National Novel Writing Month: How To Fail


Do not show up
Do not sign up
Do not write
Speak out against it
Draw circles and flowers instead
Give up before you start
Chew, swallow and digest blank paper

To fail you can not try.
If you try, even if you don’t win, you aren’t a failed or a quitter.

You are a writer.


What if I Quit?

When I was in elementary school, middle school and high school I tried almost every sport. I tried gymnastics and baton twirling and softball. I joined an Odyssey of the Mind Group. Nothing stuck until I started to dance. And from then on I mostly danced up to three (four, five in college) days a week I put on my jazz shoes and let the music take over.

And last year I rejoined dance for the first time in eight years. I performed on stage in may. I love it. Love it. And then this year, I don’t know. What happened? All of these outside influences made it so I couldn’t love it. Not right now, at least. It hurt to dance too much and too hard once a week, I have homework coming out of my ears sometimes, I have other engagements, I was working forty-four hours a week and sometimes interning.

So I quit. Hopefully it’s a temporary thing. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it but I haven’t had the time to.

I’ve been writing since second grade when we rewrote our own versions of children’s books on old green screened computers. I’ve been writing stories, poetry, blogs, newsletters, any words could come out, they would. And in college I concentrated my English degree on Writing. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month my sophomore year and completed it. 50,000 words in 30 days. Done. And then the years in between I tried and failed, I forgot to try, I wrote a novel with my friend during the summer and NaNo didn’t seem right. Three Novembers ago I started again, determined to work on a story my writing hero FLB found “charming”. I wrote the story, I won. Last year I did it again, deeming myself a “rebel” by working on the same story. I changed things, deleted characters and played with POV. I won. Again. Despite the fact that I was dancing, working a LOT and taking two graduate level classes. I still did it.

That brings me here right now to this year, 2013. I cut out the internship that I loved but couldn’t keep doing with everything else, I cut out dancing because I couldn’t love it. I started as a rebel again, working on the same story for the third year in a row. I quickly realized I don’t have enough left to write of this story. I felt stalled. So the other day I decided to keep that word count and start a new story, once again being a NaNo rebel by working on something I thought about starting over the summer and never really committed to.

But what do you do when you feel like words just aren’t there? When you know the story but can’t figure out how to put that into words? How do you explain that you just don’t love what you are trying to do? You can’t find the excitement that should be there when writing a novel. I had warned that I would be cranky this year. (Last year I had a meltdown when I missed a doctors appointment in November because I was so frustrated with doctors and appointments and also over worked and really tired and pushing myself too much). But I hardly even feel cranky. I just feel down. Defeated. Like my ink is dry.

Maybe once upon a time this would have scared me, but I know I’m a writer through-and-through. I know the words will come back in other ways or maybe this story isn’t meant to be told right now. I know that I can work on editing the novel I already have and love, I can focus on other forms of creativity to shift my mind. I can do something, or something will come to me. I can just Instagram pictures for days and still consider that photography/ creativity because is it.

But quit National Novel Writing Month? After I’ve made it into a big deal? After I told Francesca Lia Block I was finishing my story this month? After I made up some awesome incentives for finishing? I don’t know. 

I’m not too far behind, only 9000 words shy of where I want to be. And there have been times when I could make up for that in three days. But this isn’t one of those times. This is one of those times where I just can’t move forward, the well is dry. I’m rubbing semi damp clay on my skin and hoping it turns to henna. I’m fantasizing about rushing through this month just so I can breathe again. And that’s not what NaNoWriMo is about.

Sure, it’s a challenge. But it’s not meant to feel impossible. It’s not meant to hold your mind and your words hostage. That’s just too much pressure.

So. What if I quit? If I say “Goodbye” to trying to crank out 2000+ words a day and feeling bad that I’m so far behind (When this race is only against myself)? What if I say “Good job” for the 18k words that I wrote in the last two weeks, knowing they won’t be the last but they may not grow too much for the rest of this month. 

Five Places to Write Your Novel

I’ve been bouncing around places with wifi, having writing dates with my boyfriend just so we can get our words in and still do something together. It gets distracting to write at home sometimes so here are a few alternatives:

– the standard, a coffee shop. A place like Panera Bread has unlimited coffee and some place like Starbucks (or a local equivalent) has fancy seasonal flavors. There’s a lack of local coffee shops around me, unfortunately. And they all tend to close when I get out of work.

– your local library. This is a genius idea that I strangely never tried until this past weekend when Panera was packed full of families eating lunch and there were no space tables at Starbucks

– nature. Go to the beach, find a bench in the woods. Be old fashioned and use a pen and paper.

– public transportation, especially airplanes (and airports) and trains, sometimes there’s even wifi and outlets. I’m fascinated with sitting and people watching in these types of places.

– desperate? Try the mall or
McDonald’s to get a wifi fix. I feel like it might be kind of strange munching on fries and sitting in McDonald’s as if it’s a cafe but who cares! This is your writing adventure.

Where are your favorite places to write?

Melanie Kristy

National Novel Writing Month 2013

It’s almost that time again, when thousands of writers and hopefuls decide to hunker down for thirty short days and write a 50,000 word novel.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short or NaNo for even shorter, begins at 12:00am on November first every year and continues until 11:59pm November 30th. November is always a crazy month anyway. It’s pre/ Christmas, Thanksgiving is nestled in the end, mid term in some schools and the weather is unpredictable. I also have a birthday in November. And yet I still try (and sometimes succeed) in writing those 50,000 words.

Everyone has their own opinion of NaNoWriMo. My main opinion is: if it gets you writing then just do it. Submit to the flow. Feel the pressure. Write your story.

Have you participated in a writing challenge such as NaNoWriMo?

NaNo Wednesday, The End & November Review

So we’ve reached the end of November so much quicker than the other months this year, I swear!
Last week I reached my 50,000 word goal. I’ve spent the past few days mostly not writing but brainstorming and figuring out where to go now. The story’s not finished, but the scenes have been thought up. I’m just one step closer.
While I’ve completed NaNoWriMo one time previous in 2004 when I was in college and just barely working, I’ve learned something this year that’s really big for me. I do have the time to write a novel, even if I’m working 40+ hours weekly. And I can find the energy to do so.
I’ve learned that waking up an hour before I need to (on mornings where I don’t open) is incredibly beneficial. I can get over a thousand words on the page. I can make myself breakfast. Once I’m finished writing I’m actually hungry. After my work day I feel like I’m semi accomplished. I can relax. But I don’t have to. While I’d like to continue to do this, but maybe work out in the mornings, this is a work in progress. I can’t beat the urge to keep sleeping so easily. But I won’t give up.
As far as my November goals, go…
I did not work out as much as I planned, nor did I reach my weight loss goal.
I managed to cook two new recipes, instead of four
I really skimped on blogging this month. All of my writing energy went toward my novel, so my deepest apologies!
 I can’t even remember any other goals for right now. So I probably didn’t accomplish them. Oops!

NaNoWriMo Wednesdays: Word Wars

If you’re stuck on your word count and unsure how you’re ever going to make it to 50,000 words within the next week, I have one possible solution for you: Word Wars.

Word Wars is done with a group of people (though technically you can do it on your own, too) and a clock. You pick a set amount of minutes (I did a lot of 7 and 22 minute intervals) and write for that long. At the end, someone calls (or says) TIME and you all stop writing. You announce your word count for that time period and, if you’d like, share the last sentence you wrote. It’s fun and intriguing. And while I was playing through Facebook chat with a few girls I met through my Francesca Lia Block classes I kept on winning!

This helps because you are not writing on your own.
It’s affective because you are trying to beat someone or something and the time is on!
The short ones help warm you up and you can get everything out quickly.
The longer Word Wars force you to stretch yourself. You might feel stuck but that’s okay. Your mind will help you make up something to keep on going. (At least, if you don’t get too distracted, that is).

On Monday word wars helped me to write over 3500 words.

So what are you waiting for? Find a few NaNoWriMo pals, met some people in a chat room, coerce your room mate into writing nonsense for random timed intervals. And just get out there and write. You’ve got a week left.

NaNoWriMo Wednesdays: Getting Past Obstacles

Are you stuck yet? The other day I passed the halfway mark, a few days premature of the middle of November. I was delighted and excited! Then the day after that, I felt stuck. And then I got a cold. I’ve been drowning in a sea of tissues and drinking orange juice nonstop. It’s hard to stay clear headed when I can’t breathe! But this is just another obstacle, something to push past.

Another huge obstacle is writer’s block.

Writer’s block can be anything to anyone. Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls once described as when you write and everything feels like it’s crap. To me, writer’s block is when I just can’t write. I can’t figure out how to make what’s in my head into scenes on a page. I have no interest in writing what comes next.

Recently when I was going through this, I skipped around. I decided I would write the scenes I would enjoy writing. And I’d fill everything else in alter. I started writing scenes that make me feel. And I feel like this part of my story is coming alive.

Here are some other suggestions for breaking through writer’s block:
*First off, you need to sit down and show up to write every day. Even if you only write a sentence.
* Introduce a new character and see where it takes you.
* Write something else, a poem or a blog post just to shake it up.
* Go for a walk where there are other people. Observe those people. Write a scene for what’s going on around you.
* Write only dialogue and forget about everything else.
* Write a dream like sequence that summarizes the scene you are trying to write then move on from it.
*Kill one of your characters.
* Send someone to Tokyo
* Visit the Young Writer’s Program and use their dare machine to give you some random plot ideas.

What do you do for writer’s block?