Is Your Story Worth It?

3:23 PM Gemma Fitz 12 Comments

(So this post is going up late, but better late than never.)
Something I keep hearing over and over again at this time of year is "NaNoWriMo makes you write a bad story."

And this makes me sad. It makes me sad because it's a lie. It makes me sad because it scares people. And it makes me sad because just about this time in the month, when my motivation has dried up, my plot disappeared, and every word I write looks like trash, I start believing it's true.

Maybe you're there, too. Maybe you're wondering why you ever thought this NaNo thing was a good idea. Maybe you're wondering how 50,000 words written in a 30 day lapse of sanity, powered by coffee and chocolate, can ever become something beautiful.

For you, the fearful, the discouraged, I have a question.

Is your story worth it?

That's really the standard here. It doesn't matter whether you write a novel in 30 days or 30 years. It doesn't matter whether the first draft is spotless or a complete garbage dump. It doesn't matter how long it is, how old you are, how much experience you have-- what matters is is it worth it?

Why are you writing this story? Why does it matter? Why did you originally fall in love with this idea? Maybe you have a message you want to share with the world. That matters. Maybe you wanted to prove to yourself or somebody else that you could do it-- you could write a novel! That's important. Maybe you're just doing it for fun, because it seemed like a cool thing to do. That's worth it, too. 

There are any number of reasons you started writing this month, and believe me, whatever it was that got you started, it was worth it. It was worth starting, it was worth getting those words on the page.

And now you get to decide. Is it worth finishing? Or, to put it another way, is it so utterly worthless that you could actually bring yourself to give up now? Do you love your characters that little? Is your message of so little importance to you? Do you really want to miss out on this opportunity to write a real book-- or at least give it your best shot? Are you really happy with giving up?

There's a reason writers (and other artists!) experience fear. We're writers! We live scary lives! We put so much of ourselves on paper-- all our talent, or lack of it, so much of what we believe, so much of what we love, so much of everything that matters to us. And for many of us, we've defined success as having someone else read that piece of paper, which has so much of our identities wrapped up in it, and actually like it.

And if they don't?

As writers, we can't afford to be afraid. We can't afford to doubt ourselves. We can't afford insecurity. Because as soon as we let the fear creep in, our entire way of life is in danger. Once the doubt takes hold, it's far, far too easy for us to give up. And so we don't let ourselves be scared. We give ourselves anti-fear pep talks. We tell ourselves that we're doing great.

And then somebody walks in and says that NaNoWriMo can only produce a bad story. And then we start to believe him.
Now, does NaNoWriMo make you write a bad story? Here's the hard answer: yes. But not in the way people say it does. Every story you write is going to be a bad story. I'm sorry. It is going to be. No story starts out perfect. First drafts are ugly. But that doesn't mean you should give up.

Something my pastor says all the time is, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly." If your story is worth writing, it's worth writing in 30 days and making a mess of. It's worth trying to write in 30 days and failing miserably. It's worth never participating in NaNo and taking years to complete. It's worth never completing at all. It's worth it.

NaNo doesn't have to make you write a good story. The beauty of NaNo is that it motivates you to write a story, no matter how sucky it may seem. You wrote something. Maybe 50k of sparkling, witty genius. Maybe 100 words of dry, worthless mediocrity. It doesn't matter, because you wrote something.

Is you story is worth it? If so, don't let anyone tell you your doing it wrong.

Why did you start writing your story? If you're doing NaNo, how's it going?

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the pep talk, Gemma! Yup, I'm waaaaay behind in my Nano word count and at this point in the month I always start to believe those nagging voices that say the story will be horrible if I write it in 30 days (that's what kept me from doing Nano for many years). I'm not giving up, though! Write on!

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    1. Your story will not be horrible-- the one you wrote last year was amazing! Keep it up, and thanks for commenting!

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  2. Great post! I wanted to try Nano this year but part of me was overwhelmed with family things, another part of me didn't feel ready to write a messy story, or perhaps a story in general. Fear or doubts about writing are worth it because they can push you to try. Maybe I'll try my own NaDecWrimo. :)

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    1. Oh, I get it-- sometimes there's just too much going on with life to add something more, like NaNo. I've been there. *nods* A NaDecWriMo sounds like a fun idea, though!

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  3. Inspiring and fantastic post!. I know some folks that are doing it -some are struggling and fretting, others hanging in there, enjoying the experience whatever the outcome. NO, I did not do NaNo this month, HOWEVER - after reading this post and how passionate and motivated your words came through -I wish I had regardless of plot, word count, end result. Next time NaNo comes around, I feel more motivated and filled with courage to take charge! Your positive, just go-for-it attitude works beyond NaNo and pours into the ups and downs in general that writer's and artist's face. THANK YOU for this wonderful, friendly push to remember to let our creative sides come out no matter what =)

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    1. Aww-- I'm glad you found it motivating. :) Thank you for your lovely comment!

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  4. I had a friend approach me because someone told her this, and I told her what I tell everyone; the story is always great. The first draft is always horrible. NaNoWriMo just makes it a bit harder to mull over how you write because you have a bit of a time crunch. And then I start listing off all the best selling books that were NaNoWriMo novels and they tend to feel better. And I have to say; the people who say that NaNoWriMo always turns out a horrible story tend not to be writers. They don't truly WRITE, they thought it would be fun to try and write a novel in the month because it sounded like a cool thing to do, not because they actually live and breathe writing like writers do.

    Thanks for stopping by Writing on a Vintage Typewriter!

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    1. "The story is always great. The first draft is always horrible." Oooh-- I really like that. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. First, I just need to say that I loved this post.

    You know what's really cool is that I was looking back over one of my documents I wrote in a couple days ago, and I realized I had just been asking the same question to one of my characters: is it worth it? Is my story worth the sacrifices I've made? Is it worth all the time, effort, frusration and love that I've put into it? Is it worth all the time I've spent proctrasting on it?

    My character has partially convinced me that yes, it is worth it, and your blog post is also helping me believe that it is worth it. I may hate my novel right now, it may seem to have no direction and no plot, but at least I'm writing. Even if nothing I've written this month goes into the finished novel, it is worth it. Because writing 50,000 words gives you experience. They may be 50,000 words of garbage or 50,000 words of gold (mine is decidedly the former). But the point of NaNo isn't to create a perfect novel, but rather to create an imperfect first (rough) draft that will later become a perfect novel.

    Okay, I'll stop now before this comment becomes another blog post. Thanks for inspiring me to new heights. Keep the blog posts coming!

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    1. Yes, definitely. Even when you're story doesn't seem worth it, the experience you gained writing it /always/ is. Thanks for commenting. :)

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  6. Ah! I love this. So true. No matter how or when you write the first draft, it's going to be an ugly mess. It doesn't matter how long it took you, or how you did it, it's still going to be a wreck to edit. So just get it over with!

    I have to stop and think about this sometimes. When I'm writing, I have make myself keep going. So I ask if it's worth it. And the answer is always 'yes.' So I guess, I'll always write. ;)

    Thank you!

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    1. Yup-- and that's really the reason I do NaNo. No matter how long I take, my first draft is going to be a disaster, so I just try to write it as quickly as I can. xD Thanks for commenting!

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