What I’m learning from (failing) NaNoWriMo

In this case, I think the hare's winning.

So…what did I do this weekend? One soccer practice and two kiddie birthday parties, a rare dinner out for two, leaves raked, dangling tree limb removed (and wrist tweaked in the process), pork roast made, kitchen cleaned. Today I went to work, then came home and did some pre-Thanksgiving cooking (turkey brine, homemade herb butter, pecan pie). I’m wiped.

You may notice one missing item here — writing.

I’d like to blame a confluence of events, including some unexpected revisions on another project, for keeping my NaNoWriMo dreams unfulfilled to date. But after writing a guest post on keeping a feeling of immediacy going, well, it smacks of excuses. Fact is, I have a case of NaNoWriMo FAIL.

Well…perhaps not entirely fail. By attempting NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned some things about myself as a writer. I always knew I could write fast. When I’m really inspired, I can easily crank out 2,500 words a day, if not more. What’s harder is toggling between writing projects, which is odd for me. I write for a living in the corporate world, and I generally have no problem taking on several projects at once. But when I had revisions to do on another fiction project, it was as if all my imagination bandwidth was subsumed by the revisions. Granted, they’re two VERY different stories, but I couldn’t easily move between the two.

Thus, I lost about two weeks of NaNo time. And by then? Well, you’re on a glide path to Thanksgiving. Seriously…November might not be the most logical month to have this thing. I recommend March.

I also wish I had chosen to write a sequel to Spacebuckler, rather than a completely new project. I know Spacebuckler really well — the characters, the settings, plots and motivations, a wealth of minutiae. While I did a ton of research on my NaNo project, it was very new, both stylistically and in terms of all that other writerly stuff. Yes, I profiled the characters, I outlined the plot in Excel, I did my research, but the NaNo crunch didn’t give me the time to really tweak that stuff, and I felt less sure of myself than I normally do when writing. Granted, I started my prep work in early October….maybe I’ll be ready to write in March.

Regardless, I’m going to keep plugging away on my NaNo project, but I’m not going to worry about word count. Both my wife and my agent are excited about the new project, which definitely means I’m onto something. So to all those who succeed in pumping out 50,000 words this month, I salute your industry! I’ll catch up sooner or later.

By the way, my contest is still going, even if my NaNo project isn’t! I’m offering either a writing critique (NaNo or otherwise) or a sneak peek at Spacebuckler to one lucky Twitter follower at the end of the month. So if you’re not following me there, what’s keeping you?


Filed under Books, NaNoWriMo, Writing

7 responses to “What I’m learning from (failing) NaNoWriMo

  1. I learn a lot from failure. Doesn’t seem like you really failed from all you’ve accomplished before. It was just a bad month. Good luck on your sequel!

  2. From your pen to my word processor. Participating in my first NaNoWriMo I have learned that quality does not equal quantity. though I may complete the 50K writers marathon it will be one thousand words of substance and 49 thousand words of idea. NaNoWriMo is a better way to describe what I am doing than Novel Writing. However, meeting other authors face to face has been fun.

    • I agree 100%. When I tell people how quickly I can write, they’re always amazed, but I often let them know that’s the quantity. The editing… ugh… the editing is where the quality of my writing reveals itself. Otherwise, I have a nice story that gets lost in grammatical errors. I’m currently avoiding editing by reading your blog!

  3. I have to say that while I’m roughly 13,000 words behind I’m still counting this NaNoWriMo as a success because I’ve been writing more than I have in a year or two. It’s exciting to be able to look at my logs for the week and see that I’ve written several thousand words.
    So maybe your NaNo was a “fail”, but coming out of it with something tangible is still awesome!

  4. I’m technically “failing” my version of NaNo this year as well. I decided to revise a WIP I hadn’t looked at for three months. I’m nearly halfway through typing up my changes, and I plan to make major headway over Thanksgiving weekend, but I don’t anticipate finishing before 11/30, and that’s okay. Just the idea of a NaNo-type plan got me motivated to work hard, and I’m excited by the progress I’ve made even though I still have a ways to go.

    It sounds like you’re on the right track with your novel, and honestly, I don’t think first drafts (or any drafts) should be rushed. I think letting the story and characters percolate for a while sometimes brings them into better focus. Just my .02.

    Thanks for sharing what you learned!

    • I think that was the biggest part of NaNo for me — getting motivated to tackle something new. So in that sense, it was quite a success. I mean, I already knew I could write a novel, and one that could get me an awesome agent. It was really more about jumpstarting my process. The only “failure” was in failing to hit 50k.

      So don’t worry about the arbitrary word count. You’re working on the book, and that’s what it’s all about in the end.

  5. This is 3 months too late, but I just found your blog.
    I think NaNoWriMo is an amazing event for someone like me, who’s always said, “Hey, I really want to write a book someday!” word count is just about the only empirical measurement for a book, so it’s a great first goal for beginners.
    Before 2010, I’d written a grand total of 0 words ever. Now, I’m up to 100,000. One halfway finished book that’s mostly bad and one almost finished draft that’s halfway decent, true, but it’s better than nothing!

    If you already have a book finished, you probably already know how to kickstart your own writing process.

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