NaNoWriMo Update – Week 4

This week I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with the possibility of failure.

Which is, of course, moronic because I broke 40,000 words on Monday and that’s more words than I’ve written toward any manuscript, and 40,000 more words than I had when I started, so it’s impossible, really, to call what I’ve done a failure.

It’s easy to tell ourselves that, it’s quite another to accept it.

I really wanted, and still want, to get that WINNER badge on my user icon on the NaNoWriMo website. It’s still possible, if I really blitz these last few days but yesterday I hit a brick wall.

I’ve heard some people say they don’t believe in writer’s block, and maybe what I experienced wasn’t writer’s block, but it was definitely my worst nightmare: a corner. I had failed to answer a fundamental question that drives the entire novel, thinking that by the time I needed it, a solution would have presented itself. It didn’t. I brainstormed all day long about how to escape the panic room I’d locked myself in. I started three different drafts of the same scene. None of them presented the answer I wanted, and all of them gave me a profound sense of hopelessness.

I honestly wanted to quit. A small part of me is still saying that I should scrap these 40,000 words and use the partial first draft as a cautionary tale. And, perhaps, I will do that, but only once it’s completed. Which means clobbering my way through this trouble spot come hell or high water.

But before I reached that hard-won conclusion I thought a lot about stopping here and now for my own mental health. As I entered the second day of stressing out about it, I came to a point where every time I thought about the stupid scene I would come close to tears. I felt like a failure for allowing myself to get so cornered, for not planning ahead better, for letting this one question stop me from reaching my goal less than 9000 words short of the finish line.

I honestly craved the serenity of knowing that I did my best and it’s okay not to have won first time out. But it never came.

And then, scrolling through Twitter whilst trying to avoid the problem, I saw those immortal words, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I hate this scene. I hate the words in it. I hate every single sentence. Revision is going to be a vicious blood bath and I’m going to enjoy it so much. And the only reason I’m going to get that opportunity is because I didn’t give in to despair. I finished the scene a little while ago and then came straight here to talk about the possibility of failure.

It’s still okay to fall short of 50,000 words. I still believe that NaNoWriMo is meant to be what you want it to be, and that as long as you have more than you started with then it is worth it to try.

But I wanted to quit for all the wrong reasons, and it’s important to recognize that too.

Yikes, I’ve gotta get back to it. 4000 words today if I want to make up for yesterday.

Until next week, when I hope to triumphantly inform you that I got out of my own way and steamrolled my way to victory.


This Week I’m Reading: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I’m about halfway through and enjoying it well enough. I found myself wishing it had more fantasy elements aside from just the time travel, but that’s hardly a mark against it, and only speaks to my own personal tastes. On Friday night I decided I would read a chapter or two before bed, hit Claire and Jamie’s marriage and then suddenly it was 6:30 in the morning. The romance is delicious and swept me away in a way I haven’t been by a book in a long time. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to pursue the rest of the series right away. I suppose that will depend on how it ends.

No spoilers!

NaNoWriMo Update – Week 3

Oh man, guys, the mid-month blues hit me hard this week.

I thought I was flying. I wasn’t pushing myself overmuch, I had realistic goals, I was riding the high of hitting 20k, and then….

SPLAT

The burnout got me.

I wasn’t stuck — that’s what my trusty outline was for. I wasn’t too busy. I wasn’t even sick, like I was last week. I was just tired. I still tried to write every day, and I guess technically I did, if you count that one day where I only did about 150 words. But I was at a point where opening my laptop and staring at my document just made me feel like…

FoolhardySpicyBellsnake-small

It wasn’t til late Monday night, as I lay in bed watching that helluva football game and guilting myself for not working, that I decided I was going to stop trying to force the words into Scrivener.

As I talked about in an earlier post, I’m a huge fan of writing longhand. I haven’t exclusively done it for NaNo simply because of the time factor, but I do have a notebook that I write in while I’m at my day job or at my daughter’s gymnastics practice. At home, however, I was taking advantage of technology to keep up the pace.

And maybe it’s that pace that wore me out so much.

So, I retrieved my pretty flower notebook and sparkly pink gel pen from my work bag, got back in bed, and started writing that way.

I only worked for about 30 minutes but I got more done than I thought I would.

So I decided that, while the burnout lasts, I’m going to stick with writing longhand. In my pretty flower notebook, I can write about 500 words per page. Over the course of a normal work day I can usually write about two pages. If I can double that with some evening writing, I’m ahead of the game.

Yesterday was my first attempt at this and I set a five page goal for myself. I clocked in at 4.5 and 2221 words. My sparkly pink gel pen is dead, may she rest in peace, my hand is sore as hell, but I already feel revitalized. Today, I was so caught up in my pages that I almost forgot to even write this post for you all.

It’s just so funny to me how the smallest changes, be it the scene you’re working on, or the medium you’re working with, or the environment of your workspace, can inspire you even when you thought you had nothing left to give.

Writers are such strange beasts and I’m really jazzed to be one of them.


This week I’m reading: I’ve been really bad about reading new things lately. I felt so guilty about it that I even started actively resisting it. Which was stupid. This week I decided that I need to stop making excuses and follow advice that I love but have yet to heed: writers have to read. So from now on I’m going to carve out more time for myself to read new things, not just my old favorites (I read Pride and Prejudice once every nine months or so). To that end, at the end of every regular post, I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m reading that week. I’m still a slow reader so it might not be different every week, and I’m woefully behind on books so my list might be quaint, but… well it’s my blog and I’ll read what I want to.

So, after a creatively frustrating day this week, I wanted something new and fresh to input into my brain, and after browsing the Kindle store I settled on Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve never even watched the Starz series (though I had at least heard of it from under my rock), much less read the novels, but I’d heard great things. I know I’m years behind on this series, but I’ve been burned lately with some (forgive me Indies!) pretty bad Kindle Library books and wanted something tested. I’m not terribly far into it yet, not even enough to give an opinion, but it was a relief to be able to get through a chapter without cringing.

No spoilers, but what does everyone else think of Outlander?

Until next week!

NaNoWriMo Update – Week 2

This week’s update is going to be a short one, mostly because I don’t have much ground to cover that I didn’t talk about last week.

First, I’d like to share my jubilation on yet another platform that holy shit I broke 20,000 words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done 20k on a project, I’ll admit, but those other times were mostly fanfiction series or stabs at my opus that usually fizzled out shortly thereafter. This is the first time that I’ve looked at my word count and been seriously, incredibly proud of myself. And that’s less because of the milestone itself than the labor and preparation that went into it, as well as the fact that I’ve gotten this far and I still have the creative energy and a vision to keep going.

That is what’s new to me. That is what has me beyond pumped.

That said, I had a really bad day yesterday. I had some pretty severe pain in my right ear that turned out to be an infection that kept me fairly well distracted most of the day. Even after it subsided, I struggled hard with getting words out. After two and a half hours and a net word count of 580, I closed my laptop and went to sleep.

And you know what? I didn’t feel guilty about it.

Maybe a year ago or six months ago I would have tried to wring another thousand words out of the bone dry sponge that was my brain, but this time I looked at all the successes I’ve had in just two short weeks. I remembered just this past Saturday when I wrote 3800 without really even batting an eye. I told myself that even if I remain helplessly stuck in this scene, I have a 20 page outline I can fall back on to find a place where I can start fresh.

I tell you what, I slept like a baby.

Then, I woke up this morning, listened to some of my favorite podcasts, daydreamed about what it would be like to be a full-time writer one day, ate my breakfast sandwich, and got to work.

I think we all, at some point or another, forget that self-care has to be an integral part of our writing process. I know none of us want to burn ourselves out, or work ourselves into stress related illnesses. And so we have to allow ourselves the ability to say, “No, not today,” without getting down on ourselves about it.

It was a lesson I didn’t even realized I learned, but I am all the happier for it.

Until next week!

NaNoWriMo Update – Week 1

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a hell of a week.

NaNo started this year on what I had previously considered a non-writing day. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the days that my kids spend at their dad’s, giving my partner and I some rare time alone. We try to spend that time on what we call “nerd dates” which really just translates to playing video games, table top games, or watching Star Trek in bed. In any case, that time is precious to me and is non-negotiable.

So, I did the math. If I wanted to take every Wednesday and Thursday off from writing, that meant there was only 21 writing days in November for me to achieve the 50k word goal. That translated to about 2500 a day. Steep, but, I thought, doable, especially if I snuck in writing during my work day on my non writing days, and did extra on the weekends.

I managed 1000 words on Thursday. Score! Ahead of the game! Friday I was determined to stay ahead and to get that 2500.

I did. But HOLY HELL was it exhausting. I spent four hours at my laptop in, what felt at the time, excruciating pain. Each sentence was a grind that made me want to throw up with how bad the words were. At 11 pm I finally closed the document, rolled over, and went to sleep.

It’s pretty much been lather, rinse, repeat since then. With poor mental health days, a sudden rash of cluster headaches, and the election, I didn’t have much energy for writing, nor did the process feel as joyous as I was hoping it would.

I am proud of myself for pushing myself and continuing to write every day, despite the struggles, and as of this writing, I’m only 400 words off the typical NaNo daily pace (aka 1667 words per day).

I’d heard that the second week of NaNoWriMo is when the most writers drop off as the elation of beginning has worn off and it has started to become a tiresome thing. But for me, I kind of feel like I’m experiencing the opposite effect.

It’s like… starting NaNo for me has been like starting to work out for the first time in a long time. When you first start the new routine, your body is sore for a while. It’s tiring, it’s painful, you’re out of practice and you’re asking why you’re even doing this to yourself. Is it really worth it?

But then, after the first couple of days the ache starts to subside. Or, maybe, the soreness even starts to feel good. The work out stops being something you dread and becomes just something you do. Eventually something you even look forward to.

I think we all tell ourselves that we must love writing, because otherwise why would we bother do something that is so taxing? But I think what is maybe more accurate is that we write because, for us, not writing just isn’t an option. It doesn’t always have to be an endeavor that we love. It can be something that we sometimes have to force ourselves to do. And that’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t love it all the time, or even most of the time. What matters is that you’re doing it at all.

So, yeah, I’m still tired. I’m still kinda looking at my penciled in writing time for this evening (after my partner goes to bed, nerd date is still on) and wondering how on earth am I supposed to eke out 1800 words. But, I’m dreading it less. I look forward to being able to really look forward to it.

Most importantly, I know that I can do it, even when there are tough days. And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?