Today marks the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016. Writers participating in the annual event are feeling an array of emotions: excitement, trepidation, fear, relief. The list is endless, as are the possibilities of what a writer can do with a complete (albeit possibly choppy) first draft. Guest blogger, novelist Kasia Manolas, speaks today of her experience and what she learned from not hitting the 50,000-word goal.
I Didn’t Win NaNoWriMo by Kasia Manolas
November is almost over, which means I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo. Failing sucks, especially when some people wrote 50k words in THREE days. Right now, I’m a little over 18,000 words, but some very cool things happened this month:
- I wrote more fiction in November than I wrote from March to October combined.
- My second novel is now a fully-formed idea. I think about it every night before bed… the ideas are marinating.
- It’s taken over my mind (and my journals) in a way that shows me…. I’m on to something.
- This novel will accomplish something I’ve never done before: letting fiction and reality blur.
So in this way, failing never felt so much like…winning. I won’t walk away with 50k words (yet), but I’m walking away with some wisdom:
- Getting Started Takes Courage
Writing a novel takes courage because you know it’s a huge undertaking, you don’t have enough time in the day, you’re already stressed about life commitments. And yet, writing is important to you, so you sign up for the impossible and find out how you can make it happen.
- It’s Okay to Start New Projects When Old Projects Aren’t Complete
New projects can inspire your old projects, who knew!
I feel guilty pursuing novel #2 when novel #1 isn’t fully ready. We are often told we shouldn’t start something new if old projects aren’t done. But I’ve been thinking about novel #1 since 2014. I took the project from 0 to 80 and it was hard to push past 80. How do you muster up the energy to get to 100?
When I committed myself to novel #2 and got started, I realized novel #2 was going to take SO MUCH WORK to get where novel #1 is. I started to appreciate what I had done by writing novel #1. I started to miss the magic when everything in novel #1 fell into place. I’m now ironically ready to get back into novel #1 and take it where it deserves to be.
- Word Count ≠ Quality
I’d rather write 20k words of WERK than 50k words of crap.
- Sleep is More Important
I am not the type to lose sleep over anything. I #hustle during my waking hours, but I refuse to sacrifice sleep. Sleep is our key to health and happiness. Personally, I can’t perform at anything the next day if I’ve lost sleep. Having boundaries about when I work is important. Bed time is me time.
Plus, many of my dreams are inspiration for scenes… and I can’t miss out on inspiration….
- Writers Are a Bit Crazy
I write for my job most of the day, but I don’t write soul-stirring sentences. I forgot how nourishing writing fiction is for myself.
I also forgot about a discovery I made while writing my first novel: writers are absolutely crazy.
Myself included. I make up conversations between fake people about fake events and it fulfills me. But then I remember that people go to bookstores and movie theaters consuming these stories. These stories nourish everyone’s souls. And people pay $$$ for access to these stories, to be enlightened and entertained. Someone might even pay me one day for access to my bewildering mind. Someone might read my words and realize they’re my kind of crazy.
That excites me.
- Breakdowns Are Fiction Writing GOLD
A few weeks ago, I had a night (it was a Wednesday) where it felt like the whole world was crumbling around me. Full on panic attack. I brought my giant glass of pinot noir into the bathtub with me and cried. It was a bad night…until it wasn’t.
I was spiraling, drunk, and decided to blow off steam by writing. My main character, I decided, was going to be having a similar night. I wrote my stream of consciousness, my fears, my worries. It’s one of the funniest and most honest things I’ve ever written.
I re-read it the next day and laughed at myself. Not only did I write 5,000 words in one night, but I enlightened myself. That’s the magic of writing– you don’t know what you think and feel until you write it down. And there’s something beautiful about letting yourself be un-fucking-hinged for the night.
- My Dog Still Loves Me
If you have a full-time job and a baby (okay, I have a dog…not a baby), you commit yourself to eating well and working out, you value being a great daughter and sister and friend, AND you commit yourself to artistic endeavors, then you might just lose your mind. You can’t be everything to everyone.
I’m proud that there are moments when I chose to spend time with my family and friends instead of being alone writing. Sometimes you need to leave your computer and join the world. So I may not have finished 50k words, but my dog still loves me and that’s everything.
The End…But Not Really
The moment I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, I danced.
The moment I reached 10k words, I danced.
The moment I knew I wouldn’t finish 50k words in 30 days, I danced.
You can’t be unhappy and dancing at the same time; it defies the laws of human nature. Writing and dancing are connected because they both make me feel powerful.
When I write, I perform a character and an emotion. When I dance, I do the exact same thing (but usually my dancing character is Beyoncé and the emotion I’m portraying is just that I feel sexy as hell).
It works everytime.
Whether you finish 50k words or not, you celebrate. Because you’re doing exciting and hard things. You put on your heels, get sassy in front of your mirror like Beyoncé, and forget that anyone and anything exists outside your bedroom door. It’s never the end, you keep going.
Kasia is a content marketer and novelist in Chicago. She’s currently querying agents for her first novel, MT.