03 December 2013

One very small very important success story from NaNoWriMo 2013

I surprised myself: I finished NaNoWriMo. From the month's graph it appears I was making a point of never reaching the day by day pace, but actually I was just struggling harder than any year since my second.

And then there was the story. I was planning to write a series of short stories, as I did a few years ago, but the first story kept going. All I had to guide me was a desire to try writing pure horror, which like most genres sounds much easier than it is.

Ooh, just make it scary! Yeah! Pfah.

How many times did I decide to quit? Oh, many. Probably half a dozen times actually thinking to myself, 'You know what? I don't care any more. I'm done.' And then all the other times I just went 'Blah.'

I'm glad I didn't quit. I accomplished something this month I haven't before, and it wasn't NaNoWriMo, which I've completed successfully 8 times previously. What I accomplished was a type of discipline that eluded me last year, which was the first year I'd tried and failed.

What happens is this: Sometime during the many multi-thousand word days I lose my passion for the story. Either there are other things going on in the month, or other stories calling, or I'm just exhausted and I don't want to write it any more. I need something to keep me going. In earlier years I could latch onto the idea that I wanted to complete NaNoWriMo and that was enough. Now I've done that so many times, and written so much otherwise, it's not enough of a goal. Still absolutely worthy, of course—I'm in no way trying to devalue that goal for anyone else. But for me, for my fickle creative mind, I need something else, or it's too easy to rationalize that a slower pace produces better work (sometimes true, but not always. For arguments why it's great to splurge out a bunch of fiction at once, see a bunch of debates all over the internet, and feel free to disagree.)

Enter the idea of writing a horror novel. That's something! Except it's a lot, actually. Maybe too much. So now my creative mind says, Why don't we research this better before we try? Why don't we read a few newly released horror novels, maybe dig out that How To book we bought when we were fifteen, and stop spending every free moment of this November feeling guilty for what we haven't yet written? Very reasonable, of course. It's always reasonable to research, consider, take notes, read, go for a walk, discuss, and generally procrastinate when what you really need to do is sit down and write. Last year it was a series of science fiction stories I wanted to write, and the same thing happened. Instead of driving me forward it said, 'We aren't ready for this. Let's wait.'

There's a time to wait, but also a time to say, 'No. Today we write.' This month I wrote, and for me that was a tremendous accomplishment. Now I can review my strengths and weaknesses in this genre, now I can read How To and try to improve. But the fact I didn't fast-forward through a few tough weeks means a lot to me. It also means a lot to my creative mind, that has confidence and clarity it would have missed otherwise.

Congratulations on everything you've written this month, this year, ever! There are many walls in life, many stumbling blocks and seemingly impassable caverns. We need to celebrate our achievements, whatever form they take. And we (read: I) need to take that feeling of success and run with it.


  1. Congratulations on your 9th NaNoWriMo! You've probably written over 1/2 a million words just in participating in your annual November tradition alone! That's pretty phenomenal!


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