Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why NaNoWriMo Is Making Me Sad

November is just over two weeks away, and along with turkey and Christmas decorations comes my favorite November activity: National Novel Writing Month. For those not already in the know, NaNoWriMo is an annual event in which a bunch (I'm not looking up numbers) of people each try to write 50,000 words in a month. For most published authors this is not a big deal as we write at that speed whenever we draft.

But... I might not manage it this year. (Sadz.)

To all the people who haven't won NaNo in the past and are sitting there, scowling at me, let me share a little background. I participated in my first NaNo in 2007 and won for a very shelved, dust gathering manuscript called Avalon's Return. It took me the rest of the year to finish that damn book, but I wrote 50,000 words in November (and no, it wasn't ridiculously long, I had just burned myself out).

Then 2008 came along and I did it again. In fact, I never stopped doing it. NaNo came to be my training ground for learning how to work to a deadline (personal or otherwise). I learned how to pace myself and plot enough to keep me sane but not so much that writing lost its sense of adventure. From 2007 through November 2012, I never lost NaNo. And that included as things that came with being a published author got in the way (edits/promo/submissions). I made a point of busting ass and hitting that goal.

Until this year.

It's the second half of October and I have nothing on my plot board for NaNo. Granted, I want to write Kiss of Eternity so I know the basics of what has to happen: war, sex, bloodshed, sex, mayhem, probably more sex, and tying everything up (not sex related exactly...then again it might be). But I don't have any of the details plotted out or balanced.

So why not hop on that right now? (Because I'm writing a blog post, duh...) Because I'm neck deep in edits on two books. Granted, both are novellas, but it's still edits on two books which means I won't have much, if any advance planning time (and I still need to re-read the other books in the series so I don't screw things up).

"Okay, okay," you say, "but you managed before. Now that you have six years of this under your belt, it shouldn't be a problem."

Maybe, and I hope and pray you're right, but... I might have failed to mention that I am looking at edits on a minimum of two other books (both novels this time) coming in November. And maybe further edits on the one I'm finishing up today. And maybe edits on another novella. All told, I could have edits coming in on up to four projects next month. *thud*

Which translates to NaNo potentially being a huge fail for me this year. And as awesome as it is to have All The Work pouring in (and it is, I'm not trying to be all poor-me here), I'm still melancholy that this might be the year that NaNo becomes--in essence--something I used to do.

Last month, when I was in the midst of another month of mad edits, I posted a Facebook update about all the projects I was working on. Another author (who liked the status) posted something immediately after about wishing she could just cough up books (that's paraphrasing, I'm not looking up an exact quote for multiple reasons). Pretty sure she meant it to make herself feel better (as many of her friends then raved about quality over quantity and whatnot), but it just made me sad for her that she doesn't get it.

There are all kinds of authors in the world (and even more kinds of writers). In the new digital marketplace, if you want to make a living off writing (and aren't naive enough to expect to be the next JK Rowling...or made a deal with the devil like some others) you have to bust ass. You have to build a backlist and make writing a J-O-B. One book a year doesn't cut it anymore. Much less the whole one-book-every-half-decade some of the old-school authors are trying.

There's a saying about (paraphrasing again) authors are always writing: they are either thinking about writing, taking notes about writing, planning to write, fixing their writing, or actually, you know, writing. This is true (and quite frankly, I'm getting twitchy at the moment about how long I've been working on this blog post instead of the edits), but if an author spends more time on the first three things than on the last two, they will never be prolific. That's just reality. To be prolific, you have to put the words on the paper and then fix them. And you have to have the commitment and drive to do so.

Which is why I'm still attempting NaNo this year, even though I will have far too many characters fighting for attention in my brain. It's not in me to shrink away from the challenge. Because I am that author who works in the mines long enough to cough up books. And I'll continue to do it until I can't anymore.

So hold on, November is going to be a bumpy ride!


  1. Oh Wow, best of luck with it all Sel, I haven't had the problems that you go through but I do have the problems of backlog on reading. It can be a real killer when you're sat there looking at everything that needs doing to make sure you're hitting your goals.

    I'm going to try and set time aside this year for Nano myself will do my damnedest to write something that will be a beginning for a completed manuscript (no I'm not ignorant enough to think I can write the whole thing in a month and if you can good on you) but to get that goal started, well it'll feel like an epic win any which way.

    If you can't do Nano, don't worry, you set your own goals every month and keep tackling them regardless, you're climding the proverbail word mountain every day, struggling up the cliffs of dead ends, hanging by the tips of your fingers on word selection drop and still manage to keep on going.

    Just think of it another way, yes you might not be able to do it this year, but you help otherrs by showing it can be done. Perhaps int he future write a piece about how you manage the struggle, the plotting, the organising and that way, even if you don;t get to participate you're helping others climb that mountain which is a huge sense in achievement on its own.

    1. Thanks, Gareth :) I actually plan to do a post-NaNo post to follow up on this one since I threw all the madness out for everyone to see. I've just seen this misconception that NaNo is easier once you've been published, and that's not always the case.

  2. You can do it Sel! I'm gonna try, though, like you, I'm dubious on my ability to succeed--mostly because I signed up for a workshop that starts mid November and I want to get my money's worth from it. But I'm still going to make myself aim for that 50K. Even if we don't win, we'll have something to work from and we'll have tried, unlike so many others out there who talk but don't do. I like following your posts and seeing everything you're doing because it makes me think that I can do it too.

    1. Not sure it helps, but I have more faith in everyone else this year than I have in myself LOL. Still trying to decide if I should re-open the Rebel Outpost. I don't think we used it much last year though. Maybe rename it: Renegade Writer Roundup. (Someone hire some cowboys, k?)

  3. I am so gunshy after taking time off of writing for burnout, I am too afraid to do NaNo. Which is a thing I NEVER thought I'd say, but there you go.

    You can do it!


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