Nobody Is Immune to Elephant Syndrome

Hey Folks,

If you remember, Dean Wesley Smith had a challenge during which he proposed writing 10 novels in 100 days.

At first it faltered, so he restarted it. Now, he’s announced it’s faltered again. (Actually, he says it’s “still going on” but then says the restart didn’t work well.)

I wish him luck on the re-restart, whenever it happens. I suspect he will successfully complete this challenge once he gets going on it.

I can’t know because I’m not there, but I wonder whether Dean’s feeling overwhelmed by the project and allowing his conscious mind to make up reasons to delay writing (all the 5k races lately, etc.). This is the topic for the day.

It seems like forever ago that I re-learned from Dean Wesley Smith that literally anyone can be intimidated by the thought of writing a novel, much less writing 10 novels in 100 days (his current challenge).

Ironically, the secret to success in novel writing is to realize you can’t write a novel. Nobody can.

But you can write a sentence, then another, then another. You can write a scene. Then you write another sentence, another scene, and another.

Or the way I look at it, it takes almost no effort to write 500 words.

If you sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard, then Trust Your Subconscious [this is the huge part because everyone is susceptible to interference from the overprotective conscious mind] and just write whatever comes, you quickly get to the 500 word mark without even realizing it.

After that it’s easy to reach 1000 words. Just write another quick 500. And keep going. Write another 500, and another, and another.

I’ve talked before about the power of a streak. A streak builds on itself and makes you want to keep going. The streak is what drives you to write the next word, the next scene, the next chapter… the next novel.

When you write two words in a row, you’ve started a streak. The more words you write, the more difficult it is to stop writing and break the streak.

The more writing sessions you spend in the chair, the harder it is to not return to the chair for just one more session.

You simply Keep Coming Back (another lesson from Dean) and before you know it, the day has ended and you’ve written thousands of words, all in one direction.

You don’t have to write fast. You just have to put yourself in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and allow your characters to play. It really is that easy.

And before you say it’s easy for me because I’ve been doing it awhile, it first became easy for me about three sentences into the very first time I tried it. The same can be true for you.

But you have to cede control. You have to realize it’s the characters’ story, not yours. Then you’re free of responsibility for all the characters’ decisions. You let them live their own lives.

You roll off the parapet of your story, drop into the trenches with the characters, and try to keep up with them as they race through the story. I dare you.

If you want for some reason to eat an elephant, well, you can’t. It’s an overwhelming goal. But you can take one bite, then another, then another. Bites are easy. More manageable. And before you know it, the elephant is gone.

Maybe a more apt example is that it’s very difficult to eat an entire chocolate cake. But one bite is savory enough to lead you to the next. And the next. And soon, you have to make another cake.

If you’re a writer, your job isn’t to think about the overwhelming task of writing a novel or the overwhelming task of writing several novels in a given time.

Your job is to record what your characters see, hear, taste, smell, feel, say and do as they live the story.

Yet even at the end of a long writing day, you feel refreshed because you’ve been entertained; you feel accomplished because you’ve written much more than you thought you would when you first sat down; and you feel confident because you can only barely wait to visit with the characters tomorrow and record more of their story.

Grab a fork.


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4 thoughts on “Nobody Is Immune to Elephant Syndrome”

  1. Please don’t take this wrong, but it is refreshing to note that even prolific writers like Dean can and do falter. Obviously, I cheer him on and expect him to jump back on that horse and ride like he’s done so many times before. I’ve fallen off so many times myself but luckily I’ve been able to climb back on, at times bruised and battered, but still able to hang onto the saddle horn and ride that horse all the way to the end of yet another adventure.

    • Exactly, and no need to worry anyone will take it wrong. That’s exactly the reason DWS shares his “failures” as well as his victories. 🙂

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