With a huge “Thank You!” and “Tally-ho!” I want to welcome Dover Whitecliff to the VolcanoLady Blog. Dover is a brilliant budding author with tons to share. Not only has she generously given us an article, she is has a blog site of her own (see below.) Proof positive, especially as NaNoWriMo is five days away, that we can share our knowledge and experiences, helping others to avoid reinventing that proverbial wheel! We’ll have more NaNoWriMo support articles and guest blogs coming very, very soon.
When I read this quote for the first time, I breathed a sigh of relief. I always thought it was just me. But here was the author of some of my favorite books growing up, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo for goodness sake, just as scared of a blank page as I was. Talk about liberating. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.
The blank page is a terrifying thing. Whether you’re old school with pen and paper, Dashiell Hammet with a manual typewriter, or writing with a laptop or a cell-phone on Twitter, marring that pristine white space for the first time on any project is like shoving a steel cable from the Golden Gate Bridge through the eye of a sewing needle. The void stares at you. It mocks you. It tantalizes you with things to come while fending off words like a Teflon pan fends off cheese. No matter how many stories you have banging around in your head that you dream and daydream about, facing that blank page and actually making the move from dreamer to writer to author is not easy…not by a long shot.
Last Sunday, I finished the first draft of my first novel…upward of 126,000 words (that’s a lot of words). I have been writing since forever and I have never done that before. Never. The closest I’ve gotten is three completed short stories…that’s it. Three stories over forty years of daydreaming and telling these stories to myself. So when TE MacArthur asked for a guest post about getting started with writing, I started to wonder why this time was different. How did I jump that hurdle this time, when I’ve always faltered and face-planted before?
After many hours of pondering, I figured out that it wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t get started telling the story. It played in my head like a feature film when I let it. It was more that I was afraid to finish it. Once the words are out of your pen or keyboard and those words stick to that page, other people can read them…and judge them. So how did I conquer that fear? That took more think-time. I’ve determined it came down to one thing: Belief. Belief in my strengths. Belief in my ability to tell a story and to communicate. Belief in myself.
Belief may sound fluffier than I intend. I don’t mean that believing in myself made 126,000 words shoot from my brain, down my arm, out of my fingers, and onto the keyboard like magic bullets. When I say belief, I mean belief that I can not only write well and tell the story I want to tell, but also that I can finish the work. My mantra for this book has been Chuck Wendig’s Writer’s Paean “I am a writer and I will finish the stuff that I started.” Well, he said it a little more colorfully, but you get the idea.
So what worked for me? I’m an analyst. The first thing I did was hold a lessons learned session with myself. I thought back to every story, and every writing project at work that I’d actually completed and was relatively proud of. Those stories and projects that I felt that ‘woohoo’ endorphin rush when I finished that told me I’d nailed it. What did I do on those that I hadn’t done on the others? If I could figure that out, I’d be that much closer to getting my world on paper so I could share it with others.
It turns out that what worked for me was as simple as a writer’s to do list. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I did upgrade into the 21st century and put together a work plan on MS Excel. Nothing elaborate, numbered lines with the character involved and a couple of words about the action. I listed all the scenes I could think of at the time and then checked them off as I finished them. I didn’t worry about writing them in order. I also didn’t panic or freak out in the middle when I figured out I needed to add a few scenes to fill in the plot holes…I just added them to the list.
I’m not saying it was a miracle cure. There were dark days and grumpy days and lazy days. But when those came I would remind myself…I am a writer. A writer writes. I used every trick in the book to keep going because I believed I could finish, and I held onto that belief with both hands and didn’t let go. As the late, great Tom Clancy once said, “A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired—it’s hard work.” Writing is hard work. For me it’s a second full-time job. But it’s work that I love, and I know in my heart of hearts and down to the tips of my furry little toes that writing is what I was meant to do.
Trust me on this. As hokey as it sounds, believe in yourself. Don’t try to be a writer. Be a writer. Stop waiting for someday. Sit your rear end down in a chair today and write something. A haiku. A limerick. A vignette of something you see happening outside the window. Heck, write squirrel monkey twenty times until your pen finds your voice and you can tell the story inside you fighting to get out. So here’s what I want for Christmas. Kick the blank space in the teeth. Fill it in. Tell me a story. Tell me your story.
Dover Whitecliff was born in the shadow of Fujiyama, raised in the shadow of Olomana, and lives where she can see the shadow of Mt. Shasta if she squints and it’s a really clear day. She is a wild and woolly wordsmith, a blogger, an analyst, and a jack-of-all-trades, but mostly a writer. She has been writing since the ripe old age of nine and won her first ten-speed as a fifth grader with a first place entry into Honolulu Advertiser’s “Why Hawaii Isn’t Big Enough For Litter” contest.
Dover currently spends her free time writing the stories inside her that are fighting to get out, and playing Rock Band with her husband, big brother, little brother, and consigliere, all of whom will graciously allow her to touch the instruments on occasion, but mostly just hand off the microphone so she can sing. She lives in Sacramento, California with her very patient and wonderful husband and several hundred bears.
You can connect with Dover at:
Storyboards for the Vines Trinity novels can be found at: http://www.pinterest.com/pennydreadfulle/boards/