure, Linda. Good luck with your story!

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  2. "With every word you write, you learn. As you learn, you improve. And as you improve, the process gets easier." <<< So true!

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  3. Thank you for posting this. I really connected with Dean Wesley Smith’s quote. “Dare to be bad.” I am a firm believer in Norman Vaughn’s motto of “ Dream Big and Dare to Fail.” Norman Vaughan was a member of Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 expedition to the South Pole, serving as a dog handler.
    In 1930, Admiral Byrd named one of the peaks he conquered during his expedition after Norman… it took Norman 65 years before he was able to finally scale Mount Vaughan… at the age 89! In the meantime, Norman competed in 13 Iditarod's, running his first one at age 72. He completed 6 of them with his last finish being in 1990 at the age of 84. Can you imagine crossing 1,000 miles of interior Alaska at that age?

    Congratulations Laura and Ashley!

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    1. This is a great example of how much can be gained just from the process. Imagine all the things Vaughan learned during those 65 years of trying, from all the experiences he had. Thanks for sharing this!

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  4. Thanks for the quotes to hold on to, and the honesty about your process. I can't believe the month is almost over???! This has been a great challenge. Thanks to all.

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    1. It was my pleasure to be here. Congrats on all you've accomplished this month!

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  5. I too can't believe the month is almost over. It has been great and inspirational. Great post and congratulations to the winners.

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    1. Congrats on getting as far as you've gotten this month, Anita. :)

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  6. Thank you :) I rarely show anyone my first draft because it is often just sand filling ..... something to be built on. But i often give up to because my inner critics (a sad mean bunch of voices) point out every flaw. I'm going to dare to be bad with my writing more often :)

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  7. Wow I won something! What a great surprise. Love this post. I never let anyone see the actual first draft - usually I have at least done one read through and change before I get to that point. Occasionally my kids or husband grab my folder before that, very frustrating!!!

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    1. I know! First drafts are icky, lol. But that's good motivation to fix it up :)

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  8. Im being bad...very very bad....but i do have an awesome start to this years chabbbboooocha

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  9. That's so weird. When I started this challenge I had planned on writing a 50,000 word YA novel. I changed this to 25,000 because it just hasn't been possible for me to write that much so I'm going to end up with a novella instead of a novel, but that works for a beginning. Last year I gave up after the first chapter and I wanted to complete the event this year. I have a 3 year old and I usually can only write at night. I'm up to about 17,500 words and I think I can finish it in the next few days. What I have will be fairly bad when I'm finished. I'm hoping I can write more and add more substance to the book after the challenge. It's true that I would have never been this far in my story if I hadn't tried or allowed myself to write badly!

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    1. Good for you, Dani! There's always time to make it pretty later :)

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  10. Thank you for all your encouraging words! I felt disappointed during the challenge, as I was not meeting my goals, but after reading this post, I feel so much better! I love the quotes you referred to as well as the inspiration! Congrats to all the winners!

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    1. So often, we beat ourselves up for not being able to do what we USED to do, or what someone else can do, or what we think we should be able to do. But we can only do what we can do, right? Good for you!

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  11. Thank you!!! I can't wait to read it - I need lots AND lots of help with writing queries.

    This has been a great experience!

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