My Worst Start to NaNoWriMo Ever, and Why I Will Persevere

So, I’m just going to (sadly) go ahead and admit this: As the title claims, this is my worst start to NaNoWriMo, ever.

However, does that mean I’m going to give up?

Nah. And you know why? Because I’m a writer.

Writing is what I do. Sometimes, the words flow without pause – feeling more like you’re reading a good book than feeling like you’re the one creating the story, the world. And, well, then there’s the times when they simply don’t. The well is drier than the desert, and there doesn’t seem to be a light on upstairs. In fact, someone stole the damn lightbulb.

But, that’s just the way things go. What separates the writers from those that simply say they write, is that the writers do just that: they write. Whether the words are there or not.

And I think that that’s why I’ve come to love NaNoWriMo – though I’m sure that anyone else that has spent the month of November in a caffeinated, “I haven’t slept in a week haze,” knows that it’s more along the lines of a love/hate relationship.

The people that don’t write look at that final number – 50,000 words – and think we’re crazy. “There’s no way that that’s an attainable goal!” While us writers look at the daily average of 1,666 words that will get us to that number, and think “well, that doesn’t look bad. I can do this.”

And plenty of those that participate do, every year. And then, there are those that don’t. However, that doesn’t make us failures if we don’t reach that ‘magical’ number. The fact of the matter is that whether you get the 50,000 words, or only manage to write 2,000 we still managed to write. If anything, it’s more than you had at the beginning of the month. Sometimes all it takes is a fleeting idea, or a sentence or two to start a whole story.

If you only wrote two sentences, you may never look at them again, or you might start a whole book three years down road simply because you jotted down the beginning kernels of an idea. Who knows where a few words can take you, because, honestly, the imagination is a wonderful – and sometimes frightening – place.

I actually started NaNoWriMo in 2012 with low expectations. I started writing the first book of my Nyte-Fyre Prophecy series way back in 2006, averaging about 5 chapters (anywhere from 15-40 pages a year). In other words, I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. I loved to write, and yet, I seemed to have a problem getting the idea from my head, where it sounded fantastic, amazing, and downright magical, to the blank page that sat staring back at me with that blinking cursor that made it feel like it was laughing at my aspirations. So, when I had a friend a fellow author friend at the Renaissance Festival tell me about NaNoWriMo, I originally scoffed at the idea. There was no way I could do that. How could I? I let this be known, and yet, he insisted (Thank you, Dave!). So, I grumbled, said maybe, and went on with my day, with my week.

As November approached, I followed his Facebook updates that frequently made mention of WriMo. I heard it other places on the internet. And I began to wonder. Could I maybe do this? What could it really hurt? Would participating in this make me feel more like the author I wanted to be? That I dreamed of being?

Looking back on my own writing, I reminded myself that I had just completed my first novel December 29th of the previous year. And I remembered that feeling of putting the last word on the page. That thrill that I had accomplished something huge. Nyte-Fyre had begun as a project for myself, a challenge to myself to actually finish something. To this day, it’s still one of my largest undertakings. Yes, I wanted to be an author. But, whether anybody ever read a word of that story or not, I had made myself proud. And, honestly, I wanted to feel that again.

Unfortunately, I’m a wicked perfectionist, and also a defiant procrastinator. Two things that do not go well together. That’s probably why it took me so long to write. I could stare at a paragraph of my own writing for 6 hours, rewrite it 100 times, and still end up deleting it at the end of the day. The problem is, that that’s not going to get you very far.

Still grumbling about the idea of it, yet intrigued by the challenge, I signed up on the NaNoWriMo site at 11pm on October 31st.

I went in with exceptionally low expectations. And yet, I had the time of my life. I sat down and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I told my inner perfectionist and editor to piss off, and I just let the words flow. I actually ended up completing the 50,000 words on day 9. I had never felt so damn invincible in my life. Though I had a few slow days after that, I met the end of the month with just over 100,000 words. And you know what? It ended up being some of my best writing.

I honestly think that that’s because having to keep a certain pace, you’re not really given the time to stop and think. You don’t over-think, you don’t edit, you just do.

Now, I’ll admit, all my NaNoWriMo years have not been equal. As a matter of fact, that first year almost feels like a fluke, or just the fact that it was the excitement of something new. The second year wasn’t quite as magical, but I still managed to complete the 50,000 on day 15 and then continue on to validate my novel at 80,000 words.

Last year, I almost didn’t compete at all. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to do. I had resigned myself to the fact that I had other things that needed attending to first – like continuing to edit my first novel for publication. I was fighting health problems and I was battling depression from the health problems. In a nutshell, I felt like absolute shit and writing was one of the last things I wanted to do. I would have preferred to curl up in a ball in the dark and watch Netflix forever. And yet, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I had done NaNoWriMo for two years. I almost felt obligated to not participate. I started to feel bad about not wanting to take part. Not because I felt that I would be judged by my friends on there, but because it was a month of writing, and wasn’t that what I wanted to do? Yes, it’s hard at times – really hard at times… just as any author – but, down or not, writing is my happy place. Even if I have to fight for it tooth and nail… sometimes feeling like trying to pull a ten ton tree out of a lake of molasses… there are those times, sometimes brief, when you’re writing that you simply feel like you can conquer the world.

So I begrudgingly got on the NaNoWriMo site, entered my novels info for the year, and sat my butt down to write. Though I had planned on starting the fourth novel – feeling that I HAD to start a novel – I decided to continue where I had left off on the second novel that had been plaguing me. I reread the chapter I had left off, wrote a bit of an incredibly sketchy timeline, and opened a new Word document and started writing. There were days when it felt like pulling teeth. The writing didn’t always flow as I would have liked. And it was super dark. I actually think that one of the reasons that I had been so slow to write the second book was because I had known even before writing that first word that it was going to be a dark novel, and in a way, it scared me to write that. I didn’t want to explore that part of myself. And thought I only just managed to make it past 50,000 words last year, the fact of the matter is that I still did it. And, reading through it afterwords, it’s some of my best writing yet. It’s incredibly dark, and I love it. I think that having a word goal per day gave me the drive to power through those scenes that I didn’t necessarily want to write, reminding myself along the way that I was the author, I could make those scenes as dark and as gritty as I wanted. No one ever had to read them. If I wanted, I could edit those out later to appease readers. And yet, uncomfortable as they may be, I’ll actually probably end up keeping them.

Now, fast forward to this year:

I don’t know where things went downhill to be honest. I was excited to start NaNoWriMo this year. I honestly was. I haven’t touched the second book since last year because I’ve been editing the first, and I published it the end of September, finally! Which was super exciting! I still can’t believe that I have a finished product, available for people to read. Now, when people ask – “Oh, do you have anything published?” I can give them a big smile and declare that, “Yes! Yes, I do. You can find it here, here, and here.”

I left “Isle of Hell” (my second book) at a rather dark place last year, and I was excited to get back to that. Though I know where I want the book to go, how it will end, it took me awhile to actually sit down and sketch out a bare bones outline. In all honestly, I actually just completed that a few days ago. But that didn’t stop me. I was still happy to be facing the month of November again.

So, November 1st rolled around,

And I wrote a whopping 59 words.

Exciting, right?

I thought so, too.

I looked at that, and of course felt disappointment in myself. But, I shook my head, went to bed, and told myself, that’s okay, it’s the first day. Tomorrow, I’ll just make it up. The second day, I made it to 2,500 words. Nowhere near where I wanted to be. I don’t know what’s been going on this month, but for some reason, I just don’t feel the drive I’ve felt in previous years. I look at the page and my mind goes blank, or wanders. I look at my stats on the WriMo site, and simply feel disappointed in myself.

The thing is, that I could very easily just give up and tell myself, yeah it’s just not working this year. I’ll take a year off. But, you know what? I’m not going to. Because that’s not how I work. I might feel disappointed if I don’t make the 50,000. Who am I kidding, of course I will. However, I will feel even more so if I simply give up because I had a bad week of writing.

No book would get written if authors gave up like that. Everyone has bad weeks. That’s no reason to throw in the towel. It’s called perseverance.

It’s just life. The things that we love, tend to be the things that kill us. It’s the artist way, especially. I love writing, but if it’s going to fight me, well then I’ll be damned if I won’t fight it back.
Looking at my stats thus far on the lovely graph that NaNoWriMo gives you on the site, I’ve been riding about 1,00o words below the average line per day. One of these days, I’ll surpass that line. Hopefully, soon. Yes, this hasn’t been my best NaNoWriMo year ever, but it doesn’t have to stay like that.

If you’re feeling down about your own writing, just know that it’s only day 9. There are still 21 days left. Looking at the stats I wrote down for myself over the last three years of participation, I’ve had days where I wrote nearly 10,000 words in a day. I still have plenty of time to do this. And so do you.

So, to any of you out there struggling, I raise my tea to you. Here’s to us. Here’s to writing. Because hardly anything is impossible if you put your mind to it. You simply have to get out of your own way.

So, off to writing town – I have some catching up to do!

P.S. Do these 2,120 words count for today?

Birthday and Book Excitement

Once again, I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything on here. But I’ve always been under the mindset of not bothering to post if I don’t have anything to say. Still, I didn’t know that it’s been that long.

Regardless, I’m excited today.

Not only is it my birthday – which, I will confess… birthday’s and holidays are generally just another day to me – but I’ve also got some exciting news.

First off, for my birthday my parents decided to go half with me on the purchase of a new camera. I’ve been wanting a fancy DSLR camera for a long time, but lack of funds and feeling like it would hurt to spend that much on something has kept me from actually attaining one. However, when I was at the store last week they happened to have a Canon EOS Rebel T3i on clearance. It was still $419 (ok, typing that makes me realize just how much I just spent on a camera… ouch), but I’m so excited to finally have one.

Though I bought it last week, I’ve only just gotten it out of the box today and am currently waiting for the battery to charge before I start messing around with it.

Now, you may ask, what the heck has been keeping you from getting that puppy right out of the box the moment you brought it home. Trust me, it’s been difficult. Especially since it’s been sitting on my desk next to my computer… taunting me.

But I’ve been working hard on my book.

First, let me side-track just a second:

Having participated in NaNoWriMo the last two years, one of the best things is that if you actually achieve the 50,000 word goal, you get an array of goodies in the form of coupons as a reward. One of those coupons that I’ve been dying to use is a code for free printed copies of your book from CreateSpace.

Unfortunately, my coupon went unused the first year (very sad about that), and it only occurred to me the week before last that the one I had from last November was going to expire the end of this month. I was lying in bed, thinking that I was going to be mad for not using that again. And then it came to me… I’ve had the first draft done since December of 2011. Yes, it’s been awhile. I’m terribly self-deprecating and have yet to finish the revise/edit of the first novel. But the fact still remains that I still have a whole book sitting there.

So, though it’s not what I intend to publish as the final, I decided to go ahead and use that CreateSpace coupon and just print off my first draft. Almost like a prototype. Just to see how it looks in print, how long it is, etc. And, maybe the sheer act of actually seeing it in printed form in my hands will be just the kick in the arse that I’ve been needing to get back to that edit and to – hopefully – get the finalized novel out there this fall or winter.

I just ordered the copies this morning, and I can honestly say that I’m already stoked to see them! Just seeing the PDF file all put together was enough to leave me giddy.

It was a lot of work – much more than I had expected… with not only the quick edit, searching for grammar mistakes, but also formatting in Word to account for bleed area and margins and all that fun technical stuff. Not to mention the same thing with the cover design – which I did all myself.

My brain is practically numb from overworking myself with this – late nights and extremely long days going through 221,000 words (most novels hover around 90,000) and then working to finish the rest of it. That is definitely a job in itself, but, kind of fun. Though it would have been more enjoyable if I hadn’t of given myself such a short deadline. The fact that I’m done now, however, leaves me feeling incredibly accomplished. Now my hope is to have it in my hand by Forth of July weekend so that I can wave it around to my family.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: You can only tell people so many times that you’re working on a project like a book before they stop believing you and just think you’re lazy. Now I will have proof that I have actually been working.

I will definitely post pictures when I receive the physical copies, but to tide everyone over, here’s the cover. (I don’t know if this will be the cover for the final book, but I still love it.)

Image

Also, I’ve added almost another 60,000 words to my second novel. So, I guess I’ve been doing something over spring.

On an end note: Happy Summer Solstice! And I hope I have more exciting things to post (more frequently) as this year goes on.

 

To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

NaNoWriMo, that is.

And the answer is most certainly yes!

For those who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, or who have and secretly wondered what the heck people were talking about, NaNoWriMo is a shortened version of National Novel Writing Month. For authors, novelists and newbies alike, its main goal is to get people to write.

The challenge is to  write a 50,000 word novel in a span of one month – 30 days – and that one month is November.

It may sound challenging, and I can say from experience that it is. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding challenges to undertake.

I had heard the term NaNoWriMo years ago from a friend in college, but it wasn’t until it was brought to my attention once more last year by an author buddy of mine that I really decided to look into it. And even then I was on the fence. I’ll admit that I didn’t officially sign up until October 27th… three days before the challenge started.

I will always adhere to the mantra that as artists, we ourselves are our worst critics. I know that for a fact. It’s a good thing that we don’t physically bruise from mentally beating ourselves up over nothing because if that was the case I would be permanently black and blue. Whether it’s my drawing/digital art or the writing for my fantasy series, I can ALWAYS find something wrong and will nitpick myself into a frenzy. It’s just the way I am, and as destructive as my  perfectionism can be, it unfortunately breeds some mighty fine work. When I do get something done that is. Hence the fact that I continue walking the fine line between productive genius and self destruction. If I was breeding only contempt I might have changed by now.

That being said, it took me a good six years to write the first draft of my first novel. Many of those years I wrote a grand total of 5-10 chapters. Pitiful, right?

And that’s exactly what I had spinning in my mind when my friend was urging me to try NaNoWriMo. I thought to myself “There’s no way I can write that much in a mere span of 30 days? Is that even possible?”

That right there is that annoying little voice of doubt that haunts me like a plague.

However, I decided to throw caution to the wind for once and signed up.

And let’s just say that once I started, I discovered a writing monster.

From the moment November first hit and the proverbial shotgun was fired to indicate the start of the race, I was clocking way over the 1,666 words I had calculated that I would have to write a day in order to meet the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. On average I banked about 4,000 words a day, even writing as much as 10,000 words a few days. It was a level of exhilaration that I hadn’t felt since I had put that last word of my first book on the page over a year prior.

So, how did I find myself going from writing 10,000 words a year to 10,000 a day?

It’s simple. I sat down and I wrote.

The basic principal of NaNoWriMo is actually just that.

You sit down and you write, unrestricted. No giving yourself time to develop plot. No time to go back and edit and nitpick. Just write. And as simple as it is, it works wonders.

I far surpassed that 50,000 word goal and actually finished the challenge at just over 100,000 words. It was an amazing feel and all the proof that I needed that I am the only one that’s ever held myself back.

Now, the challenge of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel. For me that’s about a quarter of one of my novels. (The first draft of the novel I’m currently editing came in at about 240,000 words). However, you’re supposed to create a new novel and start it on November 1st. No previous writing.

For me, book one had already been completed, at least in it’s earliest stages. And I was already 100 pages into the second book. So I began the third book of my series.

The fact that the third book was one of the ones I was most looking forward to probably helped me in the long run, but in the end I had written at least half of that book in one month. And better yet was that I had explored places that I hadn’t even touched on in my outline that I threw together before November so as to have some simple idea of where I was going with the whole thing.

By throwing caution to the wind and just letting myself write, I think I allowed myself to just have fun with it – something that I haven’t really let myself do in a number of years – and I let the story and the characters do the talking and allowed them to tell me where it was all supposed to go.

Over all, NaNoWriMo was freeing. It was a superb exercise in just letting yourself have fun with writing. No professionalism, no nitpicky edits, just writing. And, after all, isn’t that what we all essentially go into writing for in the first place? Because we love to write?

When I was pushing myself with the editing and rewriting earlier in the year I think I lost sight of that. I was seeing my novel as more of a job and I was waking up finding excuses and *gasp* hating it. It actually crossed my mind a few times that I didn’t want to write anymore, and honestly, that scared the shit out of me.

So I stepped back from it. Erased my deadline. And let myself walk away for a bit this summer. I’ve written a bit here and there. Jotted down numerous conversation pieces and wrote a few lengthy passages from future books in the series, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually written and had that thrill. So maybe this is exactly what I need.

I was arguing with myself a bit about this a few months back, trying to declare that taking this challenge on again would be taking a whole month from my editing of the first book. And yes, it will be. But what’s the difference? I’ve been rather stagnant in the writing pool all summer. One more month isn’t going to kill me.

And maybe, in the end, what I need is that thrill of raw writing.

So, to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Well, the answer is a resounding YES!

Come November 1st, I shall be starting the forth book of my Nyte-Fyre Prophecy series, currently titled “Darkness Descending”

_______________________________________________

Anybody interested in giving NaNoWriMo a shot, the web address to their official site is below:

(There’s nothing to lose. It’s free to join and you’re not punished for not finishing. There are no prizes beyond the warm fuzzy feeling of that buzz of accomplishment, but you do get some cool coupons if you finish. One is 5 free copies of your book from CreateSpace)

http://nanowrimo.org/

~ And, for anyone wanting to add me within the site, my username is:

SlythraNoirVaere17