As of Monday, I completed my 25,000 thousand word goal for AugNoWriMo! But do you know what the best part is? Probably not, because I’m going to tell you: I like most of what I’ve written! Usually every night before bed I’ll read what I wrote on my phone – thank you Dropbox – and even with all the flaws, the chunks I want to excavate and restructure [because sometimes it takes me a page of writing to get to the actual scene], I’m left feeling energized and wanting to write more.
Usually at this stage I only see how shit it is, compared to the shiny shiny Dream Novel that lives in my head. I mentally pull my hair out over how I should’ve written it better, or faster or something else ending in “-er”. But this month I’ve been laughing, bouncing, and generally finding the whole process far more satisfying than I expected. It’s a strange and wonderful place to be.
This might lead you to wonder what the image above is all about then. First, a bit of backstory. Because I really enjoy that in my novels, so apparently it’s going to crossover into the journal. Not even remotely surprised …
I have been inhaling Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, over the last few days. It’s hitting multiple sweet spots: transhumanism, science fiction [particularly SF with a believable medical premise] and, best of all, it’s a twist on a classic fairytale. Taking fairytales and reforming them is one of my semi-secret nerdy delights. From Grimm to Tangled, Once Upon a Time to Beauty & Beast, I love seeing old tales turned new again.
[I will refrain from singing “Tale as Old as Time” right now, but only just barely. You can thank me later. However, I cannot resist a Mrs. Potts GIF. You know you love her, Angela Lansbury and Meryl Streep should be American royalty.]
I won’t say much about the book, there’s plenty of places where you can learn more about it with better summaries than “IT’S ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE READ ALL YEAR; READ IT DAMN IT, READ IT!“, like Amazon or Goodreads. I’d been putting it off for a month (or two), after disappointing experiences with other YA books left me wary of stepping into that genre again.
But it had been on my mind, and in a fit of “these two other books I’m reading are great but really slow“, I decided to treat myself. I regret nothing. I swiftly plowed through the first fifteen (or was it sixteen?) chapters in a matter of hours. I am hooked, so much so that I’m on the waiting list for the second and third book from my local library. Before I’ve even finished Cinder.
Needing to find out more about the series and the writer behind the page, I hit up Meyer’s website, as you do. Scrolling through FAQs, interviews and character profiles, I was eager to learn more about this new world I’d become so fascinated with so quickly. As I was meandering around, I found out that she’d written an astounding 150,000 words during Nanowrimo, which became – if i’m remembering correctly – the rough draft of Cinder.
150,000 words in a month!
My happy heart sank. Here I was, proudly writing my 30k during August. Still working on the same novel I’ve been trying to get on the page since March 2007. Meanwhile, she’d written five times that and gotten published in two years [from start to finish]!
Why couldn’t I do that? Why wasn’t I faster, better, more talented, more rigid with my writing schedule? Why didn’t I outline, or have a daily writing time or any other combination of things that I assumed had been the key to Marissa’s success [even though I had no proof whatsoever]. And on it went, spiraling deeper into a Pit of Gloom.
In short, I felt like shit.
So, I did the thing I normally do when I’m stuck and want an answer.
I Googled it.
First trying “comparing myself to others”, but that was too broad for what I was trying to tackle. I wasn’t jealous or downhearted by her as a person – she seems pretty cool, far as I can tell – so I tried something more specific, “comparing myself to other writers”.
I quickly found three articles that helped me nail down what I was feeling [links below], and one thing they all said, in different ways, was: don’t compare your first draft to someone else’s printed book. It’s an exercise in extremes, skewed by data from opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s apples to zucchini*, the whole process is a losing game.
As I read I also noticed something in my internal commentary track. In a back corner of my brain was a little worm telling me that success was limited. Finite. That because someone else was thriving, I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough to go around. The quota had been filled. Too bad, so sad.
Marissa is Successful at Writing = Jessica Is Doomed to Mediocrity
Written that way it, of course, looks ridiculous. And it took me a moment to realize the worm was Dick Dickerson come to say hello again. But that’s not how success works, it’s not a competition. It isn’t limited to “me vs. them”. There is no cause and effect at play here. All it means, is that Marissa Meyers is successful right now, is published right now, is making a living writing right now.
That doesn’t prevent me from also being successful in the future, six months or two years or five years from now. In fact, because our work has some similar styles and motifs [read: they’re both science fiction, featuring female leads with disabilities in futuristic settings] it gives me hope that Open Season stands a chance of finding a publisher someday. Because if a house / editor / agent saw excellence in her work, there could be interest out there for mine.
So, that’s why I chose the top image. Because I can be awesome while she’s awesome, and neither one of us is lesser for it. There is enough awesome for all. I don’t begrudge Marissa her achievements. I’m a fan of her continued success – assuming “continued success” means “more books”, of course – and I look forward to diving deeper into the world of The Lunar Chronicles as she reveals it throughout Scarlet, Cress and the coming Winter.
What a difference a Google makes.
[*Zucchini are botanically a fruit. Weird. I know.]