The Aftermath of NaNoWriMo – Pt. 1

Aka: National Novel Writing Month.
A challenge to writers to write 50,000 words of a novel within the month of November.
50,000 words.
30 days.

Sound challenging?
If you answered yes, then you just may be correct.
Unless you’re a writer, or are friends with one, chances are that you haven’t heard NaNoWriMo. And if you’re not a writer, you may also be thinking to yourself… “Why would anyone ever put themselves through that kind of torture?” Because, if you really stop to think about it, 50,000 words is A LOT of writing. Especially if you think about the big picture and having to write all that in a month’s time. Remember those exercises in English class when you had to write a 500 word paragraph? Yeah, that’s nothing.

If you divide out the 50,000 words by the 30 days given to you to write them, that leaves you with a daily goal of about 1,666 words. From my four years of experience with WriMo, that’s about 2-3 pages of writing, depending on your font size and your spacing. It might not seem like a whole lot, and there are two sides to that argument:

– If you have a clear goal in your head of what you want to write, if you’re buzzing with excitement to sit down at the computer and put your fingers on the keys and take off like a marathon runner, then no… it’s really not. (I’ve had these days. You sit down to write and the words just flow from your fingers like magic and the world around you fades away and you become lost in the story – completely unaware of the fading daylight or of the fact that you haven’t ate in six hours.)

– And then, there are your off days. Or, for some writers, maybe these are your normal days (and the aforementioned seem to be flukes, though ones that you wish you could repeat on a more frequent basis.) You have the story in your head, maybe even clear as day, but you sit down to write… and your mind is a blank wasteland, complete with tumble weeds and swirling clouds of dust, choking out all creative thought. You keep your butt in your chair, telling yourself that you just need a second. And yet, an hour passes, and all you’ve managed to do is check the same four sites over and over, eaten a bag of oreos, stared at the wall, and have somehow found yourself either washing dishes, reading a book, or lost deep in the abyss of Youtube, watching endless cat videos… or, possibly answered the siren call of Netflix. (Unfortunately Netflix and NaNoWriMo start with the same letter – guess which one comes up first in my browser when I type the letter “N”…)

Though I’ve had great years regarding NaNoWriMo, I’ll be frank and say that 2015 fell into the latter category about 95% of the time.
Am I proud of that? No.

Either way, for those that follow, here’s a more in depth look at how November shaped up on the writing front:

October 31-2015

With NaNoWriMo, this day has become a night filled with both dread and anticipation. The downfall here is that Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I like to dress up (not that I don’t any other random day of the year) and enjoy myself, but there’s also that lingering thought in my mind that once the clock strikes midnight, it’s time to place butt in chair and get to writing. Starting to write at midnight and getting the majority of my word count done at night before I go to bed so that I have words to wake up to has become my way of blasting through WriMo since first undertaking the challenge back in 2012.
Halloween night: It was chilly, windy, and I’m pretty sure it was rainy as well, but I still dressed up – nothing like wandering the house dressed as my villain from Nyte-Fyre (that’s one way to get into the writing mood, and literally into character). My best friend came over and we ate candy and watched movies.

November 1-2015

I wrote a good chunk of the second Nyte-Fyre novel last year for NaNoWriMo, and with that 50,000 words, it was some of my best writing to boot. So, easy enough to pick up where I left off in the midst of quite the commotion in the storyline, right? I thought so anyways. With the final push to publish my first novel, I had kind of burned myself out on writing/editing and hadn’t done much writing since the end of August. But, I was still excited to continue on the path that “Isle of Hell” was taking me down. I knew the main points of where the storyline was taking me, and I’ve known the ending of this particular novel for over a year and a half.
I sit down to write around noon the next day (possibly my first mistake: I didn’t start writing at midnight as per usual), and… nothing. On that first day, I wrote a whopping 59 words. Yes… not even 100 words.
Despite all my enthusiasm, I just wasn’t feeling that writing magic. I wrote a sentence, didn’t care for it, and walked away. Got distracted, and never got back to the computer that day. I went to bed feeling disappointed in myself, but that was okay. It was only the first day, and I could easily catch up with one good writing spree and be back on track. I still had this.

November 3-2015

Though still rather unfocused (I still chalk some of this up to the fact that I unfortunately started November with a cold. I was tired, had a runny nose, and mildly irritable.), I sat down and did my best to write. I ended up writing just under 2,500 words – great for a day of writing, and over the daily WriMo goal… except that it didn’t bring me back up to par with that golden line that you strive to keep up with on the WriMo website throughout the month. Once again, I told myself that that was fine… it was only day two. Even if I just wrote a couple hundred more words than the 1,666 a day, I would catch up in a matter of days. It sounded easy enough in my head, anyways.

November 4-6 – 2015

Once again, easier said than done. My mind just wasn’t focused, my heart ultimately not in the game. And let me tell you, no matter how many years you’ve been writing, it’s just not easy to put words to the page when you’re feeling that way. The writing becomes a chore, and real chores, like cleaning the house, become far more appealing than they would on any other given day. However, like any true writer (or, stubborn person) I continued to write, sometimes begrudgingly, sometimes with a little more fervor than someone giving a cat a bath. I wrote at least 1,000 words a day – sometimes going beyond the daily 1,666 word goal, sometimes falling short. However, it felt like I always remained consistently 1,000 to 1,500 words below that line. I shrugged… so I had a bad starting week. It wasn’t the end of the world.

November 8-9 – 2015

And then my first 0 word day hit. Nothing new, to be honest. In the four years I’ve done WriMo, I’ve always had a couple days where I wrote absolutely nothing. However, they were usually far later in the month, when I’d reached a bit of a writing burn out. Looking at my past calendars that I’ve printed for keeping track of WriMo word counts only left my guilt worse – on day nine on the first year I participated I had already technically won the competition.
That day was followed by a second 0 word day. It wasn’t looking good. Two days with not a word written, and quickly falling far behind target.

November 10-2015

I refused to let myself be saddled with a third 0 word day, and yet, I sat at the computer and couldn’t contemplate what to write. I printed out the last chapter that I had written the previous WriMo year and studied it, and it occurred to me that maybe the reason I was having problems was that in my rush to finish WriMo in 2014, I had kind of blended scenes from 2-3 chapters into one in order to get my thoughts on the page and to finish (I had a relatively difficult time in 2014 as well, but nothing like this year). Was that my ultimate problem? Did I simply need to go back and write out that chapter as it should have been? Maybe, and who knows where it would have ended had I done that. However, still feeling rather uninspired, I didn’t feel like getting out another sheet of paper and sifting through my thoughts to create the outline that I should have done in the last weeks of October in the first place. Yet, I just couldn’t get myself back on track with the second book. So, I did the next best thing… I moved on. In the same document, I started writing a relatively new scene in my head that is actually a part of the after novella that I’m planning for the Nyte-Fyre series (after book 7 or 8). With something fresh and new in my mind, I did far better, managing 3,400 words that day.

November 11-15 – 2015

I did okay for a few days, and then troubles started to arise again. I had a few more 0 word days. I had other days where I hardly even managed a couple hundred words. Despite having so much story material in my head, I began to lose hope.

November 16-29 – 2015

And so that idea continued to fester in my head. The halfway point came and went, and I continued to struggle along. The lure of Netflix become brighter. What was usually cold weather at this time of year had given way to warmer temperatures than was normal, leaving me to want to play outside, rather than sit at my desk. I fell victim to both.
However, no matter how down I was feeling on the writing front, I kept going. I wondered at times if maybe this time couldn’t be better spent on doing something else… anything else. Yet, I routinely sat at the computer and opened Word. Sometimes I wrote a few paragraphs before losing ambition. Other times I stared at the screen and wrote absolutely nothing.
But, the one thing that separates true writers from those that simply say they write, is just as simple as that: be it good days or bad days, we continue to write.
The greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that although you are competing alongside millions of others, none of those people are your enemies. The only enemy, and the only true competition, is yourself and that nagging voice in the back of your mind saying that you can’t do it. And it’s to prove that mocking voice wrong that we keep going, despite how little hope we feel.

November 30-2015 (Do or Die)

And finally, it was the last day of the competition. Never before had I ever been writing on the last day. You can start validating your word count around the 25th, and I usually do. But this year it was actually down to the wire, and I finally understood the panic of the last days that I had heard other people speak of. I had never been in this position, but the thing was that I could have easily quit at any time during this competition, and yet, I didn’t. Here I was on the last day with 48,000 words. I couldn’t quit now.
The thing was, that it was the last day – whether I finished or not, this was the last day. I could wake up the next morning, a winner. Or I could wake up, having come some close, yet still so far, and feeling that utter disappointment in myself that plagues us writers constantly.
So, though it took me most of the day, I wrote.
And, low and behold: I finished!
I got my pretty certificate saying that I was a winner, and the pride in myself that, although difficult, I still powered through.
And, maybe that in itself made the win all that much better – knowing just how close I had come to losing, to giving up. It felt in a way that if I were to give up, I wouldn’t just be giving up on the 2015 round of NaNoWriMo, but on my writing dreams. A little dramatic? Of course, we’re writers, that’s what we do best.
But, I had just published a giant novel, I couldn’t let myself fail now.
I’m pretty sure I had a tea and simply stared at the wall after writing that last hundred words and validating my word count – 50,732 words.
Though it wasn’t nearly as magical as the first year I participated, I still feel a thrill looking back even now – 14 days after the fact – and realizing that even if I think they’re the shittiest combination of words in the history of the universe, I still wrote 50,000 words, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. 78 pages isn’t just a few thoughtless paragraphs to throw out later. I’m certain that, although it’s definitely not publishing material, there’s definitely some gems in there that I can mine later.
The fact is, that I powered through.
As I say to people who ask about NaNoWriMo, or in these posts each subsequent year, the greatest thing about this competition, is that whether you’re an actual published author, or still a kid in middle school with writing dreams, or just someone that writes as a hobby, NaNoWriMo brings out some form of writer in us all – begging us to simply write. No one ever needs to read what you wrote, and that single thought in itself can be one of the most freeing realizations. It gives you the opportunity to suck. It’s not going to be published. It’s not going to be graded. It’s only going to be read if you decide to give it to someone else to scan through. The truth of the matter is that you don’t even ever have to read it again yourself. If you want to delete all 50,000 words on December 1, then go for it… though I wouldn’t advise it.
The solid fact is that you completed what many see as an unattainable goal, and that right there is something you should be proud of.
Even if you didn’t make it to 50,000… whether you wrote 500 words or 20,000, before calling it quits, you still have more than what you started with. And that right there is something that usually keeps me going throughout the month.
What I think helped even more this year was the NaNoWriMo community. One thing I’ve discovered is that if you’re on social media, you can connect with so many people over one common goal during a challenge like this. I know one girl that I follow on DeviantArt that wrote over 220,000 words! (Supremely jealous! Blows my first year 100,000 out of the water). And I know another girl over on Twitter that powered through and wrote 10,000 words on that last day and won with less than an hour to go.
It was the posts of all these other writers that kept me going, and that reminded me that all writers are different and yet the same. Some really can power through, day after day with what appears to be little problem. And others, like me, really do have trouble most of the time, and yet we still keep going… why? Because, whether the muse regularly visits or not, we still love writing (even when we declare that we hate it.)
And at the end of the day, that’s what makes us writers:
Whether people know about our goals and ambitions or not, we power on, and we write. Because, deep in our hearts, we know: We’re writers.

And whether you’re an outliner, or a pantser, we’re all in this together.

Dear Doubt… I Rid Myself of Thee

Dear Doubt,

Today I do something bold that I should have done ages ago.

I’m kicking you out.

Yes, that’s right, it’s over between us. I honestly don’t know why I’ve allowed you to linger as long as I have. We’ve never gotten along, had nothing in common from the beginning. I’m a free spirit and a dreamer, but you’ve never supported me. There are so many things I want to accomplish in life – the writing and publishing of my book series first and foremost – that I just cannot do with you overshadowing me and consistently putting me down. In fact, as I write this, I realize just how abusive our relationship has really been.

All I want to do is make a name for myself as I have fun spinning tales of fantasy and magic, yet every time I finally discover one of those creative sparks and sit down, caressing it as if I’ve found a precious jewel, you slap it out of my hand. I’m sick and tired of your jealousy as if I can’t do anything that doesn’t involve you. Jealousy… that’s what it is, right? You can’t stand to see something else make me happy. But, the thing is, when have you ever been the one to bring a smile to my face? Right. Never. Not once have I ever felt worthy of anything in your presence. I’m coming to think that you live to see me in despair, that you feed off of the frustration as I’m driven to tears in the face of your adversity. Hell, if I didn’t know any better I would say that this dreaded Writer’s Block has been your doing as well, as if you’ve let it in like some destructive stray dog. It eats up my time with inactivity, sits there in the corner, always watching me with a judgmental eye, growling angrily when I sit to write, thinking that I might have found the joy in it again.

Even when ‘Writer’s Block’ disappears for a few hours now and again, you’re right there waiting to take his place. You tower above me and laugh at my dreams as if they’re the silliest notion you’ve ever heard in your life. You point fingers and tell me that I’m worthless, that I’ll never amount to anything no matter how hard I try, so why should I even bother? It’s because of you that I’ve whiled away the better part of the last three months afraid to grasp for my own talent, stifled by the voices you’ve left to fester in my head.

Why should I sit here in the darkness of my despair and tell myself that my writing is terrible? I wrote it. I’ve rewritten it. I’ve edited it and read it over and over again, and it’s so much better than allow myself credit for, than you allow me to think because those are your words, not mine.

“I’m not good enough.”

You go ahead and keep those words since you’re the rock that’s weighing down this relationship, leaving it stagnant and drowning at the bottom of the pond. You just can’t stand to see me succeed.

Does the world really need another fantasy story? My story? Will the world cease to spin if Nyte-Fyre never sees the light of the publishing world? Probably not, but I need this story and I won’t give up just because you’ve told me too. A friend just recently reminded me that even if it seems like just another story when you write it you have to remember that it’s your story – your characters, your events. Yours and no one else’s. He’s right and I won’t forget that. I will pick myself up off the ground, find the light in this darkness and move on with a renewed passion in what I love. I will write without limits and make something of myself… without you.

You have been nothing more than a poison in this relationship, the toxins you’ve dripped into me running through my blood and infecting my mind. Well, now I pull the needle free. I won’t even pause to lick my wounds. Instead, I will run with the wind and take joy in  wherever it leads me.

For the last time, I’m done with you. 

So, on this thirteenth day of August in the year two thousand and thirteen, I offer you this eviction notice. And no, this is not one of those two week notices. I want you gone today and I never want to see your ugly personality around here again.

P.S. Take that wretched animal ‘Writer’s Block’ with you.  

Writer’s Block… or Mirage Wall?

“Writer’s Block” It’s like the dreaded computer blue screen of the writing world: the one thing we all as writer’s fear, but will inevitably run into regardless. I could never quite understand this phenomenon, yet, alas, I’m not immune from the lull of these dreaded times.

All I know is that I’m getting quite tired of it. I honestly don’t know why this has been so hard on me lately. After what feels like forever, I’m finally getting back into these writing moods where I actually want to sit down and work on something, anything (yes, I desperately want to work on my book and finish the edit of the first, but I consider any writing on any of the books in the series progress). Yet, time and time again, it seems that as soon as I actually sit down to put pen to paper – or fingers to keys – I lose all that prior bright ambition and can barely focus, leading me to stare blankly at the screen for awhile before ultimately giving up. I’ve watched entirely too many movies and have been reading far more as of late. So, what is this? Writer’s block? Still? Or just a mirage wall? Maybe I’m using the term writer’s block as nothing more than an excuse, though I can’t imagine for what. I love to write, so what the heck do I need an excuse not to do it for? Unless, deep down I’m still saddled with that stress from the time when I was trying to do too much.

– Back in the beginning of the year, I had the immense ambition to pull off a full edit/rewrite of my book by June and have it published and ready for the Renaissance Festival here in August. Let’s just say that it turned out to be a far larger project than I ever could have imagined. Those that think manuscript editing consists of merely fixing punctuation and some grammatical errors have little knowledge of the authorial world. I will admit that I initially had the same thought… it died out very quick, only to be replaced with the fear and stress that I wouldn’t meet the constrictions of my own deadlines. As you can see, I was right in that assumption. Yet, therein lies the beginning of my problems. In my rush to try to meet that deadline anyways, telling myself that it was just my own negative thinking holding myself back, I did wind up getting a large chunk of the edit/rewrite done (over 200 pages of straight rewrite – I basically set the initial draft aside and wrote the beginning from scratch). However, the writing that I had once enjoyed had suddenly become a job that I came to hate. At the end of May – the last time that I honestly sat down and worked on anything regarding the first book – I finally allowed myself to admit, not just to myself, but also publically on my book’s Facebook page, that I was not going to have it done this summer. After that I allowed myself a much needed break, yet it seems to be a lengthy vacation that I have yet to return from. The good news is that I do miss my writing and the joy of it, I think I just still retain that fear of returning to that place where I found myself hating the one thing that I have always loved and want to eventually make a living out it. It’s an extremely difficult discovery to wake up one day and find that you want nothing to do with the one thing that makes your world. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff and staring out into a void, not knowing what makes sense anymore, like the world had shifted and no longer revolves around the sun. All in all, a scary feeling.

And though, I think I’ve finally begun to rise from the ashes of that fall, I still haven’t been able to let all those negative feelings go. The worst thing about being a writer I believe – at least in my own case, not sure how it is for others – is that I think it’s actually made me more emotional as a person and far more susceptible to bouts of depression. It’s wonderful, being able to explore those deepest depths of the darkness of one’s mind and then effectively putting it on the page for other’s entertainment, but to actually feel it yourself really saps your strength of character after awhile. I’ve noticed as well, that there are times when my own moods reflect those of my characters and how they’re reacting to events in the story as I’m writing.

The worst part of all this is that within the past year I’ve become so overbearing hypocritical of myself and the talents I possess. Once again, I don’t know why. I’m much more talented than I give myself credit for. I’ve gotten a number of positive and raving reviews from the few friends I trust to read my novel at this early stage, and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough, the shine of those words wearing off far too soon. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to see the brilliance of my writing as opposed to being so hard on myself.

It just gets to be a little disheartening after awhile, especially since all my little self-imposed hissy fit hiatus’ keep pushing my loosely constructed deadlines further and further away. People keep telling me to take my time with my writing, let it grow, and that everything will eventually come to me and fall into place. Yes, yes, I know that. I really do. But is it so bad of a thing to want some progress, some finality after nearly 8 years of work? The elation of wanting to run down the street and jump for joy when I finished the first draft of book one in December of 2011 has long since worn off. I just feel like it should have all been done by now and that I should be working on subsequent books in the series. I’m still effectively hoping to have a e-book out and a few editorial copies out to a handful of friends for a final revision by the end of the year, but we shall see. I want to take the time off in November again to do NaNoWriMo again, since I had such success last year, but all I can think of is that that’s a whole month dedicated to NOT working on getting the first book completed. Yet, if I want to be honest with myself, that’s no different than this whole summer. Maybe, I need to allow myself that break. The greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that is focuses on that fear. Instead of wasting all that time being perfect, wanting every word to flow just right, it forces you to just put words on the page and keep it going, whether it sucks or not. Maybe I need to let go of my perfectionism and allow myself that ultimate freedom again. Yet, when you’re trying to polish your book for publication that’s a hard thing to do. Though, perhaps this blog could be good for me, because I’m certainly not editing all this – just letting my thoughts flow.

My biggest thing is that I feel like you can only tell people so many times that you’re writing/editing your first novel and that it will be out soon before they come to the ultimate conclusion that your words are merely hot air to keep your ego inflated and that nothing will ever actually come from it. The one thing I do know is that I will NOT give up this unconventional dream of mine. I’m far too invested in this story and its characters. And when I allow myself the freedom of mistakes, I really do love the writing and the world I’ve created. It’s just that, for wanting to make a living on writing – not an easy thing to do – I really need to get a move on, because I honestly don’t see myself doing anything else. If this all crumbles down around me, I don’t have much of anything else to fall back on…

Well then… deep and depressing thoughts aside. There are a number of projects I’ve had on my mind regarding my writing – a few little side stories involving my main characters, the urge to finally get back into my editing, drawing up a timeline for the book I want to start during NaNoWriMo, and a few vivid pictures in my mind that I want to attempt in the digital painting world. As for good news, I think I wrote a three page poem about the sea last night. It basically just flowed through my fingers and onto the paper and I haven’t read it yet, but I will probably post it whether it’s terrible or not in the next few days.

In the future, I will try not to let my posts be nearly as depressing as this one.