Nano '18, My Failure

· 4 min read

I started doing Nanowrimo (a writing challenge where you write 50,000 words in 30 days, it can actually be fun, even though it sounds ridiculous) in 2015, at the time I had just finished my final year of university and was starting a new job. I finished it well that year (after a big dip into the ‘not enough per day’ territory) even with moving and the new job cutting into my time.

Fast forward one year and I’m working full time, this time, no moving, no real hassles at all, but I fail spectacularly. At the time I blamed no planning of the story (as in, none at all, not even a vague notion of where my plot was going), but I fear it was just general laziness that got me that year.

When 2017 rolled around I was just finished moving, our whole office had also moved and I was pretty in the swing of things, I would write walking to work (that 60 minutes each day was getting used one way or another) and, after a slow start (I didn’t break 10k until the 22nd day) I managed to hurl myself across the finish line with a 10k word day and several 5k days. But I made it, incidentally that story (the one I wrote, not the story of how I did it) has sat collecting the digital equivalent of dust at the bottom of a labyrinthine folder tree on my computer ever since.

This year, I tried a different tactic. I started early. Like a month early. I had a story that I needed to get written, just to get it out of my head, so I started early, with the goal to finish it off (having, just barely, started it a few months prior). I pumped out 16k in 22 days, only about 727 words a day. Then nano started, but the characters and the story were steaming along and the momentum carried on after a rough 2 days where I couldn’t get in front of my keyboard the words rolled out, 2k, 2k, 2k, 2k, 2k, 2k, and on the seventh day in a row, 4.5k. The next day I missed the 1667, but I finished the story.

And here comes the snag; my plan had been to complete the story that I did and move onto other unfinished writing projects I had, the rules aren’t specific to it having to be the same story to finish Nanowrimo, in fact it is almost encouraged to switch, anything to keep you writing. Obviously sticking to your guns with one story is how you get something complete out, but I had already completed one and it needed time to fester in my mind, for the flaws and weaknesses to become apparent with my mental absence from the idea. But, a friend of mine suggested I write something ‘different’ he’d read some of my other stuff and wanted to see what something without the action (I’ve been told my writing isn’t exactly slow-paced) would look like coming from me. I made him a deal, he finish reading my story that he was dragging his feet on (I’d asked him to give me feedback months before, though I don’t blame him, I hardly have time to read either) and I would write ‘the different story’. Two days later he suggested I enter a competition with another story I had previously written. The catch: I had 15 days to make changes, copy-edit, re-read and submit. And, < insert cliche about working late here >, I made it before the deadline with something I thought was at least passable for the competition. There were patches that weren’t as polished as I would have liked, but there was a deadline, and finished is better than perfect or so I keep telling myself. That was the 25th, and the changing of priorities shows;

Fast forward to today, the 29th and I’m flailing. Ten thousand, five hundred words to write today, the same again, tomorrow. I have been rushed off my feet with work (same workplace, different position) for the last few days, so only mere whimpers of writing have come out, 1k, 2k or maybe 3k at most, nothing like the 10k that saved me in 2017 or the slow ratcheting up that gave me the steamroller momentum for the end of 2015. Just a whimper, a flail, and a lot of cursing and caffeine abuse as I struggle to stay awake.

What’s the moral of this little story? Sometimes caffeine can’t save you. Or, on a less depressing note: Sometimes it is better to try something else, to attempt to finish an idea and give it to an audience, be they a panel of judges or a friend, than it is to create a new shambling abomination, at least in the short term (something-something have to be able to close something-something).

Also, the thousand words from the editing got added to my Nano word-count. Because, dammit, I’ve got 24 and a bit hours and I’m still trying.