Thursday, 28 November 2013

Failing NaNoWriMo

So this is a hard post for me to write. For the past two years I've loved taking part in NaNoWriMo and I've won both times. This year didn't go so well. I wanted to sort of vent my thoughts about this year's NaNo and come to terms with my failure, hence this post was born!

The first year I did NaNo I had a lot of free time. Having the time to do it wasn't the issue, it was having the physical energy that was going to be my challenge, and also it was the first time I'd ever attempted to write a novel. I finished in within fifteen days and surprised myself completely. To do this day it is still one of my proudest achievements. I put a lot into the planning of my first novel, having chapter outlines and character profiles to draw on. Of course a lot of this goes out of the window once you start writing, but I had enough ideas to keep the words coming. Afterwards I realised some of the ideas needed simplifying (I'd written a sci-fi/fantasy novel where some of the ideas just did not make sense!) but I was pretty happy with how things worked out. To this day I still go back and revisit this novel, tweaking it every so often. I don't expect anything to come of it, but I feel like it was a strong start.

2012 was my second year attempting NaNoWriMo and I struggled. The idea I had didn't work as well as I hoped, and I hadn't done as much planning. I decided to write contemporary which I thought would maybe be easier, as I didn't have to sit out and plan the intricate details of a new world which was something I'd done first time round. I was wrong. Without a new world to describe and new settings to introduce, I found myself really struggling to get excited about the surroundings my characters were placed in. There were parts I did like, for example I explored some dark subject matters and really enjoyed diving into the characters I'd created. I did finish, but only just in the nick of time and I've never gone back to look at that novel.

This year was a struggle from the beginning. I'd been incredibly busy in the run up to NaNoWriMo and I'd had lots of changes going on in my life. My head was a little bit all over the place, and although I had an idea and a little bit of planning, I hadn't really managed to get myself focussed enough. Because I was quite busy, I was trying to write with no energy at the end of a long day. I have so much respect for writers who can juggle jobs and writing, because it's something I just couldn't do. I got bits done on days where I didn't have anything else on, but I couldn't utilise my evenings for writing because I was just too tired. I also hadn't had time to research certain parts of my novel which needed research, and I had to abandon the idea of writing a novel in letters (something I'd always wanted to do because I love readings books like that!) because I found it too tricky to portray what was happening.

Eventually I abandoned my first idea and started a new novel - something involving people with superpowers which I came up with on the spot. It was a fun idea and I think it could still go somewhere, but I just didn't have to time to think about where it was going and I soon ran out of words. And then that didn't work.

I was feeling pretty low and hopeless and decided to go digging around in my word documents for one of my many abandoned stories. In there I found the first few paragraphs of a story I started writing a few years ago. I read it and reconnected with it instantly. Suddenly ideas were flooding into my head and when I put fingers to keys I was churning out a lot of words.

It was too late to use this story for NaNoWriMo, but discovering that lost idea and finding that spark of inspiration was exactly what I needed.

I'm sad I won't finish NaNoWriMo this year. I don't like quitting or failing and I've ended up doing both. I still feel NaNoWriMo is a fantastic start if you're an aspiring writer. The community of people taking part is a brilliant support network and I've always found working to a deadline and having that word count staring at you to be very motivating. But I've also learnt that writing should be done for the right reasons. There's no point making yourself miserable and trying to plough on with something that isn't working. And something good has come out of this year. I have a novel I'm determined to carry on writing past November and see where it goes.

Have you taken part in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know in the comments!


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