I Failed at NaNoWriMo 2019 and It’s Okay

That’s right. I failed. I didn’t reach 50,000. I wasn’t even close.

For the last three years (2016, 2017, and 2018), I have been successful at the November event of National Novel Writing Month, where me and thousands of others attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’ve participated in other years before (I think the first was in 2010 or 2011) but had never even reached 10,000 in the first few attempts. But I began to take it more seriously and was successful for 3 years in a row!

And then this year happened.

My final word count was 28,463 words. This is just over half of the goal.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. I just wasn’t in it this year. Since I’m planning on going back to school next fall, I probably won’t have time to do NaNoWriMo again for…4 years? 6 years? Who knows. So I definitely went out with a fizzle rather than a bang. But that’s okay. I can’t do everything.

I do know where I went wrong this year, though. It was a combination of many things, circumstances both in my control and out of.

First things first, I just did Inktober all October long. I was exhausted.

I started a new job/volunteer work (which isn’t that much, but it was still an addition).

My mother’s back went out and I needed to help her for over a week, so I was just too tired to write anything some days.

I hadn’t properly outlined this novel as I usually do (because of Inktober) so I was lost. It took twice as long to write anything when I did have the time.

Thanksgiving landed on the LAST weekend of November. I never write during Thanksgiving because it’s just too busy of a time and, therefore, I always end up writing the last 10-15,000 words within the last few days. But I couldn’t, because those last few days were THANKSGIVING MADNESS.

This novel wasn’t ready to be written. I’ve been thinking about it for a year, which is sometimes just enough time to write, but sometimes it’s not. And because I didn’t outline anything in October, nothing was ready. I was pantsing it far more than I like to and it just wasn’t coming naturally to me. I need an outline. I can’t write what I don’t know yet. It just doesn’t work in my brain.

And that’s that.

Just a mess of a month. I love NaNoWriMo. It’s so much fun and any excuse to force myself to write, to carve out the time, to explain to people “I’m doing this weird contest thing so I have to write stop talking to me oh god please let me leave” makes it a lot easier to say no, I’m up for. But this year just wasn’t my year. And it’s okay! I don’t need to win every year! It’s actually for the best, because the novel I was working on just wasn’t working. It needs more time to simmer in the ole noodle.

So, that’s my NaNoWriMo 2019 story. I failed and it’s fine.

I’d love to say, “on to next year!” but I don’t know if I’m going to participate again for a long time. It’s sad that my last year for a while wasn’t a win but it’s just what needed to happen, I guess. The stars, and all that.

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

Juggling Projects – Writing Update

It’s been a while since I posted about the projects I’ve been working on. And, oh my, are there a lot. It’s been a strange year. A hard year. An exciting year. But mostly, it’s been a pretty good year for writing.

For the most part, I’ve been on target with all my writing goals this year. In my last post about writing, I talked about switching gears and focusing on a different, older project (working title: Thoughtless) that I feel is a much better, stronger book to eventually try to get an agent with. And I still plan on working on it. I started this year finishing the draft I started during NaNoWriMo 2017, then in February I restructured and outlined the new draft of Thoughtless, and wrote a short story in April. I continued working on the first draft of Thoughtless up until summer, when my schedule goes a bit haywire and I wouldn’t have time to do much writing — at this point, I decided to take a break from the first draft to let it settle and go back to it in the fall. I wrote a short story during the summer and started writing a screenplay (a feature-length, which is much different from anything I’ve ever written as I’ve only written short films and novels).

And that’s about where I am now. I finished the screenplay — I’m very happy with it as a first draft — and because it’s October, I’m starting to outline the novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo 2018 next month (it’s a twisty drama about a family of thieves living in the suburbs and I’m excited about it).

HOWEVER. My plan to return to Thoughtless in the fall has been pushed to after NaNoWriMo in December because the screenplay took two months to finish (all of August and most of September). And to top it off, I was recently inspired with a new idea for a fantasy series that I’m so excited about that it’s all I want to focus my time and energy on (but that’s because it’s new and shiny and I have to KEEP MYSELF TOGETHER and not act on the urge to focus on it). It’s in the early stages and needs more time to simmer, so I’m not even close to drafting, but it’s so hard not to think about.

(For reference on how long projects usually take for me to get to the point of drafting, I thought of the thievery book I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo this year in April and am just now at the right stage to start outlining in time to draft it in November. And Thoughtless took a year before I started outlining and another month before writing. The ideas need to simmer in my head for a while, I jot things down and make notes, sometimes large sections or scenes or characters come to me and I get them down, but let it all swim upstairs before I think about outlining.)

So, how am I going to balance all these projects? By planning. Because I’m a habitual scheduler.

My plan is this:

October – outline NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book AND research for new fantasy series
November – write NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book
December – continue draft of Thoughtless AND slowly start outlining new fantasy series

And with the new year, continue working on Thoughtless all winter and in the spring, I can take a break before working on the second draft and have some fun with the new fantasy series. It’ll probably be ready to begin outlining the first book by then — right now, I have an idea for a series but not for a first book, just a general idea of what it could be. Series usually come to me in that way — large, macro story arc that needs to be segmented and fleshed out into smaller chunks which lead to separate plots of each individual book. So far, only once have I already had the idea for the first book as a standalone and the ideas for sequels came after — and that was Thoughtless.

Okay, so that’s my writing update. I’m so so so happy that I feel as excited for writing as I used to. If you didn’t know, I went through a long slump of just not wanting to write anything ever and it sucked. It’s good to be back in the habit of doing something I love — now to a point where I have too many ideas and projects to work on. It’s a good problem to have.

Shifting Gears…Again – Writing Update

About a year ago, I posted about needing to shift gears and abandon the novel I’d been working on for a long time and deciding to work on the book I like to call Book E. All of that is explained in the other post. However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the past year since making that decision: I’m worried about the genre.

Book E, like the original book I’d been writing, Book A, are both set in the same universe. They are connected. And I’d been working on them thinking it was the best option for me to focus on. The problem is, both Book A and E, while different in tone and style, have the same thing in common: superpowers. Book A is more fantasy, while Book E is a little more urban fantasy, but both have characters with the same superhero-like powers.

And what type of films/books/everything has there been a lot of lately? SUPERHEROES.

Media is over-saturated with superhero content right now. And I’ve learned that a lot of agents aren’t really looking for those right now because of it. I had a feeling that this was happening, but I was still in denial that I could make something original enough to stand out. But I couldn’t. I can’t. And honestly, I don’t want to. Because like many of us, I’m sick of superheroes, too.

I still love those books and I know that someday I might go back to them. I think sometimes that if I’d finished them years ago like planned, maybe they could’ve been published at the peak of this superhero obsession, which would’ve been great. But I know that Book A is not as strong or original as I thought when I first started writing it at the age of fifteen (it checked all four of the over-done tropes that one of my top picks for agents listed on their blog) and Book E is great, but also resembles some superpower-centered stories that are out there right now. So I know that now I’m going in the right direction.

So what will I be focusing on then, if not Books A or E?

Book C! The science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012 that I think is a much more original concept and has a much better chance of catching the eye of an agent to eventually be published. It had been my plan a long time ago to finish both Book A and Book C then decide which one was stronger to query with, but then Book E came along. Now that I want to change directions a bit, Book C is the perfect project to work on.

I’m extremely excited to get back to working on Book C (or Thoughtless, as that is its tentative title) though I know it’s going to be a ton and a half of work. The first draft was written when I was a much younger, less-skilled writer—boy, can six years make a difference (and with any luck, that constant growth will continue.) But because of that, I know it’s going to be difficult to turn this book into something good. I’ve already decided that an entire rewrite is necessary and a huge re-structuring of the plot is the first thing that needs to happen.

However, before that, one of my goals for January was to finish the draft of the book I’d written during NaNoWriMo’17. So that’s what I’m working on right now. After that, in February (which is the month I’m focusing on writing) I’ll be tackling Book C and starting again from scratch.

It’s a scary and exciting phase.

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Final Wrap-Up

I DID IT!!!!!!!!

With 40 minutes to spare, I completed my NaNoWriMo 2017 with 50,005 words. I could’ve written more, but I was VERY tired that night after writing over 4,000 words to finish.

This year, I found it was easier than last year! I still struggled and fell behind, but not as much. In 2016, I had to write 13,000 the final day to finish and this year I had to write a third of that. Maybe next year I’ll be finished EARLY? Maybe!

Here’s the breakdown of the month:

Words Written:

November 1st – 2,267
November 2nd – 1,830
November 3rd – 1,530
November 4th – 2,130
November 5th – 1,080
November 6th – 1,670
November 7th – 1,232
November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0
November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819
November 23rd – 2,336
November 24th – 1,901
November 25th – 2,684
November 26th – 2,450
November 27th – 1,672
November 28th – 0
November 29th – 770
November 30th – 4,219

The first draft of this novel is close to being DONE done. I think a few more thousand should complete the first draft (my first drafts are rarely over 70,000, usually sitting around the 65k mark) and then it’s off to the next project—finishing Book E!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Three

Another tough week! I ended last week with 0 words on the 15th and had only a few hundred the next day and then ANOTHER 0 word day. Not a great start to the week, but I picked it back up and did some strong days of over 2,000 a day. For the week, I stayed the 2,000 or so behind I was last week and added only a few hundred more to my negative words. But that’s not too terrible. I know I’ll be able to pick it back up.

Most of all, I was in a real tough spot in the story and was struggling to get going. But now, I’m in the most exciting parts of the book that I’m real excited about, so I foresee me being able to blast through those words and catch back up in no time—especially with the four days I have off of work coming up for Thanksgiving!

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819

Total Weekly Words: 11,377

Where I Should Be: 36,674
Running Total: 33,974
Up/Down By: -2,700

Still in the race, but definitely behind. Hoping this weekend turns out to be really productive!!!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Two

OH NO. I’VE HAD MY FIRST WITH LESS THAN 1,000 WORDS AND MY FIRST DAY WITH ZERO. But everything is okay because, fortunately, I had a few hundred words saved away and am not TOO FAR behind. Only a little behind.

Honestly, I’m not worried. Today (being the ZERO WORDS DAY) needed to be that way because it has been A Day. So I’m good. Rested and ready to tackle more words this weekend! I’m hoping to get a real nice buffer going this weekend so that Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t have to do too much writing if I don’t have to. I want to eat turkey and watch movies in peace without stress.

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0

Total Weekly Words: 10,858

Where I Should Be: 25,005
Running Total: 22,597
Up/Down By: -2,408

NOT TERRIBLE. I’m doing GREAT compared to last year. Off to write—actually, sleep, but TOMORROW, we write!!!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week One

The first week of NaNoWriMo 2017 is done and BOY HOWDY AM I DOING GREAT!

Last year, my first week was Not Great and I didn’t even reach the point where I should have been by the seventh day of November. But this year, I’m doing incredibly. I’ve had a few slip-ups where I didn’t quite reach the 1,667 for the day, but I’ve written every single day with at least 1,000 words and wrote the exact 1,667 (or over) for all but three of the days.

That’s really great! I’ve just surpassed where I should be for the first week, so as long as I’m not under, I’m very happy!

Book-wise, I’m loving this story a lot and can’t wait to dive back in each day.

Here’s the first week’s breakdown.

Words Written:

November 1st – 2,267
November 2nd – 1,830
November 3rd – 1,530
November 4th – 2,130
November 5th – 1,080
November 6th – 1,670
November 7th – 1,232

Total Weekly Words: 11,739
Where I Should Be: 11,669

And that’s that! Back to it, then!

TIME TO WRITE MORE MORE MORE!!!