December Is For Losers

I lost NaNoWriMo. I am a failure. A disgrace. A loser.

And that’s okay.

At 46,663 words in 30 days, I have officially failed 2019’s National Novel Writing Month, but I’m not upset at that. In fact, I’m damn proud of myself for both pumping out that many words (though that pride is actually a little lackluster considering I’ve done more words in less time), and for being so damn chill about this loss. As I got close to 50k in those last couple days I got very excited about my upcoming potential win, but I was away from home visiting family for the last week of November, and I eventually realized I wasn’t quite going to make it. And I was at peace with that almost immediately.

It’s a bummer to lose with 3,337 words to go, especially when those words easily could have been written during those two days I let go by when I didn’t write at all or those two days that I only logged 300 words, but at the same time, coming so close really just means I actually did pretty damn well.

Overall, I logged more words on average during a sprint than I’ve written in the past, and I’ve been freer with the actual words. I’ve made a kind of peace with the idea that I’ll be cutting a lot and drastically changing even more, focusing instead on getting through the story. In an ideal world, I would have had a way better outline going into NaNo, but I changed my project at the last minute, so I had moments where I really struggled, but that just reinforced what I already know now: I need an outline to succeed. In lieu of a good outline with this project, I had to organically tell myself the story regardless of if I thought it was going in a good direction or not. In a way it was good: a couple things I don’t think I ever would have planned happened, specifically a very cute romance, but in another way it’s shit: there are some places where I wrote “and then somehow they end up there” that I’m not looking forward to revisiting on that first big edit.

But that’s the thing–this is a first draft. It should be sort of a mess and need a lot of work. If you think you have a publishable novel after 30 days, well, you must be either absolutely amazing or have incredibly rosy glasses on when it comes to your own work. That’s one of my problems with NaNo, the false sense of “you wrote a novel!” it instills in people. No, you didn’t write a novel in 30 days, you wrote a 50k word draft. It won’t be a novel until you’ve put in a LOT more time. Yes, you can get writing done quickly, and yes, you can improve your skills so that those quick words are of higher quality, but editing is crucial.

The plan now is to finish this draft. This project, Dragon Race (which is a terrible working title), will probably be about 80k words when complete and that will take the majority of December. Then it gets packed away for at least 6 weeks, purposely forgotten so I can hopefully surprise my future self and come at it with new and merciless eyes. During the downtime, The Korinniad is, going into a phase I haven’t been in with a book in a looooong time: a second edit! I plan to release her in the first quarter of 2020, hopefully followed by The Association (which I don’t know if I ever discussed here, but I wrote it over the summer). If all goes to plan, 2020 will be my year of content. I want to produce at least one book a quarter which is pretty intense considering my track record of, uh, zero, but, like, only place to go from here is up, right?

Because while I produced a lot in 2019, it’s all sitting pretty raw on this computer, so I need to stop thinking it’s all so precious, and it isn’t good enough, and somebody out there is going to think it’s trash, and just start putting this stuff out into the world. I want 2020 to be better in so many ways, but most of all creatively. I’ve been working on caring less about what everyone thinks, and just focusing on bringing joy to the people who are able to feel it. I’ve wanted to write for forever because I like making people happy. It’s entirely selfish, I like the way it feels when someone says they enjoyed my work, but I also like giving people stories to disappear into, or just to distract them from whatever they need distraction from. That’s what media has always been for me, and I want to give that back to others. I don’t need to write the next great American novel–I’m never going to–but I do need to make people happy. And this is how I’m going to do it. You’re going to read these books, and you’re going to smile, god damn it! Fucking smile, Dear Reader, SMILE!

Tips For Completing NaNoWriMo During The Holidays

We’re heading into the final stretch of NaNoWriMo with just seven days left, and if you’re on track (unlike me) you’ll need 11,659 more words (or probably more, like me), but something scary is about to happen, something that threatens everything, something that could make the last three weeks of filling up every spare moment with writing all be for naught: American Thanksgiving.

*imagine an evil turkey gif here*

First of all, I don’t know why November is National Novel Writing Month. Well, okay, I do, it’s because of the “No,” and nothing anybody says is going to change my mind about that, but that was a STUPID reason because everything else about this month makes it tough: it’s 30 instead of 31 days, it’s a month into school for a lot of people, so they’re in full swing, and it’s the start to the HoLiDaY SeAsOn which makes people literally insane. It should be January, and here’s why:

Honestly, February would be pretty damn good too.

But alas, it is November, and we have all agreed to this misery, but if you’re in the U.S., there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been summoned to participate in ThE DiNnEr which is rarely just one meal or even one day. In my experience, it’s usually about a week filled with cooking, traveling, and–worst of all–socializing. Time is typically a hot commodity, and often we give the best of it away, leaving ourselves little to work with. So here are my top five tips to get some of that precious time back so you can complete your NaNo project this Thanksgiving.

(1) Get Up Early/Stay Up Late

This is my worst tip (hence why it’s first) because I’ve tried it and it rarely makes for good writing, but it does sometimes work. Set yourself aside some time before everyone else is awake or after everyone’s gone to sleep. If you’re AM-ing it, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT get out of bed to do this–I guarantee your mom is already up and on her second cup of coffee, balled up on the couch, just staring down the hall toward the bedrooms, watching, waiting, annihilating (any chance at sneaking down for some silent coffee by yourself). Throw a blanket over your head Harry-Potter style and write by the dimmest flashlight, for in the darkness your must remain, my little writing goblin. Conversely, you can go to bed early but actually write before drifting off. This might work unless you’re surrounded by drunk uncles who playing increasingly loud games of euchre after they get over being pissed at one another about something that happened when they were in their pre-teens. I suggest headphones and ambient-mixer.com to drown out the slurred swearing.

(2) Get Out Of The House

I’ve noticed something over the years: if you try to get half an hour alone around family members it just never happens UNLESS you say you’re going for a run. For some reason, going for a run is like a hall pass to solitude, no questions asked. And I am NOT convinced these people are actually running. I think they’re putting on running outfits, sprinting to the first corner, and flopping down on the sidewalk to say the ultimate thanks to the universe for some much-needed silence. So why not you too? Grab some leggings, a sweatband, stuff your notebook down your sweatshirt, and pass through the kitchen with a big smile and a “Be back in about half an hour!” On the off chance someone wants to join you, you’ve already got your sneakers on and are halfway out the door, so sorry, cuz!

(3) Invest In Your Future

Round up the children and play a game of hide-and-seek. I know, that sounds terrible, but hear me out, as this tip is not what it seems for you must be willing to make a deal with the devil, or at least one of them. Pick the most cunning child, one who is capable of keeping a secret, a little, sneaky son-of-a-bitch. (The less trustworthy to their own parents the better–this is important for later.) Tell them they must play the seeker and then bribe them to not find you for at least fifteen minutes during which you will be furiously typing from a closet. They will gain a crisp one dollar bill (leverage will of course depend on age and shrewdness of the child) if they purposefully avoid your hidey-hole, and if they keep the rest of the demonic spawn away as well until the time is up. This can possibly afford you a small goldmine of sprints interspersed with actual hide-and-seek which, admittedly, can be kind of fun. And if the little bastard rats you out? Well, you picked the shithead for a reason–gaslight them to the rest of the family. Just make sure to check your dinner roll later for any sign it was “accidentally” dropped on the ground.

(4) Turn The Tables

No one wants to hear about your book. They might ask, they might even pretend to be interested, but they’re really just waiting for the right moment to tell you, “You know, I had an idea for a book once!” so that they can then drone on about their Very Unique Idea™ about a dude who’s fed up with his life and just wants to drive, man. But this year? This year? It’s your turn, bitch. Interrupt them, “that’s nice, so–” them, tell them that Jack Kerouac is overrated, but you–you–are writing the next great American novel, and then YOU drone on about the symbolic nature of vampirism and how you’re going to take back the word “alpha” from the erotica authors. They will quickly try to escape you, and perhaps even leave you alone long enough to get a hundred or so words out. This could backfire, though, you could encounter the ever-elusive Sympathetic Grandma, but when I say backfire, I mean it just turns into you and her discussing something you really care about with someone who really cares about you, and, frankly, you’re fucking welcome, Dear Reader, because that shit is adorable. Get her a cup of tea with two splendas, okay?

(5) Time For Plan Number 2

When all else fails, you must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and embarrass yourself, knowing that for every Thanksgiving to come this moment will be recanted, and only you will know the truth. It will be worth it. Here is the scene: you are sitting in the most populated room of the house, you have tried to leave a number of times only to be asked where you are going, so now you’re firmly planted on the arm of the sofa, wondering if your heart ca handle the caffeine of a seventh Diet Coke. Then, you know what you must do. You jump up suddenly, gasping loudly. When heads have turned to you, you grab your stomach, doubling over, and then, Dear Writer, you must BOLT. Run to the most secluded bathroom you can find where you have already so shrewdly planted your laptop betwixt the decade-old Good Housekeeping magazines and volumes of compiled Garfield comics. If anyone knocks, put on your most sickening moan, pick the nastiest button from the flatulence soundboard, and insist you’ll be out as soon as possible, but maybe they should light a candle and grab some extra TP for when you’re done. Congrats, you’ve bought yourself at least 15 minutes for a full on sprint. Bonus points if there’s a fan in there for ambiance. And if you messed with the wrong kid earlier, you might not even need to fake it!

And those are my best tips for keeping on track this season. You’re welcome, Dear Reader/Writer, and godspeed.