It’s a classic line from a classic movie. Luke Skywalker (you know, from a little movie called Star Wars?) has just bagged his first enemy bogey and is just a giddy little Jedi wannabe before Han Solo turns around and tells him where he can stick his can of happy powder. It’s good to give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then, just don’t lose sight of the big picture.
We all reach that point eventually. It might be a scene, a chapter, or just a line. You need a little self-gratification…ummm…keep it clean people…because, let’s face it, we’re pretty much on our own for the little battles. No one is going to cheer for you when you get past the small obstacles. If they do, then they’re WAY too close to your work…like leaning over your shoulder close.
I just finished writing a scene in the YA fantasy novel I’m working on. It had me shaking in my boots. The 15-year-old protagonist and his cute neighbor, who have done nothing but fight up until this point, make amends and…well…things get a little…interesting by the pond. Knowing that the book is meant to be young adult, I was afraid that this chapter might accidentally turn into something you might see on Cinemax after midnight. Yeah…I didn’t want that. I could see this interaction play out in my mind and it was touching, funny, and reminded me of all I had ever wanted as a 15 year old. You know, find a girl who would speak more than five words to me and hope that maybe articles of her clothing would just fall off at random….uhhh…I mean, hold hands and have deep, meaningful conversations with a very attractive young woman who I respected! It played out so well in my mind, that I was afraid my treatment of it on paper would ruin it. Well, as I said…I finished it and…I think it’s pretty damn good stuff. It came out on its own, without being forced and I was pleasantly surprised with how the characters took chances I didn’t originally see them taking. I had won this little battle. Woo-hoo for me. I celebrated by crawling into bed at 1 AM only to be woken by my 4-year-old son at 6 AM asking for cartoons. Congratulations, you’ve written the chapter that scared you the most. Now, step down from the little altar you built yourself and get back to work.
And I did. That victory gave me a nice momentum burst into today’s writing. I cranked out ~1200 words on my lunch break and really surprised myself at what came out. What had started as a fairly mundane chapter turned into one fraught with tension and I found myself getting misty at the emotions that were being broached. (Aside: I do a lot of writing when I’m at work, on my lunch break. Luckily, my back is to the hallway, so no one can see me getting all mushy over my own writing. They say you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes if you’re a comedian, but as a writer, if you don’t feel emotional about an emotional moment in your book, neither will anyone else. Plus, I’ve always been a bit of a cry-baby…Field of Dreams anyone? Gets me every time. But, if I say any more, I might have my MAN card revoked).
Novel writing is a daunting task filled with a hundred little battles that need to be won before we can claim victory. This is true of a lot of things in life. Cheer yourself on through the victories. Allow them to carry you on to the next one. Momentum can often be your greatest ally in writing. But, it’s easily lost, especially if you sit back too often to admire your wins. Good job. Nice work. You killed it like you wanted to. But, you’re not there yet. It’s not sitting on the shelf at Borders or posted as an ebook on Amazon. You’ve got work to do. You’ve got a few more battles to win. Go for it. Get it done. That final victory is closer than you think.
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