A Quick Reminder about Sucking

Every year, NaNoWriMo rolls around and another wave of “You have permission to suck” advice goes out. NaNo’s hitting its stride about now, so I thought this was an opportune time to post this.

I have no beef with this advice. After all, as the stretchy yellow dog says, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” Without giving your permission to suck, you never start, and nobody ever improved at a skill by refusing to start practicing.

I would add this, though: Don’t be content to suck. Sucking is part of the process, but the rest of the process is trying to suck less. Sucking is not a goal in and of itself.

The corollary to this for NaNo is “Don’t deliberately make work for yourself down the line.” If you need to shake up the plot, give it a shake. But don’t add a scene that you know you’ll just need to cut later, especially if that scene is going to change characters or the plot dramatically. It makes editing a pain in the tail. Sure, sometimes, you realise after that whole plot points need to go. But the thing is, that sucks. It’s awful. It feels like Sisyphus and his boulder. Don’t do it on purpose. You won’t thank yourself later for it.

It’s easy to get lost during NaNo and concentrate only on the word count, but that’s going to do nobody any favours, at least if you want to use your novel for anything after NaNo. You start to get so hung up on wordcount that you start to think that anything that helps you make your wordcount is fair game – just get that 1,667 words every day and you’ll win!

And then you go to edit, and you realise that everything is an utter mess and you can’t even figure out where to begin, and you suddenly hinged three characters’ emotional arcs on an event that’s not only unforeshadowed, but unrelated to the plot and anachronistic for the time period of the story just because you wanted to write something that day and figured you’d fix it while you were editing.

So don’t make work for yourself. It’s OK to suck. It’s OK to have to struggle to fix things when they go wrong. But don’t make yourself struggle on purpose.

One thought on “A Quick Reminder about Sucking

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter To Those Considering NaNoWriMo | Whimsy and Metaphor

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