Mental Health, writing

2019: The Year NaNoWriMo Kicked My Butt (And Why I Don’t Even Care)

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Okay, I know it may seem a little premature because we still have a whole week of November left… But I am officially throwing in the towel on NaNoWriMo.

But here’s the thing: I really don’t think I care.

As of today, I am hovering around 27,000 words, and I just know I won’t be able to get even close to 50,000 before November 30th. Though, again, I’m not sure I, in fact, give a damn.

Yes, I’m not only announcing my quitting, I’m not regretting it.

Here’s a fun bulleted list of reasons why:

  • The new website sucks. This isn’t mere subjective opinion; this is a cold, hard truth. Between numerous software glitches and the overall tone of the new site just not being encouraging anymore, I’m really discouraged. Every time I proudly entered an update on my word count, the stats page only reminded me of how far I had to go, how much I hadn’t done. What the hell happened to the lovely little messages we used to get above our charts: “Well done, Nanoling! Keep going, you can do it!” They’ve been replaced with a robotic, “364 words needed today.” Go shove it, algorithim.  I just slaved away for 2 and a half hours to produce nearly 1400 words! WHY DON’T YOU APPRECIATE THAT?!
  • Does anybody else remember the days when we could send notes to our buddies with the digital equivalent of cake and puppies, and it was all so inspiring and built the comraderie and made you want to push forward, despite aching all over and just wanting to sleep? Now either they’ve done away with that, too, or I have simply become a technological dinosaur and cannot figure out how to communicate with other people on the new site. This lack of encouragement hurts my heart. Yes, we’re all on social media, cheering for each other; but somehow it doesn’t feel the same, and I am breaking.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The fact we destroy ourselves for an entire month and then have to buy our own prizes is straight-up bollocks. I can’t even afford most of the items in the shop, even with a winner’s discount. After choosing to inflict this torture on myself for 30 days, I want a FREE mug and t-shirt and trial edition of Scribner. Delivered to my door by a unicorn with a rainbow mane, damn it!
  • Apart from December or May, November is the WORST month to participate in such a crazy endeavor as attempting to write most of a novel. There are parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, early freak snowstorms, Thanksgiving, and just a dozen other things getting in my way of writing at least 1600 words every single day. Why can’t they hold this contest in January or March, when there’s so little going on people are getting bored out of their wits?
  • All of these factors combined are resulting in the joy for finishing this manuscript being sucked right out of me. Fire and Wind started as a passion project for White Fang, but I always intended to finish, and publish it, in a timely manner. That was now well over 10 months ago, and this is absolutely not the moment to lose enthusiasm. I am about halfway through this novella, and there is no (good) reason to abandon it. Other than intense, unnecessary pressure from a sociopathic website. And that is not good reason.

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All of this makes me so literally TIRED as well, it isn’t even funny anymore. The other night after work, I sat down to take off my shoes, and just stared into space for about 10 minutes (not exaggerating, either!), wondering how to fix my potential plot holes. Muffin was whining because he wanted dinner, none of the chores were finished yet, and I had almost no energy to keep going. I was properly drained. And that was when it hit me: NaNo isn’t worth it anymore.

As is the risk with all sorts of competitions, my goal had shifted from completing a task I really wanted to wrap up, to just wanting to see the numbers go up.

My approach had significantly altered, to something that was no longer healthy and productive.

I wanted that back, as well as my time, and the control over my life.

Yes, it was feeling that bad.

So, where does this leave me going forward? Well, as far as anything NaNo goes, probably…zip, nada, zilch. I truly think I’m done with the whole exercise, in any month. But for Fire and Wind, it means I did at least get a good amount of this beat into submission, and it’s the first time in several months I’ve actually been close to finishing a draft.

But, also, now I really want to tackle my TBR, and get back to working on Volume 4, and maybe even start thinking beyond my current series. No, this is not to make fans of The Order of the Twelve Tribes panic. Though what I’ve realized in delving deeper into Fire and Wind is that there is so much more to explore in this world, and continuing to limit myself to the perspective of one small Annex won’t satisfy this moth indefinitely.

And there shouldn’t be a strict time frame on creating. I firmly believe that now. I’m not done with Fire and Wind on November 30th because the stats page claims I am. It’s done when reach the story’s natural conclusion, and feel confident that this tale is complete.

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reading, writing

Some Thoughts on Call Down the Hawk

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So, after spending a few weeks debating when I would read Maggie Stiefvater’s newest publication, I decided to place a hold request at the library and see how long it took.

Not long, it turned out. For some reason, I got a copy within days of publication. And I started reading almost immediately.

And within a few days, I was finished, and my overall reaction was: “Meh.”

But not even in a bad way. Yes, I will explain.

All bookdragons have experienced that moment of fear that their favorite authors have — gulp — already produced everything we want to read from them. Regarding the Stiefvater bibliography, this was the case for me. Then, as I discussed recently, I’d decided to go back to my originally-disappointing read of The Raven Cycle, with fresh eyes.

And this endeavor has been going well. Hence, why I felt ready to dive into Call Down the Hawk, which was billed as sort of a spinoff focusing on one of the main characters from The Raven Cycle. But it’s not The Raven Cycle 2.0, and therefore some people are disappointed.

I’m  actually not. Why can’t Ms. Stiefvater write something different? Isn’t it up to her? Not us? Sorry, not sorry.

The prose shows Stiefvater is, in this regard, at the height of her game. It’s just what you’d expect from a seasoned author, and it’s clear she knows her characters, her plot intentions, and her method in weaving all the loose strands into one. The text makes you feel the words. The genre is definitely not YA anymore (more NA, if anything), but I don’t see that as an issue. (Others don’t agree; more on that later.)

Yet here’s why I probably won’t continue with the sequel: It just isn’t a plotline I’m invested in. And I don’t even mean I didn’t enjoy the book. Because I did, generally. Generally. 

I like the idea of exploring the concept of “dreamers,” individuals who can literally dream things into actual existence. It’s intriguing, seeing what people might do with that power, how they would use or abuse it, how they might be misunderstood or even persecuted by “the rest of us”. But a lot of the story in CDtH concentrates on a complicated art heist with a world-class forger…and secret assassins hunting down and killing dreamers because they’re convinced a dreamer will bring about — dun, dun, dun — the apocalypse.

It’s all plausible, in my view. It wasn’t that I felt the premise was too much of a stretch. It’s that: A) I know very little about fine art; B) am not enthusiastic about it; C)really felt satisfied with the background we got on the Lynch brothers in The Raven Cycle, and not up for a rehashing of the canon, and D) have had more than enough exposure to “it’s the end of the world!” as a plot device.

Therefore, my official review is: “Meh.” But with a smile. If you adored this book, I won’t argue.

Inwardly, I keep going back to the most repeated complaint I saw in reviews: “It’s not like The Raven Cycle.”

Well, of course it isn’t, and it doesn’t have to be. How many times have book bloggers whined that an author only seems to write the same sort of story and characters over and over — and then, when a writer tries a fresh, new direction, these reviewers immediately grumble that the sameness is gone?

Why do a lot of fans these days seem to think they can dictate what creators produce?

As an author myself, I have to admit, that it does bother me when readers leave glowing reviews for my fantasy series, but have hardly touched my collections of short stories. Is it a marketing angle? Because I’ve pushed my full-length novels so much? Is it personal preference on the part of readers?

Is it hypocritical, because I will die on the hill of: “Maggie Stiefvater’s best books EVER are The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races“?

There are no easy answers, because art is subjective, forever, and for everyone. For creators, and for consumers.

For me, the biggest takeaway, though, is that, although I’m only “meh” about her latest release, I support Ms. Stiefvater to the very ends of the Earth.

And let’s just hope a dreamer doesn’t make that happen sooner rather than later.

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books, self-publishing

Phoenix Fiction Writers Anniversary Sale!

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The sign above says it all. There’s this indie author collective (including some pretty awesome people who — full disclosure — are really nice to me) that writes very interesting and unique tales across the genre of speculative fiction, called the Phoenix Fiction Writers, and they are having a big SALE in the very near future. If you go to the website, there will be details on what’s available at sizeable discounts from 11/29 to 12/2. But here’s a preview:

2019 Sales Graphic

Paperback — and hardcover, depending on the author — as well as ebook editions are going to be darn cheap. There is merch, for those of us who love our bookish swag. Again, more details on the website. Go look already!

Who are the Phoenix Fiction Writers? They are (in no particular order) E.B. Dawson, Hannah Heath, Kyle Robert Shultz, Janelle Garrett, C. Scott Frank, Beth Wangler, J.E. Purrazzi,  K.L.+ Pierce, and Nate Philbrick. Their works cover a wide range of fantasy and science fiction, they write separately and occasionally together; they have all of those books available via links on their homepage. Remember, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, everything on their site will be a steal!

Erm, okay, not a literal steal, you will still have to pay. Just, not, you know, a ton.

 

self-publishing, writing

A Million Dreams

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About 18 months ago, I had an extremely unpleasant experience with a local group that was supposedly for would-be writers. I had been looking for just such a thing, so I bravely brought along a sample chapter of the WIP I hoped would become Volume 4 of my fantasy series, and managed to stifle my nerves long enough to read from a few pages of it.

I began to worry when I realized that what others in the group had written was distinctly not even close to my offering. And as the meeting progressed, I also realized that what the others had done was all very similar, all based around a memory or family anecdote from a specific time of year. It also started to concern me that, in between readings, people would discuss politics or social platform topics brought up by the biographical snippets. I found a reason to leave the meeting early, and felt very confused by the time I got home.

The next day, I got an email from the person who ran the group, “politely” (but really in a very patronizing way) informing me that the meetings only covered non-fiction writings, based on an assigned monthly theme, and whatever we might be working on outside of the group wouldn’t be introduced nor feedback given.

I felt absolutely terrible. I figured that I had done the “typical dumb autistic thing,” of not understanding what the group was about before I just barged in to a meeting, and who was I to bring my silly fanciful young adult fantasy novel into the mix of what was clearly meant to be a serious adult discussion?

I never went back.

I also stuck what might have become Volume 4 in a desk drawer, and haven’t touched it since.

In the meantime, I have been seriously plagued with nagging self-doubt about my ability as a writer, as an author. I turned my entire headspace upside down over How To Be A Savage, and the lingering fear of rejection grew so intense that I haven’t even done much publicity for this short story collection that I published this summer. I’m continuing to drag my feet on finishing Fire and Wind. It all goes back to this experience, that stole my joy from having finally begun my publishing journey.

What really did me in? The most damaging thing was the all-too-common worry of neurodivergents everywhere — that I had once again misinterpreted the “rules,” the societal constructs that everybody but me seems to already know, without having to ask, and that had it wrong, not the group.

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Here’s the interesting twist to this tale of woe, however: Some of the people in the “writing” group are also regular library patrons, so — even before I worked there — we crossed paths pretty often. And they told me that the group had been very divided for a while, that the way it was run wasn’t appealing to a lot of people, that several people had attended a meeting and tried writing something different from what the tyrant wanted, received a similar response to what I did, and followed my lead, of simply never returning. In time, the group dissolved, as enough people got fed up with the situation, and stopped going entirely.

Now, you would think that this vindicates me, and I like this resolution. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it, because other people’s unwillingness to stand up to a narcissistic control freak created an inner conflict that nearly ripped apart my hard-fought self-esteem. I don’t like it, because I still had to suffer public criticism of my passion and interests. Not hearing anyone stand up for my effort, my dedication to my own work set me waaay back in terms of personal goals.

I’ve felt like I was living a lie for most of 2019, having to apologize, again, to my readers, for there not being a new book from me this quarter, either, and yet not feeling able to put all the why into words. It’s been debilitating, excruciating.

Finding out recently from people who have had really negative encounters with the individual in question that apparently, this is just how the tyrant is, should be liberating. But I’m not sure. Knowing this doesn’t undo the damage, the hurt. It comes down to: What right does one person have to stomp all over my hard work?

For all the years I patiently honed my craft, all the hours I devoted to increasing my skills in creating believable characters, sensible dialogue, and world-building readers could relate to, I never once wanted to give up because I prefer to write fantasy. Fantasy fiction being a niche genre and market never deterred me; it made me want to succeed more.

Now, though, every new traditional, and indie, release I see brings about a fresh wave of comparison. There’s no way mine is that good. 

I haven’t even read most of these new books, by the way. I’m merely automatically doubting my own abilities.

It’s impacting my completing NaNo this year, too. I hit a minor writer’s block the other day, and have been struggling to take to heart my own motivational speeches posted (in earnest!) on Twitter.

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I’ve tried to push past this. I hate it. I need to get through it. But month after month, watching my sales slump, not feeling the ambition to create ebooks that existed last fall, not knowing what to put in my newsletters, beginning to feel like a fraud, has really taken its toll.

When you first decide to self-publish, your head is full of a million dreams. The dream of seeing your book on a shelf, on a website, for the first time; of holding it in your hands; of getting the link to a glowing review; coming across pictures of your book on social media; being able to discuss your characters and plot in detail with other people, because now they understand it all. Despite experiencing all of this in the last 2-plus years, I can feel my dreams slipping away.

I’ve been so reluctant to spill any details about Fire and Wind, even with wanting to build up anticipation for it, because the fear is so firmly in place. Rejection is something those of us on the spectrum have to deal with so frequently, we begin to avoid whatever, whenever, we think will make it happen again.

That means I am inadvertently pushing away my own dreams as well.

So, this post is a blend of confession, venting, and hoping for atonement. And as part of this quest, I’ll be really good and leave you a working synopsis of Fire and Wind:

The Demon Girl has no idea where she came from, just how old she is, or even her species.

She travels from country to country, between the mortal and fae realms, through the decades, never ageing, not dying. She helps old friends, comes to the aid of new ones, protects the defenseless, and stays out of the spotlight.

She can’t remember what she was doing or who she was before the reign of King James I, when she woke up with no memory beside a river in England. Since then, she’s worked at being a mercenary for hire, a deliverer of vigilante justice, an ally to the Faerie Courts, and not a foe of the Order of the Twelve Tribes.

Readers were first introduced to “DG” in Volume 3: Healers and Warriors. Now, in Fire and Wind, we explore more about the Order’s least likely heroine, an amnesiac, immortal loner (except for the mythological creatures she’s fond of), traditionally keeping her distance from humans. When a sudden overthrow of the Unseelie Court forces her to choose sides for the first time in centuries, DG will finally come face to face with her past, and the need to determine her future.

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health, reading

A Stiefvater Appreciation Post

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“What’s this?!” I hear you all asking. “A blog post — after the start of NaNo?!”

Yes. I feel pretty good about where my word count is, and where it is likely to be by bedtime tonight. And this is something I need to share.

Number one: All this art was drawn by Ms. Stiefvater herself. She is an amazing artist, not just a unique and talented author. I like to use photographs of her originals when singing her praises, and giving credit where credit is absolutely due.

Number two (but really also part of Number one and what spurred this post): A few weeks ago, I read an essay via a link on Maggie Stiefvater’s personal Twitter account that got me thinking. For very good reason. It was a detailed, private journey of how she spent years living with an undiagnosed, serious illness. There’s no way the decision to put all of that into text and release it to the internet was made quickly. She was brave, to share the intimate moments — how devastating her symptoms were, how many doctors brushed her off, how some of her fans panned books she’d struggled to complete while terribly sick.

Number three: Not only was I in intense admiration of Ms. Stiefvater’s courage, but I was also struck (how could I not be??) by the flat-out awfulness she went through before receiving proper treatment (she has an adrenal gland defiency). And I realized something personally — I was indeed one of those fans who was unfairly judging the books released between 2014 and 2017. I remembered, sharply, almost painfully now, acquiring them from the library and reading them, and thinking that they were okay, maybe even pretty good, but that they didn’t feel “like a Maggie Stiefvater novel.”

And after finding out why I got this impression, I felt guilty.

The sticky truth about the relationship between authors and readers is this: Sometimes, your favorite author will write something you just don’t care much for. It could be for a myriad of reasons. Maybe the subject matter just isn’t your jive; or you and the characters didn’t click all the way. It is all right not to be dancing down the street about every new publication.

However. Having said that, I’m going to stress the importance of distinguishing between: This one just didn’t do it for me, and What the hell happened to this author?

As a reader, I have done it myself. Including with The Raven Cycle and All the Crooked Saints. And now that I know she was hoping to avoid literally dying while writing some of those titles, I do feel ashamed.

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A relevant aside:

I didn’t know until pretty much everybody else did that Terry Pratchett had Alzheimers’ disease. Once I found this out, I wanted to avoid whatever books he published in the last few years of his life, for fear of them not resonating in the same way as the early Discworld canon that changed my life. Yes, this is the truth. Terry Pratchett was an author that made me want to write again, during a dry spell after becoming a first-time parent and moving abroad. To have that shattered, to have that robbed of me by a stupid, invading illness, would have been utter rubbish.

“Hey, moth, how do you think he felt? He was the one with the life-altering circumstances and crappy diagnosis that stole his words.”

No, you don’t have to say that now. Yes, I caught on to that, a while back.

I have read a few of the final Discworld books, suspending judgement and disdain. I was able to pick out the golden nuggets of the-heart-of-Pratchett, still within the paragraphs his co-writer must have worked hard on, so that the stories would at least somewhat click with the fans. And it does feel that they stayed true to the characters, and the general premise of the world.

The last title in the series, The Shepherd’s Crown, includes a scene that made me cry for about 3 hours straight. It killed off a major character, and did so in a way that made it clear: this was a moment of Sir Terry coming to grips with his own impending mortality.

And you can tell, by the style, by how it made you feel in your soul, that the writing was all him.

After reading some of Ms. Stiefvater’s live tweets regarding The Raven Cycle, leading up to the release of her next trilogy, it occured to me — I had given this series an unfair slam. I’d had no idea what she was going through; and despite the saying “ignorance is bliss,” ignorance really just makes for some embarrassing gaffs.

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At the moment, I am re-reading The Scorpio Races. When I finish, I’ll be starting afresh on All the Crooked Saints and The Raven Cycle. Now the moments that didn’t quite strike me or seem “Stiefvater-y” will make sense. It will feel like reading these books for the first time, because my preconceptions have been stripped away, and my eyes are fresh.

I don’t want to close off my heart to an author that had it so completely after The Wolves of Mercy Falls. The idea of totally missing what so many others adore about “her other series” unsettles me.

To a point, is it all a subjective matter of taste? Well, yes. And I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for my own taste.

But not having the whole story before I make a final determination is an action that goes against the very grain of who I am.

In the end, I may not like the ravens and dead Welsh king more than the temperature-controlled werewolves and water horses. The owls and confused saints and lost pilgrims in the desert may still not be somewhere I revisit frequently. But I will know the whole truth of it all, and my conscience can be clear.

And then, I’ll be ready to proceed to Call Down the Hawk, the first in a new trilogy, spinning off from, but not based on, The Raven Cycle. And I may be very excited about it. Even if I’m not thrilled, I won’t feel this awkward distance between me and, quite honestly, one of my favorite authors.

I’ll want to read it — simply because she wrote it.

That’s the best every fan — and every artist — can hope for.

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reading, writing

Can Fandoms Go Too Far?

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Fandoms are great; many of us avid readers belong to ones that focus on our favorite books and movies. We love being able to connect with like-minded individuals, flail over our shared passions, and know where our people are. And fandoms show an author or a franchise that their work is absolutely appreciated, and valued.

But there are instances, I firmly believe, when fandoms cross a line. I personally don’t approve of fan fiction, but I know others won’t agree with me that fanfiction is doing anything wrong. Some authors are thrilled to discover fanfiction of their work appearing online. But many of us only see the theft of intellectual property, and some pretentious knucklehead claiming to know our own books better than we do. When they wouldn’t have anything to fan about if we hadn’t written it to begin with. To say this is a controversial matter is definitely an understatement.

There are also all the now-millions of conferences and festivals that celebrate various franchises and their fandoms. Some of them (like the official Comic Cons) encourage us to throw around copyrighted material — branded costumes and merchandise are everywhere, no legal consequences. However, many fan-run events have been ordered, by lawyers employed by big, powerful entertainment companies, to shut down, because they took way too much liberty with producing trademark-item-inspired inventory to make their own profit.

Then there’s the epidemics of harsh critiques authors and filmmakers personally receive on social media, when fans are disappointed or angered by the turn a series took. If you don’t like the way something ended, you are absolutely entitled to your opinion — but the creator is just as entitled to believe that ending worked well for what they made. So, while I one-hundred-and-ten-percent stand behind fans being allowed to post negative, even disparaging, reviews, I also stand behind not tagging the creator to the link.

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So, what marks the line fandoms shouldn’t cross? I think it’s when fans start acting like they somehow own the content created by someone else.

It does not matter how much you love a franchise; that does not give you the right to try to make yours something that already belongs to another individual or group. When you consider that the creator willingly shared their work with you, via publication or making the film or broadcasting the program on TV, then it seems doubly ungrateful to behave as if you suddenly are due this fictional world for your own purposes.

Attitudes like this also contribute to book piracy, which causes major problems for artists and fans who follow the rules. It happened to me. While looking into releasing e-book versions of my fantasy series on Amazon, I discovered unauthorized copies of the paperbacks listed on Amazon, and Walmart.com. Despite both websites saying those products were out of stock, I went ballistic. I immediately contacted customer service.

Within days, Walmart.com had apologized for the occurence and removed my titles from their inventory. Amazon, on the other hand, refused to believe that I owned the copyrights, even when I gave them all my ISBN-purchase information from Barnes and Noble. Hence, I am now boycotting Amazon, not using them as an author, and not ordering anything from them. But this means no e-books from me for the moment, and I’m not able to support more indies who only sell on that platform.

And have my own sales suffered as a result of this decision? Yes, they have.

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The other thing that concerns me about people becoming too immersed in fandoms is the lack of originality that’s already starting to affect especially the fantasy market. If everyone’s so fixated on coming up with the next Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson or Game of Thrones, rather than taking what inspired them in a new direction, the genre will very quickly stagnate.

One of the reasons I love fantasy is the possible width and depth and breadth of ideas to be explored, and the number of ways in which to do so. Whether the bent is futuristic or in the past, based on traditional legends or contemporary culture, we can have expansive character arcs and worldbuilding while discussing relevant social and moral issues. Not many genres manage to pull that off.

Why would we risk losing that by compromising for popularity…and then mediocrity?

Maybe fandoms need to start drawing more of their own lines, before it’s done for them.

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Encouragement, writing

The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Post

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It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean autumn — I mean…dun, dun, dun…the approach of NaNo!

I’ll give you a moment to scream into the void.

For those of you who don’t know what NaNo is, grab a pillow.

Okay. For anybody who’s participating, I have laid out 7 types of cake and tea with milk, sugar, honey, and lemon. To everybody else — staring blankly at us and wondering why they aren’t invited to partake of the treats — NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and every year crazy writers dive into it, temporarily abandoning sanity. Every year we wonder why we’re doing this yet again…but we strive to push through, and complete the task.

The goal of this endeavor is to write 50,000 words on one project within 30 days. In theory, you could have most of a whole novel drafted (or an existing draft really whipped into shape) before the month is over. If you write/type at least 1700 words a day, you’ll have it done in approximately 4 weeks.

However… There are theories, and then there’s reality. Hence, cue the screaming.

In reality, you will have the time and opportunity to get down about 856 words before your toddler turns off your computer (yes, that was me), or the sink gets clogged, the delivery guy arrives with new bookmail, a co-worker calls and needs you to cover their shift, or there’s a Marvel marathon on TV.

Do we start November with the best of intentions? Oh, my, yes. Do those intentions get derailed hella fast? OH, MY, YES.

So, why do we do it? Repeatedly?

It’s the writer’s equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest and conquering the behemoth. When we, on November 29th, upload our daily word count with bloodshot eyes and take a cold swig from our 4th cup of coffee, and see the chart shoot up from 48,770 to 50,011, and we realize I’VE DONE IT, this is the biggest rush since the first time we ever finished a project. The elation that rushed through us the very first time we typed “THE END” is replicated. We have clambered onto the summit and planted our flag.

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So, how do you survive NaNo, and maybe even finish on top? From my participation in previous NaNos, here are some strategies I’ve acquired from literal blood, sweat, and tears:

Don’t set ridiculous goals. Aim to write about 1500 words a day. If you can’t hit the goal you did set, don’t beat yourself up. If after 2 hours your numbers are somewhere around 1026, rejoice. Many people dream of writing a novel and don’t get any further than the first page of the first chapter. Embrace whatever progress you make.

Don’t be finnicky about quality. This is absolutely a matter of quantity. You can go back and edit later. As a habitual edit-as-I-go writer, this was an extremely difficult notion to wrap my head around. It’s how I’d get down to the last week and still need at least 5,500 words to make the ultimate goal. This year, I have already decided: As long as it at least kind of makes sense and I didn’t do something terribly stupid (like suddenly change a character’s name), I’m going to let it slide.

Take care of yourself. (Or I will hunt you down and force vitamins and vegetarian curry down your throat.) You will get nowhere fast if you’re sleep deprived and not drinking water and putting off eating a rejuvinating, healthy meal. A daily word count of 4438 is incredible…and also potentially deadly. Your family needs you to be around after November. So be good to the physical you, not just the creative you.

Know how you write best. What’s your preferred way to draft? Type? Handwrite? Outline? Pantser it? Whichever is your comfort zone, stay there and make no excuses for not leaving. Outlining is how I kill a previously great concept, so I no longer force myself to play at it. While I do have plenty of little notes on relevant stuff I really should remember for the sake of continuity, and I stick to that, I am not going to spend 2 weeks on a detailed outline I will scrap by November 3rd. And my method works for me. No apologies required. There is no perfect or mandatory way to attempt NaNo.

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There are lots of reasons to avoid participation as well. Last year I opted out because there was too much else going on in my life, and I figured I’d make it to the halfway point by Thanksgiving, and was not in the mood to “fail.” Here’s the secret about NaNo, though: If you decide to quit, that’s totally okay. It’s free to enter, and the only loss if you don’t finish is…well, yes, you “wasted” some time and weren’t “successful.” But even that doesn’t measure up against closer examination. The fact you got several thousand words down on a new project, or put in effort on revising something that was giving you grief, is a success, and was worth it. Don’t toss that aside just because you didn’t “win.”

Because here’s the unfortunate truth about NaNo: Our prizes are not actual gifts or currency. The reward is mostly the satisfaction, and the street cred, of scaling the summit. Which is part of why many opt out; and I get that, too. There’s also no shame in deciding to NaNO. 

And don’t for one second underestimate the importance of having a support network. When you sign up on the official NaNoWriMo website and create your profile, you can make buddy requests. Do that. Find out which of your friends are also torturing themselves — ahem, diving in, and build that buddy list with familiar faces. When it’s November 15th and you’re starting to wonder if you can make it, your friends will cheer you on. There were instances I almost threw in the towel somewhere around 35,000 words, but really would’ve kicked myself later for it, and getting the flood of support on social media did rev up the remaining creative juices.

But true friends will also congratulate you on what level you reached before you quit, if you announce you’re done. And there won’t be berating or yelling; only stuffed animals and copious cups of tea and biscotti.

And there is always next year. Or 2023.

Remember, there is no perfect way to NaNo.

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