A hearty, pirate-y welcome to young adult author and former Bootcamper Tracey Neithercott (of the esteemed and glorious Team DEFIANCE). Tracey's debut novel, GRAY WOLF ISLAND, is forthcoming from Knopf/Random House in the fall of 2017.
The thing I hate about endurance is the enduring. It involves two of my least favorite things:
Generally speaking, I prefer my suffering short. Or nonexistent.
That, of course, never happens while writing. There’s suffering.
Oh, there’s suffering.
There’s the head-throbbing act of plotting twists and turns. There’s the sharp pinch of not-right words. There’s the ache of doubt and fear.
And so, endurance.
Author Haruki Murakami has said the two great qualities of a novelist are focus and endurance. Enduring the tough spots so you make it to The End. Enduring years of writing consistently.
So how do you keep going when the words are stuck or your manuscript requires a rewrite or you’ve just received a query rejection?
How do you continue on when you’re absolutely drowning in doubt and fear?
Here are three things that have worked for me:
1. Press Pause.
There are people on the internet who say writers need to write every day if they want to be successful or at least not be complete failures. But there are also people on the internet who say aliens killed the dinosaurs. So.
Time off is not going to erase your talent. It’s not going to transform you from writer to sloth. (Though if it did, I’m sure you’d be super cute.)
Sometimes what we need in order to push on is to press pause. Do something unrelated to writing to refill your creative well. Or do something mindless to give yourself time to think through any problems you’re facing with your WIP.
What often works for me is closing my eyes, putting on my WIP playlist, and letting scenes play out in my head. No, I’m not writing. But sometimes thinking is just as important.
2. Read Your Work.
I have a chronic case of the doubts, and it only worsens when I’m drafting. There comes a point with every book that I just want to give up.
The prose isn’t perfect. The characters aren’t there yet. And the plot is an absolute mess.
And that’s when I remind myself that I’m capable. I find a section of the story I really liked. And I read. I read to remember that my words aren’t always clunky. I read for that part where the characters jump off the page.
I read for those little tiny hints that I can do this. It might take some revision, but I’m not a hopeless case.
And you aren’t either. Remind yourself why you’re talented and competent. More than that, remind yourself why you love your book. It’ll give you the motivation to keep going.
3. Buddy up.
You’re in the writing trenches. You’re cursing the day the writing gods decided plot was a thing.
You’re also not alone.
Misery loves company, friends. Buddy up with fellow writers so you can share each other’s ups and downs. It’ll get you through the tough times.
When I was querying my novel, the only thing that kept me writing my next book was the encouragement of my writing buddies (some of whom I met during a previous YA Buccaneers boot camp!). When I think I’m broken, that I’ll never write again because of [insert whiny complaint here], my friends tell me to shut up and get to work. They’re super nice.
And here’s the other thing about endurance: Whether we want to or not, we generally endure. Half the time while writing or revising I want to give up. I boldly claim I’m done. I even try to avoid it.
But I don’t.
And you won’t either. This story in your head? Only you can tell it. That’s a pretty great reason to endure.*
*A giant, I-finished-my-book slice of cake is another.
About the Author:
Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she writes YA stories of friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding Star Wars characters.
She is the author of Gray Wolf Island, a YA magical realism novel about the truth, a treasure, and five teens searching for both. Coming fall 2017 from Knopf/Random House.