Lessons from a (failed) NaNoWriMo

At the start of November, I proudly announced that I would be participating in National Novel Writing Month, a project where you endeavor to write 50,000 words in a month.

And like the last time I announced a goal to all of you, I failed.  I blew it.  Instead of 50K, I clocked in at just over 10,000 words.

So why did this happen?  Why can’t I carry through?  I promise, I’m not usually like this.  Get off my back, internets!!  Sorry, sorry, just feeling a little defensive.  But I do have some thoughts and things to try differently next time.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail

Without heeding my boy, Benjamin Franklin, I did not put together a writing schedule.  The first day (a weekend), I cranked out more than 2000 words.  This will be easy, I thought!  Look at me go!  I’ll just spend a little less time surfing the internet each day, and I’ll be fine, teehee!

Well.  It got harder.  The words did not just magically flow from my fingers.  And I realized that (hopefully) two hours of nap was not enough time for me to eat lunch, respond to a few emails, draft a blog post, and write 1700 words.

So to make it work I would have to (A) cut back on my blog posting, something I did not want to do, or (B) carve out time in the morning or evening to write.  Option B should have been palatable, but I just couldn’t stomach it.  I realized . . .

I’m still fighting feeling too scheduled

I wrote before that my favorite thing about being SAH is the breathing room.  I don’t feel rushed all the time.  Before, it was get Henry up at this time, feed him and dress him and spend time for X minutes, and get him out the door or James would get stuck in traffic.

Now I enjoy the flexibility.  I like feeding Mac and knowing we can just stare at each other.  Granted, there are other interruptions *cough* Henry *cough* but the time just feels different to me.

I absolutely could have made time in the morning or evening and still had plenty of time to stare at Mac.  I just didn’t want to.  I’m rebelling against schedules.  The pendulum was very far in the scheduled direction previously and now I am enjoying being way in the other direction.  I’ll get back to the middle eventually.

Mornings with Mac are still unpredictable, but they are getting better.  In the not too distant future, I’d like to have mornings where I get up, exercise, and spend some time writing before the kids get up.  And when I do, I’d like to . . .

Focus on writing time and not word count

NaNoWriMo picks 50,000 words as “a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children.”  The idea is that you write words without focusing on your inner critic.  A crappy first draft is better than no first draft.

And I get that.  I agree that there is value in silencing your inner critic.  But I felt like I was writing just to get words out.  Flinging them onto the page to meet a tally.  I’d like to spend a little more time.

The word count also made me discouraged.  Once I got behind, it started to feel impossible to catch up.  I’d like to try more of the Jerry Seinfeld approach on motivation.  Don’t break the chain.   Eventually, I’d like to have a daily writing goal, even if it is just for 15 minutes.  That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to more than 90 hours a year.

So we’ll see.  I’m not there yet.  Maybe I’ll try NaNoWriMo again.  Maybe not.  I didn’t get into the Berlin marathon like I hoped (sad face), but at least you guys won’t have to hear about failed running goals anytime soon.  Right now I’m going to just keep trying to blog every weekday.  This seems to be a good goal for me for now.

Did you NaNoWriMo?  How’d it go? 


NaNoWriMo. This is happening.


After I dithered about it here, I decided to pull the trigger.  I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month.  It started this past Saturday on November 1.  I’m already 4,938 words in.  Only 45,062 to go!  Gulp.

Because I can’t write a post without caveat-ing, here is my caveat.  I’m not giving myself an out not to finish, but I did pick some easier subject matter.  Instead of trying for an original work of fiction, I’m going for a memoir essay-style thing.  Why, you ask?

First, I didn’t have a great idea for a piece of fiction.  My only hatchlings of ideas involve things like zombies and post-apocalyptic stuff.  Which surprised me.  That is definitely not where I thought things would go.  I decided not to delve into these ideas (right now anyway) because I didn’t want to give myself nightmares for the month, and I worried I’d be out of plot in three days.  With my own life, I should (in theory!) have enough content for 50,000 words.  Also, it is easier to write non-linearly if I want to.

Second, I want to remember.  I’m not sure this book will be shared.  I may try to do something with an essay or two out of it.  This is more for me.  My memory is not great.  On the whole, I’m grateful that I got to grow up before the world of social media, but digital cameras sure help keep things from falling through the cracks.  Writing makes me think about things I thought I had forgotten.  It helps me remember.

Third, I am reading a lot of memoirs right now so this seemed logical.  After being unimpressed with my current kindle selections, I reread Tina Fey’s Bossypants.  I read Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl.  I just finished Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.  (Order of personal enjoyment: Fey, Poehler, Dunham.)  [Update:  I haven’t re-read recently, but I shouldn’t leave out Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Judy Greer’s I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star.  So more like Fey, Kaling, Greer, Poehler, Dunham.)  But the one that really tipped it for me is Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend this Never Happened.  As James commented, I’ve never read a book like this before.  There are rambling parentheticals, footnotes, and non sequiturs.  This may sound terrible, but it works.  This is the most I have actually laughed out loud at a book in recent memory.  My life does not have magical squirrels or other West Texas charms, but reading this book made me feel freer about how writing can be.  In the one recent-ish writing course I took, I was told to avoid parentheticals.  Now I say tough.  I adore parentheticals.  This is my book and I can write it however I want.  Thanks, Jenny Lawson.

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo?