Autism, writing

What to Do When NaNoWriMo Crashes and Burns on You

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Yes, this is exactly what happened to me. About 3 days ago, I began to have extreme doubts regarding my NaNo project. The excitement that I had weeks ago for the premise was rapidly fading. Too much of what I’d written was feeling hollow, bereft of my original purpose, and the notion of trying to plow through for another 10 whole days on this concept was just…ugh.

It was gnawing at me, digging at my soul. So, I took a break and banged out the pre-printing formatting for Volume 2. That was a good thing, as now Volume 2 is being processed, and hopefully will be ready for sale by Monday.

But there was still the matter of the fact that I had already entered more than 40K on my NaNo project, and the thought of all that work going to waste… Insert loud wails of despair here.

I went to bed in an absolute pit of agony.

Then — at about 5 a.m. — I was having a dream that had nothing to do with anything (I was interviewing for a position at a day care center, and failing miserably, because most people won’t admit it but don’t want to hire autistic employees), and this began to occur in my brain:

What if we lived in a world that gave people like me priority, rather than the last shot? What if we were at the top of the ladder, not the bottom? 

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Hence, a new idea on how to portray the gap between autists and NTs (the major premise of my NaNo project) took shape.

Now, because I have already put in so much work, and there are no rules stating that you can’t switch projects midstream (and I know some people regularly break their NaNo up into several smaller stories/novellas that in total hit the 50K or more tally), I feel much better.

All my effort till now has not been in vain!

And I still only need around 5K words to finish and win!

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So, what wasn’t turning out well for me?

Well, I was trying too hard to write outside my comfort zone. I was going for first person in present tense (which I’m not the best at, and have only done so once before, and it was a real struggle).

I tried to go all meta (throwing in way too many references to my personal life, like blogging and even NaNo itself — yeah, go ahead and cringe, I did, too). The whole thing felt more like a surreal journal of an alternate timeline to my own life. (Please, no one immediately tell me that’s a fabulous plot idea. Go write it yourself, then.)

My hope was to draw on some of my own experiences as an autist (because it’s real, many people can relate to that) to paint a fully-informed fictional picture of a character with my condition. It was getting too close for me. I just couldn’t do it. It literally hurt.

(Don’t even consider telling me that pushing my boundaries is a good thing. I will throw this pillow at you. Yes, this one, right here, see it??)

NaNo is a time of strict deadlines, and jumping in the deep end with both feet to a style/genre that is distinctly not my forte during this period was an epic fail. Maybe one day I’ll attempt something like this again.

Maybe never.

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So now, I feel calm, I feel ready to kick the rest of this word count in the butt, and probably the tears can be kept at bay until December 1st.

Some of the concepts I was exploring in the original NaNo-ing I may go back to at some point.

In the very distant future. In a parallel dimension.

In the meantime, I know I’m presently creating something that I’ll be happy with months from now.

All this upheaval is worth it.

(Yes, it is. Hush.)

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4 thoughts on “What to Do When NaNoWriMo Crashes and Burns on You”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how just when you think it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket, you get the vision you need. Well sometimes…ha! But I’m glad to hear you’re back in the saddle again. And yes I agree, the upheaval is definitely worth it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah now ‘m not gonna lie, I honestly needed a post like this right now, what with it being near the end of nano and me completely failing at it- so thank you for posting this. I’m sorry that this project went like this for you BUT I have to say that it’s *never* a wasted effort- I just consider it “practice” when I write something that I end up shelving- it’s so good to just try something out even if we never intend on using it. Sometimes as writers it’s just good to get a word tally under our belt, just to work on our skillset (and in some cases find out what doesn’t work for us) But it’s great that you found a way to persevere and are on the way to a win anyway 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Truly, I wanted to throw in the towel, but I was so close, and the whole idea made me feel awful! Since there’s no rule that you can only work on one project for NaNo (as long as it’s all your original content), I decided to run with that.

      And I agree that sometimes, even if we end up scrapping the entire thing, that the practice is so important! Not every first draft or piece of flash fic or short story outline *will* turn into a finished novel, and that’s totally okay!

      I’m glad this made you feel better! Honestly, I’m debating not trying to do NaNo next year — I almost didn’t commit to it this year, so we’ll have to see how I feel about it next fall. Maybe my common sense will win out?! 😛 But your plan of trying to get as much written as you could in the 30 days (rather than such a strict — high — word count) is a very worthy goal!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh I totally get that!! It’s really good that you decided to do this instead 🙂

        Yes!! Exactly- sometimes things get curtailed and sometimes everything just clicks into place- it just depends on the piece!

        Thank you! Yeah that makes a lot of sense- see how you feel nearer the time 😉 Aww thanks!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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