Here I sit, deadline approaching and it is clear I have failed. For the first time in four attempts, I will not be finishing NaNoWriMo. What’s that you say? National Novel Writing Month. A contest of sorts challenging folks to write 50k words during the 30 days of November. The idea is to write, write, write, and then revise and edit later.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo for the last three years, each year finishing with no trouble. This year…not so much and it’s sort of killing me. For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to use every possible second to finish, but I’ve failed. Even now I’m tempted to give it one last push… But I need to just let this one go.
Part of my failure this month is that I started a novel that’s a sequel to one I’m still revising. So instead of it being this joyful start to something completely new, I kept thinking about what impact a revision in novel number one would have on novel number two. It drove me batty. That and, sadly, 13k words into the sequel I was so freaking sick of my characters I couldn’t go on. I hated them. They were boring, their story was boring and I wanted nothing more to do with them.
In a moment of either brilliance or insanity (time will tell) I went back to the first novel and resolved their story line there, chucked the 13k I had already written, and started over with other characters from the same world. This wasn’t a mistake exactly, but it was difficult to recover my momentum.
That decision gave birth to another problem. I didn’t have a plot thought out for the new characters. I had ideas since I have back stories and ideas for all the characters in that world, but without an actual plot things got silly right off. I restarted over and over again trying to get traction from the very vague ideas I had. It shouldn’t have been a problem because I’m a pantser (click the link for more info) not a plotter, or so I thought.
Somewhere along the line I changed camps, or at least I left the realm of the true pantster. No longer can I just sit down with a blank screen and fight my way to 50k. I just can’t do it. I have to know where I’m going and I just don’t have it with this novel yet.
The final factor was work. I’ve been wicked busy – which I actually prefer, just not when I’m trying to write a novel in 30 days.
In the end I’m content with the attempt. Theodore Roosevelt so wisely said “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
I’d rather give it my best and face-plant, than never try at all. That and I’ve got a great start on a second novel. I can pick it up in January when things are less crazy and actually spend some time deciding what I want to do with these characters and write something worth reading. That’s the best part of NaNoWriMo, walking away with the great start of something. I’m holding onto that happily.
One thought on “NaNoWriMo Fail”
It’s a healthy attitude to have, and one I agree with. I’ve skipped two years since my first NaNo in 2007, and though I didn’t even attempt those years, I look back on them as failures more than non-attempts. I didn’t try because I didn’t think I’d have time, and because I didn’t have any ideas for a story. I wish I’d known then what I know now–there are so many ways to come up with a plot, and it doesn’t have to turn into the Great American Novel. Even if I do want to publish a book someday, not everything I write has to be toward that goal. Writing itself is great.