How NaNoWriMo Became a NaNoNoGo

I failed.  Short and simple.  NaNoWriMo whupped my butt this year.

The fact of the matter is I had too much on my plate, and while I made a go of things the first two weeks, it became a no-go after that.

Here’s What Did Work:

  1. Writing.  Just getting the words out and creating some new ideas.
  2. Waking up Early.  Early starts where I timed my writing and made a word count goal were beneficial.  I learned that with focus I can easily manage 500 words in 15 minutes using writeordie.com.
  3. Write-ins.  I was able to attend two local write ins and they provided the caffeine and social support to keep going until word goal was met.

Here’s What Didn’t Work:

  1. My Pre-planning.  I work as a sales manager in retail, and we were planning Black Friday and Christmas Events in October.  If I was smart, I’d have also been making a NaNo plan and outline to ensure I knew what and when I would be writing each day.
  2. My Stubbornness.  I read and commented and emailed several bloggers who all limited their posts for this month so they could devote more writing time to NaNo.  I respected and well understood all of their decisions.  Should have made that same decision, but I had to be the golden child who can do everything: blog, NaNo, WWBC, Author Branding class, Book Club, maintain 60+ hour job, family, friends, personal sanity…oh yah, crash and burn.
  3. Trying to do two things at once.  I was hoping I could get work done for my Warrior Writers Boot Camp Team while doing NaNo, but either I wouldn’t make word count cause I thought too hard and kept editing, or I made word count but felt I let my story run in a direction I wasn’t sure I wanted to maintain.  I almost would have been better doing two separate projects here.  I’d advise using NaNo to just explore a story idea and keep the WWBC for the feedback and fine tuning purposes.
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I struggled this month with getting my focus in the right place.  I got caught in a web of guilt about not spending enough time with family or friends.  Then, I discovered there’s a mouse in our house, and I spent days binge cleaning screaming at my roommates, “We live in filth!  How do we live like this?” (And in reality, we’re not so bad.  But due to construction that was happening, we’d left some crawl spaces open and I’m sure he got in that way and now that Wisconsin is starting to freeze outside, it’s probably much warmer in the house.  We’ve named the mouse Carl.  Carl needs to leave.  I’ve lost sleep listening to him on the wooden floors.)  I also underwent some lab work at the hospital to check into some things that have a history in my family.  All tests came back normal, which is wonderful, but I freaked myself out the whole weekend waiting for results.

When Life Hands You Lemons, You Make a Nice Citrus Martini!

Eventually, reality dawned that NaNo was simply not going to happen, and it was the one thing I could do without this fall.  I still plan on participating next year!  But I’ll have exactly that, a plan!

So, I used my new found freedom, which is kind of what it felt like when I actually shook reality’s hand, and I set up some guest post swaps, I had my parents into town (my mom hasn’t been to my house in years), I made a trip home to see my niece and a good friend, I’ve gotten some additional reading done, and I’ve thoroughly cleaned most of my room now.

For the rest of you completing your NaNoWriMo journey today, I wish you all the best!  I hope to one day know how it feels to finish the first draft too.  In the mean time, I’m still writing, but it’s at my own pace.

Congratulations to the NaNoWriMo winners of 2011! 

The rest of you, martini’s at my place!  Cheers!

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35 responses

  1. You didn’t fail. The purpose of NaNo is to get you writing more than you were. It sounds to me like you did a good bit of writing, so you’re a winner in my book. IMHO, NaNo comes at the wrong time of the year. I think it would go so much better in January or February when the hellidaze are all said and done and most people are hiding from bad weather indoors. 😀

    1. Oooh Hellidaze, nice word. I call it the Ho Ho Horror of the Holidays. 😀 Thanks Catie!

    2. Hear-hear, Catie! I’ve always thought NaNo should be in January or February!!

  2. I’m with Catie on this one. What I see as one of the biggest benefits of NaNo is that it challenges our limits and forces us to find ways to go further then we normally would and learn to accept that nothing is ever perfect. I’d say you learned quite a few valuable lessons over the past month, Witkins, and I say this in the nicest way possible, as a friend. There is no failure in anything, NaNo or otherwise, if along the journey you gained a new skill, a new thought or learned something of value. With that in mind, you are a success just for understanding what stopped you AND I know that next year you will have a plan. More importantly, you already have one today 🙂

    Be well friend.

    1. Ah my wise friend, Gene. Thanks for the emails, the kind comment, and for not saying ‘I told you so.’ You’re awesome!

  3. Valerie Biel Johnson | Reply

    I love both words/phrases — hellidaze and ho ho horror. Can I borrow them? I agree this would be better done in January or February.

    I’ve talked with published writers at conferences who have tried NaNoWriMo and they aren’t overly fond of the idea. They felt that while the words got onto paper (or screen) that the editing required to make it useful writing sort of negated the value of the initial effort. But sometimes we do need a goal like this to get us moving so . . . to each his own and the martinis look great!

    1. Thanks Valerie! Albert Berg had a similar post I included in a mash up that I just loved. He was honest that everyone works differently, especially when they’re starting out. Even though I’ve been at this writing goal for a year, I’m still SUCH a beginner. I make mistakes, I learn from them, and I’m better for it. If anything it creates a firm grip on reality. 😉

      Side note, will you be attending the Madison Institute’s Writer’s Conference again this April? I’m debating that one since I plan on going to the DFW conference in Texas in March. Not sure if I can get the time off for both so close together. Would love to see everybody again and hear how projects are going. Speaking of which, when are you going to start blogging already?! 😀

  4. There is no fail, Jess. You learned a lot! And you did a lot of writing. For me, NaNo is a challenge that sets you up to feel like a failure. I don’t work well under that kind of pressure. NaNo works for many, and Gene was super successful, but it isn’t for everyone. ROW80 is a not so rigid version which suits some people better.
    So, I guess I’m echoing Catie’s and Gene’s words.
    We’ll all be learning about this writing craft as long as we continue to write. That’s what makes it fun.
    So, now you have a better grasp on what you can reasonably accomplish in a month and you’ll be better prepared to handle future challenges. Now go have at that martini!

    1. Thanks Marcia! I definitely got the love and support I needed from my LLC crew! You are all amazing. Thank you.

  5. Definitely not a failure. Do you know that in the gym, failing is considered a good thing? Gotta work that muscle to failure in order to build it up… 🙂 Congrats on a job well done, 50k or not. 🙂

    1. Ooh I’m good at that in the gym, probably cause my muscles are SO weak. I’m the one in the back that the instructor picks on cause I’m laughing while my legs are shaking beneath me. I’m also quite petite, so some of the medicine balls they make us balance between our ankles practically have me doing the splits! It’s really quite comical. *shakes head in shame* LOL

  6. Oh well. Shrug. Now pass me a martini. 😉

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, roomie. There will be another NaNo. Just happy that your lab work turned out well. That’s the important stuff.

    1. Thanks Madge! It was a big relief to admit to myself that NaNo wasn’t going to happen and redirect my time in other ways this month. Next year, I’ll come back with a vengeance! And thank you! I’m very relieved all my lab work came back normal too!

  7. In his book, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” the great Japanese teacher, Shunruyu Suzuki Roshi gave this hint to meditators who are having trouble with concentration: “The best way to control your cow is to give it a bigger pasture.”

    He loved simple but cryptic statements that you had to mull over for a while – like a decade or two – to get the meaning. In this case, I think he was saying that a clenched jaw, “gotta do it, gotta get it right,” approach will not work – of course the mind will wander away.

    This phrase came to mind as an analogy while reading your post. A month is a very tiny pasture. What’s wrong with two months, or a quarter, or six months? The whole point of NanoHoweverYoSayIt was to get writers moving. It got you moving. Where is the failure in that?

    Besides which, with a little work, you can have your very own wise sounding, cryptic phrase, along the lines of, “Just when things seem to be flowing along, life throws a mouse in your path.” Well, ok, it needs work, but Nano time is about first drafts, right?

    1. LOL. I don’t think I’ll be creating any mouse analogies. I just had a dream last night the thing was mocking me running around in my bedroom. Ack!

      But your other analogy is timely and fitting. Last year I did my own version of NaNo giving myself a month to do just 500 words a day. I had so much fun writing a short story, that I kept going after the month was over. Wish I’d remembered that more this year. Definitely an aha moment.

  8. Such a healthy attitude. Look what you’ve learned. You accepted and it sounds like you’ve let go and not beat yourself up too badly.

    Meanwhile, like um… what are we supposed to be doing for #WWBC? Maybe we aren’t the best accountability partners. 😉

    1. WWBC? Oy. I’m behind. I sort of started my protagonist’s profile, but then I wondered if I should wait for Kristen to critique my antagonist, which she may have and I don’t know it. Haven’t gone to the forum for a bit. Black Friday kicked my butt. And I’m going into 6 day work weeks now. I promise to assist you so I’m not holding you up, but I may be a bit slower this month. January will be simpler.

  9. Very pretty drink! I didn’t come close to finishing NaNo this year- I got horrendously sick and couldn’t keep a thought in my head for more then a second.

    1. Yah I had that. Wait…what??? 😉

  10. I didn’t take part but I can imagine how tough it is. Congrats for taking part and writing, that’s something to be proud of!

    1. Thanks Vix! It was fun, I hope to complete it next year.

  11. I too failed miserably. I only made it to about 18,000 words — and most of that in the first week. I went in aware that I might not be able to manage NaNo while doing my PhD. I made an honest effort, but it was just NOT going to happen. Especially when I too had a series of unfortunate events that added to the stress and the time-suck. *sigh* I’m doubtful I’ll do it next year at this point, because my PhD course load next fall is going to be even worse than it is right now. But we’ll see…

    1. I did about 16,000 so at least we gave it our best at the start! Good luck with your PhD! And just do your version of NaNo at a time that works for you, so come fall you can focus on school again.

      1. Yeah, I will probably do something like it over the summer. It definitely makes more sense with my current schedule.

  12. Jess, I spent most of November sick. I was pretty much in bed from Nov 5-15th so NaNo was out the question for me pretty early. I still had a great time cheering everyone on and got about 15,ooo words written that might not have otherwise been written. It’s all good.

    I’m with Gene – you did NOT fail. And, the bloodwork came back positive!!! Now pass me one of them martinis. 🙂

    1. I made round the same word count as you so cheers to us! Hope you’re on the mend and feeling like your groovy self soon!

  13. Good for you to join! I didn’t even do NaNo this year so Jess, you still win. You get a pat on the back for trying.

    1. Thanks Marilag, kind and uplifting words as always. *hugs*

  14. Hi, Jess. In my blog post this week, I mentioned that I was glad that November was finally over because I missed my NaNo friends…
    I salute you and everyone else who tried their hand at this test. Like you, I work an impossible amount of hours at the day job and barely have time to keep up with my one post a week, blogging and everything else that goes with having a novel. I have edits on book 2 coming to my inbox any minute now, plus the machine inside my head is beginning to put thoughts together for the next project. I also write articles for a local on-line magazine… *sigh*
    Perhaps I’ll just have that martini now.
    😉

    -Jimmy

    1. Ugh, I’m envious of how many writing projects you have going in addition to that day job and you know, LIFE. We do what we do to make us happy though right? I love this support network of writers, you all mean the world to me! So I get the missing of “nano friends.”

      Best of luck with all your “to do’s” this season; stop over for some wine or martinis any time!

  15. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes | Reply

    For people that work in retail November is a horrible month to do something like this. There’s surely no extra time off to be had. It’s great you attempted and it sounds like you learned a lot while getting some new ideas going. I’m glad its over because I was stressed out just knowing people were doing it.

    1. I agree. November was a really tricky month to get it all. I wish NaNo was twice a year. Then people could pick the best time for them to write. But it was still worthwhile.

  16. Well, I am glad to have met you and I think you made the best decision for your life right now. The sane decision. I wanted to tell you that there was a core group that kept meeting through November. A few finished NaNo and some didn’t, but all wrote more than we would have otherwise. It is a standing meeting by the way. A few are still going to be meeting on Tuesday nights – same place, so if you ever want to write – or knit, stop on by. Yes, a couple of us may knit next week. Anyway, I hope we get to write together again sometime.

    1. Hi Crystal!!! I loved the write in group. You guys rocked. I’d be happy to participate with you on Tuesday nights writing, knitting, caffeinating! Next Tuesday I’m off I’ll swing by for sure! Would love to hear how everyone’s projects went, 50K or not.

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