I’ve seen a lot of “winner” Tweets and blog posts on this years NaNoWriMo, but thought I’d spare a thought for those that might have fallen off the path.
I recently posted my thoughts on tackling this years event starting with the premiss that 50,000 words in a month couldn’t be too hard. I say recently, but it was a month ago. Abandon social media and write, a philosophy that I did not use last year and ended up in an imbalanced muddle that resulted in Dead Blogs and Englishmen, which was an alternative working title for Tempus Fugit, sometime in February. Two months in the wilderness so to speak.
However, This post is not a round up of my own experience, that will come next and, hopefully, before February.
The idea came to me after watching the success tweets using the hashtag NaNoWriMo and wondering how that might affect those that were getting behind or found it hard to strike the right balance between life and actually writing. I’m not knocking anyone that does announce victory because that is a euphoria that winners should feel and sharing it is huge.
But what happens to those that don’t make it, fall off the wagon, derail, find an idea just collapses or a character set that grows dull?
Does it adversely affect you if the winning Tweets grow while your story sits woefully behind or dies?
In the past I have written posts on kindness and mindfulness and feel the fallout from NaNoWriMo is a good place to make sure writers stay positive and don’t dwell on not hitting 50K words.
Success is the taking part, the writing of words and exploring an idea or dream. Experienced writers will tell you that writing is a need, a driving force that won’t suffer indifference. The story must out. I’d probably agree with them except for many it is a juggling act between life (children, career, commitments) and actually writing.
Easy to say that, isn’t it? Actually writing, when in the background kids want food or lunch break is over is never so simple. I’m sure people can insert a good number of other things that run interference there.
So what does it mean to fail hitting 50K and getting that winners badge?
For hardened writers this will not be an unfamiliar place to be. Not every idea rides the storm to the end, some get started and shelved, some end up as short stories because they have no longevity and some turn out to be bad ideas. The only way to find out is to write. I try to hit 10K before figuring out if it’s worth pursuing. Never forget a full novel is no easy task. It takes commitment, selfishness and a good degree of stamina to achieve. Some write swiftly once in the zone too, others take years. We all have our own pace so never feel down about seeing some people crank through NaNoWriMo like there’s no tomorrow. They are the ones who have found the story and are likely to be the minority, rather than the majority, of participants.
For most the end of the challenge might fall anywhere between 15K and 40K words. You can either look at the #winner tweets and posts feeling fed up, or see them as inspiring messages from writers that have been through where you are before. Get to know them too, drop comments, share their posts and learn how they schedule time and stay on track.
Then look at your own work and decide if you actually want to finish it. This is the big question, if its no, then the drive is either missing or the story isn’t working. If its the former then writing might not be your bag, if it’s the latter then the tale needs breaking down to find out why. Beyond that it might be because it just isn’t there, in which case, file it and move onto the next project.
Be mindful of how you think too. If it’s just you doubting what you do then find a friend, preferably another writer, who will cut to the chase and tell you straight with honest feedback. Friends and family are often little help there as they are often too kind and afraid of hurting feelings. A writer needs good bad feedback, not bad good feedback. Good feedback is a bonus. If you understand that then you are on the way to coping with editing.
Going back to NaNoWriMo, how do you tackle not winning?
Do you say,
“I failed this year” and insert excuses why.
Or do you say,
“I started a book this year and will use the goal tracker and NaNo Camps to finish it.”
Same outcome, but very different approach mentally. One is positive and one is negative. The second one is a celebration of actually starting a book. The word count is irrelevant (and 50K is a huge ask, never forget that), the words are not. If you started NaNoWriMo as an attempt to write a book then not “winning” is not a failure unless you make it so. Use NaNoWriMo tools if that’s helpful.
Goal Tracker is live now. Set up your project and state an aim or word count. you have total control and NaNoWriMo will track your progress much as it did during the actual event. This runs over a few months too so stop reading and go launch the rest of that novel right now. Log back in a it should be one of the first things you see.
NaNo Camps operate at various points in the year. Month challenges where you set the word count. Use them and/or the goal tracker to finish what you started. Link up with writers doing the same, form a group or do it alone; whichever works.
Cast failure into the bin, no recycling it here, off to landfill and leave it there.
You took part in a global writing month with a high target. It’s high because it’s tough and a challenge. I like it that way, if you find it too high then use Camps or, better still, drop the “too high” negative and just write words.
A participant is always a winner because blank pages do not write themselves. Build on this year and aim higher next time. The aim of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing. That’s the point of it. Does it matter how much you do? No. Is it s competition? No, caveat only against yourself. You want to write or you wouldn’t have signed up, go prove it to yourself. Get that unfinished bunch of words and sort it out. Decide why it stalled, if it did, and whether it’s going to gel and has mileage, or call it writing practice and get onto the next idea. Do not sit and stare with thoughts of failure and a crippled self-esteem. Decide and action it.
Remember too, we all hit self doubt in stories at some point, it’s not unique and its part of writing minds. The trick is to realise that and see positives in other people’s achievements. They are not competitors, just people that have been where you are and risen above it. No quick fix, just hard work and practise.
If its any help I will be posting about my journey shortly and yes, I did hit 50K. In fact the final count was 62K and I’m not finished yet, hence the goal tracker mention. I’m on that and aiming for 30k by February 1st. That should see me writing at a reduced pace, but hoping to write “The End” in January. Those words, as every writer knows, just signify the start of editing. Hey ho, it nevertheless has one of those euphoric moments even if it is brief and soon to get hacked about as first drafts tend to.
I’ve not started the other post yet, but if you have any questions about how I created time, stayed on track or anything else related to NaNoWriMo 2017 then feel free to mention it in the comments below. I will try and build responses into said post.
Remember writing is hard, your mind can make it harder.
First drafts are notorious for being pants; that’s what editing is for. Write your draft then begin turning it into a story. The more you do it the more the first drafts will improve. Nothing can replace practice and part of that is read widely to improve vocabulary and see how other authors do things.
The only thing stopping you is you.
If you want to take part in supporting writers of all levels then visit Insecure Writers Group and join in. One post a month on any aspect of writing that might help another author on the first Wednesday of every month. Not only that get your blog listed on the hop too and meet some fascinating writers.
For now this is my WIP. I know some have seen it before, but I’m trying to boost up my mojo. It needs finishing!
MarshBank House is haunted, so say the locals. It consumes people, or sends them to the lunatic asylum.
Alan and Joseph Carmichael run a paranormal investigation side-line. Two years ago they lost Conrad while helping Emma Strickland with her late father’s estate. He went into the house and never came back. He was not the first.
Behind the house lies a marsh that gave rise to the name. A Black Marsh with a long forgotten past. One that bleeds out every so often and consumes what it can, laying waste to the rest.
The brothers are done mourning, they want answers. They are not alone. The dead are walking and the film between past and present grows thin.
Journey with Templars, howling ruins and a pub with the world’s longest serving landlord.