Putting on the pressure

As a writer, I’m constantly grappling with an overwhelming urge to stop embarrassing myself by thinking I’m a real writer. I think a lot of writers do. We face a reality where pretty much every idea for a story that can possibly be written, has been written, rewritten, plagiarised, reworked, revamped, reorganised and renamed at least a few hundred times. How can I possibly come up with something new and fresh? How can I possibly create something more desirable than what is available already?

The funny thing is. Books come and books go. It’s just like music. Some music stays popular for a long time, some doesn’t. Even the really good songs generally have a shelf life when it comes to the market at large. That doesn’t stop Madonna and Miley Cyrus from making tonnes of money every year (even despite what we read and hear about them…heck maybe it’s because of what we read and hear about them).

What it really comes down to is this: If your dream is to write and you don’t ever put words to paper (…or an electronic document…um), you’ll never get to test yourself out there in the world. And what other test is there?

So, what I need is something that gets me to put aside all of my excuses…my doubts…my crippling fear and get going. That’s why I try to do NaNoWriMo every year. That’s why I subject myself to the humiliation of participating in competitions that don’t even cater to my genre. That’s why I’m taking on the My 500 Words challenge.

Without motivation, nothing will happen. If people are checking whether I’m doing what I set out to do, the sheer need not to disappoint anyone will drive me. I’m just that kind of person.

 

Aside: Ha ha ha ha haaaa! 295 words already done for the day. *beatific grin*

Also: A hat tip to Linzé Brandon for sharing Jeff Goins‘s challenge.

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And then life happened

So, it appears that I wasn’t too far off with saying that I probably won’t make target this year. After the first four days’ fantastic progress, I was stoked. I suddenly had this moment where I thought I’d maybe be able to get to 50 000. Then, I had one of those days where everything just interferes…and the day after that I got a blasted stomach virus that had me in fetal position for three days. Looking at the normal NaNoWriMo target for today (20 000 words), I nearly choked.  I think I’m sitting on about 7500 at the moment.

Nothing like kicking them when they’re down, is there?

Well, at least I knew this year would work a little differently. My current target for the end of November is 20 000 words. I’m fairly sure I can make that. I just have to kick myself out of the pity-my-poor-cramping-self mode so I can get going. Who knows? If I get back up to speed, I may even kick my mommy-doing-NaNoWriMo target word count’s butt. What a happy thought. Just writing that has made me feel better.

As a side note: Remind me to write about my pole dancers vs zombies dream sometime…

Writing for an audience

A Gift of Love

When entering competitions, you always have to keep in mind: You are writing for an audience. Depending on the audience’s likes and dislikes, you may or may not hit the mark. Unless the competition you’re entering requires a specific genre, you are left with what you know about the judges.

For instance, I’m hoping to enter a competition hosted by Elle magazine this month. What do I know about Elle? It’s aimed at upscale ladies. It’s about fashion and make-up. The way I see it, the readers are people who care what other people think of them.

So, with that in mind, I can rule out science fiction and fantasy because of their strong association with “nerds” and other outcasts; even dark fantasy (your typical vampire/werewolf/witches fiction, like Ann Rice and Bram Stoker) won’t fly here; I can rule out western, action and horror because these are typically more masculine genres (and considered barbaric by the more refined ladies); and I can also definitely rule out war stories.

Next up, since this competition has a word limit of 1500 words, I have to stick to stories that won’t involve much explaining of the setting (once again, thoroughly ruling out fantasy and science fiction).

All of this boils down to me sitting with the most popular genres: romance, comedy and mystery (or, like my mother calls it, “whodunnits”). That might illuminate to you why the stories I have posted so far are of the non-fantasy, non-science fiction persuasion.

Now, if I were writing for a fantasy and science fiction competition, this whole consideration flips on its head. My readers expect to read about a world they know nothing about. They expect magic. They are enchanted by the differentness of the world they are reading about. The plot can actually be much simpler, because you have to give more information about the setting.

But, before I go off on a tangent about the differences in genres and approaches to them as a writer (I will definitely post about this at some point), let me get back to the reason for this preamble:

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE!

I got the good news this morning that I got second place in a competition I entered last month. It appears that it was close and I almost won. Go check out A Gift of Love (the story by me – Natalie Myburgh) on the AllAboutWriting site.

(In case this didn’t come across: The image of the rose is for my flash fiction entry linked above.)