Full disclosure: I’m not even a fan of the Jack Reacher series.
But damn if I’m not jealous of Lee Child’s self-proclaimed “stroke-inducing” writing style of blindly pantsing his way through each novel!
Can you imagine?!
And ever since I started this second novel–NO!
Ever since I wrote my FIRST novel, I’ve dreamed of being able to pants my way through a story, allowing it to not only unfold before my very eyes as I create it, but reveal that it’s phenomenal as is in the first draft.
1. Get out of my head, Lee Child, you pantsing old fool!
And so, into the void, I scream at Lee Child to vacate my thoughts. I even go so far as to call out his age…like that matters.
Leave me to my own devices you fortunate panster, you!
I realize my envy for Child’s writing style is unwarranted and misplaced.
I’m on day 24 of writing for novel #2 and yesterday, whilst in the thick of my rough draft, I had the same exact epiphany I had had at this same exact time last year (almost down to the day): I need to scrap this entire rough draft and upgrade everything in my story.
It’s in moments like these that I wonder if I’m being too perfectionist with my story.
Should I push through these feelings and continue writing what I have, or should I listen to my gut and recalibrate?
And then I stumble upon this article about Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, Make Me, and have to take a seat.
My inexperience in the world of writing novels often leaves me wondering if my “process” is even reliable.
If I’m struggling to write my story after creating a full outline, perhaps it’s not good enough to be written…
2. ARGUS FILCH! Why can’t I pants myself?!
Clearly I feel a burdensome pressure to pants the crap out of my novels and, since I struggle to do that, I scream out my favorite swear-phrase in vain amidst my failure (a combination of the classic pirate exclamation of ‘arg’ and everybody’s least liked janitor, Argus Filch).
3. I don’t need to go back to the drawing board, Universe! YOU need to go back to the dawn of time and unmake humanity!
Tale as old as time: a writer who refuses until the last second to admit that their outline contains gaping holes that minify the size of the sun.
It’s at this stage that I turn my anger away from Mr. Child and direct it toward the Universe itself.
Something about having gut feelings that you choose to ignore but know you shouldn’t make it seem like the Universe is out to get you, know what I mean?
Like, if it really had my best interest in mind, it would alleviate my gut instinct by not providing it in the first place, allowing me to write my shit rough draft in one piece.
Alas, the Universe cares neither this way nor that for my success as a novelist and, thus, oughtn’t be blamed for my guttural reactions.
My outline needs a makeover. Period. But if the Universe would like to start over and make it so my next whack at life includes a pantsing style the likes of which would make even Mr. Child envious, I would be forever grateful.
4. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do, brain! You don’t know who I am, where I’ve been, how hard I’ve worked to…oh, wait…
Next up, I assault my brain, because why should it get ignored in this smear campaign against my own talents?
I begin to overanalyze what I can and cannot do as a writer, what my talents can and cannot pull off.
And it’s in this stage, that I typically realize my final exclamation into the void:
5. Every single human, from infant to elder, has millions of stories contained in their mind, each worth reading. And I’m one of those humans!
There’s something funny about how personal validation impacts your perception of your own success, talents, or potential.
For example: I’m sure Leonardo da Vinci knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that his artwork was quality. First, he saw it with his own two eyes, then, he heard it from those who saw his early work. Finally, he got paid for his efforts and proclaimed a living, artistic god.
But before he got paid, he was able to validate his own work through simple comparison to that which he’d already seen in his lifetime.
Modern artists, on the other hand, have already seen what feels like everything that can be seen. So when we move to create something new, we’re often left to wonder if that’s even worth our time.
Amateur novelists experience so little validation, outside of our own and that of our close peers, that we need to be constantly reminded that we, and our quirky stories, are worth it.
All too often, I hear amateur writers say things like:
“I don’t know if my story is good enough…”
“I don’t know if my writing is good enough…”
“I don’t know if anyone will like what I have to write about…”
And the funny thing is, none of that matters!
If you enjoy your story, if you can string a sentence together (regardless of how shabby), and if you like what you have to write about, then you should write it. Period.
Picasso did not concern himself with whether or not people would like his quirky artwork; likewise, E.L. James dropped all concerns when she chose to create 50 Shades of Grey
At some point, we amateur novelists need to remind ourselves that, from the womb, humans are artists; we are storytellers and creators, masterminds and inventors, builders, actors, and thinkers.
It’s why we currently dominate the planet, because we like to CREATE that which we currently do not have.
So if you find yourself uncertain about a book concept, or wavering on your ability to bring it to life, remind yourself that your only mission in life, as a human being on planet Earth, is to create. In whatever fashion that best suits your abilities.
And if that means writing a novel about the murderous, rampaging daughter of Santa Claus, so be it 😉
Do you ever look up at the pale moonlight and howl long and lonely like a starved werewolf because your book alludes you so? Yea…me neither. Wouldn’t know anything about that.
I’m on day 24 and it’s a hard knock life, you guys, but you know what? I’m getting somewhere!
I’m ending the day with the realization that, although my rough draft needs to be redone, it can actually be redone as my official first draft.
See? Sometimes we think we’re failing when, in fact, we’re getting somewhere; maybe just not in the ways we had envisioned.