The Great White Page (aka, Happy NaNo!)

This is the magnetic memo board that hangs beside my writing desk. A few days ago, it was covered in overlapping pictures and notes for my last novel. (Eek! My last novel. How weird is that?) And this is what it looks like now.




Have I told you how scared I am? Of this year's NaNoWriMo? I've talked of the excitement -- and I AM excited, I AM thrilled -- but there is also this thin layer of terror, coating the whole experience.

What if I don't finish? What if I never find the plot? What if it's even worse than I expected?

So for anyone else feeling nervous and ooky today, here are two people helping me through this Premature NaNo Panic:

1) Shannon Hale.

If you were wondering what that lone piece of paper stuck to my memo board is, it's a printout from her blog, "Horror story, one word at a time."

My copy is well-loved. Last November, I even carried it around in my pocket! No matter how many times I read this post, it soothes me. It's about how HARD writing is ("Writing a novel is not for sissies"), how everyone struggles, and how you just have to keep going anyway.

Here's my favorite part, which over the last year, I've memorized. It's become my writing mantra:

"No one can write a book. It's too long and complicated. But I can make some sentences. I can find some characters. I can put them into scenes. And slowly, slowly, the book will come."

2) Ira Glass.

(I luuurrrve Ira & This American Life!) I think I got this video from Laini's blog a few months ago, but oddly enough, I emailed myself the link and then never watched it. Until today.

And I can't believe how appropriate it is! It feels serendipitous that I actually DIDN'T watch it until this morning. In it, Ira discusses making videos, but his advice applies to all storytellers. It's about having good taste, having this idea of something really amazing you want to create . . . and then falling short. And it's about pushing past the desire to quit and finishing your work anyway.

Which is, essentially, what NaNo is all about.

"Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment . . . you can tell that it's still sort of crappy . . . a lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point quit."

"Most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where . . . they could tell what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be, they knew it fell short . . . everybody goes through it."

A nice reminder coming from a storyteller as talented as Ira, no?


Before I skedaddle upstairs to start the NEW NOVEL, here are a few pictures from last night. I've mentioned here before how many trick-or-treaters my house gets -- this year, between five and six hundred -- but I've never shown a picture.

This is the line to our candy bowl. Which doesn't stop for three hours. Jarrod came home an hour into the festivities last night, and I thrust the bowl at him before he even had a chance to change out of his work clothes. I already needed a break!

Take note of Darth and Dorothy, perennial favorites. But the big costume this year were the pirates. Holy Jack Sparrow. I'm shocked there's not one in this picture, because it seemed like every group had at least one pirate (and usually two) in it. I even saw three -- THREE -- goth pirate cheerleaders.

As well as this guy:

ELVIS!!! I love it when the parents dress up.

So we always invite friends over to help pass out candy, and this year we had three awesome guests: Tai, Staci, and Sara. Sadly, I flaked out and have no pictures of Tai and Staci, and the only one of me and Sara . . . well, our faces were too frightening -- and not in the Halloween sense -- to share with the entire Internet world. But I have to show you the BOTTOM half of that picture, because check it out!

We both wore (wrinkled) silver bridesmaid dresses!

It was totally unplanned. As were the actual costumes themselves, which weren't even costumes, and more like: "Hmm. I don't have anything to wear, so I'm just going to put on something shiny." Since you aren't allowed to see our faces, let me assure you, Sara (on the left) was wearing a wicked great wig and hat. She called herself a witch. And I wore a kimono and called myself a Warrior Princess.

Because I could.

So here's Jarrod -- after finally having a chance to de-work -- corrupting my pumpkin with Twizzlers and wine:

Yes. That's wine in a plastic cup. I swear, we aren't really rednecks.

And one last picture:

Why does our creepy baby skeleton have no neck?? This perplexes me every year.

Hope you all had a good Halloween, and GOOD LUCK to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo! See you in the trenches.


  1. Hope it went well!!!!!! The dumb NaNo site is a big traffic jam; I can't update my word count.

    I can't BELIEVE that line to your candy bowl! It's like the lines at an amusement park or something. Crazy!

  2. I'm having the same feeling, Steph. Even though I have an idea for the next novel, and it's one I'm excited about, I wonder if I can do it again. Like, will the dots connect, will those wonderful connections I never expected happen for this book too. Even though I know how bad the rough was, I just finished something that I like and that feels full and complete. It's hard to go back and just plow ahead on something fresh and not so great, trusting that it will grow. But I will.

    WE will.

    Loved Ira's clip. I think he's right about setting a deadline or writing for someone, even if it's not someone who pays you. It forces you to do the work and it gets done. Then wah-la, you've got a finished novel.

    If I can ever get on the NaNo site, I'll see you there (probably next week).

  3. Mmm, I heart Ira Glass.
    NaNo's going well so far in that I'm getting words on my paper. It's so hard to not go back and read all of the insanely awful sentences! But I'm taking your advice and just moving forward with it.

  4. Hey, I recognize that silver bridesmaid dress ;)