SCBWI Canada East Blog

November 26, 2018

11:42 AM 0
The Little Engine that Could (as retold by Watty Piper),
illustrated by George & Doris Hauman 
So your train was puffing along merrily that first week of November, and you were hitting the keyboard every day to meet your month's goal -- but at some point your wheels stopped turning.

You need to find another engine to carry all those wonderful words to the good little boys and girls on the other side of the month. Your original engine was powered by idealism and the freshness of beginnings. It has conked out. You've seen the abyss between the awesome novel in your head and the awful draft on the page. Great expectations won't move you another inch. You need a motivational engine to collect your story from the side of the track and carry it onward.

The Shiny New Engine of a six-figure advance is a ride that will not stop for you. Don't bother asking.

The Big Strong Engine of confidence, discipline, and experience is not on the NaNoWriMo track, let's face it. (It's meeting its word count every day of every month and it's eager to get through the first draft because it knows the big hills are yet to come.)

The Rusty Old Engine of self-derision is a ride you should pass by. It can not, it can not, it can not.

It's the Little Blue Engine you need. She's small and humble and she's never been anywhere before, but she's willing to give it a go for the sake of the good little boys and girls on the other side of the month. She goes slowly, turn by turn, puff puff, chug chug, because she knows your story will be sad if it stays on the side of the track forever. So she shrugs off depression and judgment and vanity and she just does her best to pull and tug the story-train up, up, up, over the hill of that tiresome first draft.

And she offers you today's motivational quote:

"I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can."
(Seriously, she says it nine times.)

Take a page from the Little Blue Engine's story. Don't be mean to yourself if you stopped midway through NaNoWriMo. Don't be blue if your ms isn't as good as you'd hoped. Writing a book is hard, but you can do hard things. Just get back on track.

I think you can.

- Catherine Austen
SCBWI Canada East

Catherine Austen is an award-winning writer for all ages. Her first children's novel, Walking Backward, began as a NaNoWriMo effort, but it stalled on the side of the track on Day 2, after just 1660 words. It took a year for that Little Blue Engine to pass by.