Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why I Didn't Fail (Well, I Sorta Did) NaNoWriMo

Don't read this unless you want to hear me go on and on about my writing experience... I'm mostly writing this for my own reflections... But I will try to keep it from being boring. :)

Okay, it won't be that bad. I just want to give some kind of warning. :)

Here's what I have to say- I didn't fail. I refuse to say I did, because it implies of sense of well, failure. Of non-accomplishment.

By the truth is, I didn't make the 50,000 word count. But here's what I did do: I reached 30,000 words, and for all my talk of wanting to be a writer I've never carried out a book idea for more than a couple thousand words before giving up on it. And the best part with this book: I'm still not giving up on it. I still love the idea. I still am planning on continuing to write it.

I got really busy and didn't make the time for novel writing that I should of. If I do this next year (which I most likely will) I'll be sure to schedule myself more time and concentrate harder on making my word count every day.

Once I got to 25,000 words (halfway) I realized I had a great idea, but just trying to write a bunch of "words" just to keep going didn't really help my story. I was starting to write crappy stuff, and I didn't really know where the plot was going. So I took a break from writing and spent A LOT of time outlining. Once I was finished, I went back to writing, I cut a bunch of stuff, and then wrote stuff that felt a lot more relevant.

Of course by then, I was so behind on my word count I stopped caring about catching up. But even though I knew I was WAY behind it didn't stop me from just keeping writing more. Before November, I had thought about outlining ahead of time, but the problem was that I had to write some, to get to know my characters, before I knew where the story was going to go. I discovered all of this and more about my own personal writing process.

I am disappointed I can't be a "winner", but there's always next year. I don't feel like I "failed" because I still have an awesome story idea that I'm going to continue working on. This whole NaNoWriMo experience actually gave me the confidence that maybe, just maybe, I will be able to be a writer someday. There was so much I learned, just about myself as a writer.

Sometimes I read those "pep talks" I get in my email from the NaNoWriMo website, written by a lot of published authors. Though I can't remember most of them, one stuck with me. It was written by Holly Black, who we all know is an incredible writer. I'm going to copy part of her pep talk here, because this really stuck with me throughout the whole writing process, and I feel like I have to share it:

1) No one can tell if the writing was fun or if it was hard. Trust me. I know it seems like writing that pours out of your brain in a passionate flood should be better than writing that comes slowly and miserably, but the only person who will ever know the difference is you. So no excuses—get the word count done.

2) You don't have to believe you can; you just have to do it. I remember everyone telling me I had to think positive when I was writing my first book. If I believed I could do it, then I could! If I pictured myself published, then it was going to happen! Which sounded great, except...could I do it? If I didn't think I could, was I doomed to fail? What if I was almost totally sure I would fail? I am here to tell you—what matters is sticking with it. Even if you don't know if you can make it through NaNoWriMo, just get through today. Then get through tomorrow. Don't worry about the day after that, until it's today. Then you know what to do.

There was a lot more to her pep talk, but I think these are really important! Something I learned and certainly want to remember for next year.

Congrats to those of you who finished! And if you didn't, here's one person who understands. But tell me- I want to hear- how did your writing experiences go?


  1. 30,000 words is still amazing-- congratulations on toughing it out, and I hope your writing only gets easier from here. :) I loved Holly Black's pep talk, too-- I was so excited to see her name, since she is one of my favorite authors.

    I didn't make the count, either-- less than 25,000 words-- I was slammed by homework and a very busy vacation. But, like you, I'm still in love with my novel ideas and with what I have so far. (However rambling and incoherent it is.) :)

  2. 30,000 words is still awesome for your first go! The point is to inspire you to set aside the time to write, you know? The first two times I did NaNo, I epically failed.

    This is the first time I won and by a lot. It's just matter of sticking with it :)

  3. Kat: There's always next year! And I'm glad you still love your novel idea.

    Melissa: Congrats on winning! That kind of inspires me, haha. :) And maybe it will take me a few tries before I make the words count.

  4. I was exactly the same! I reached 15,000 words. I was only writing in my lunch break at work and at some of the write ins I was attending. I didn't enter nano with the goal of writing 50k, but that I needed to write more than the few thousand I normally wrote, and that I needed to stop focusing on getting those first 3000 words perfect. I am really proud of myself because I wrote 15,000 words without any editing! Success! I want to finish the story too. I am not going to edit at all until I am finished, because I will get bogged down in the details again.


  5. 30k is still amazing! I made it to 11k before school started picking up. My goal was 25k. But even though I didn't "win", like you, I'm still going to work on this story because I think it's a great idea. I'll probably participate in NaNo next year too, it was fun! I just wish I had more free time!

  6. Hey were able to accomplish writing 30,000 words! That's wonderful! I really need to outline my story. You should be proud of yourself. Keep writing!


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