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. 

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 Wednesday: Writing Tips and Advice

Are you in the middle of a marathoning NaNoWriMo writing session? Or just enjoying watching your Facebook friends struggle to meet some sort of almost impossible word goal for the month while you decide to purposefully not write anything in November, not even Tweet? Or maybe you’re just tired of reading about me talking about writing so often (if that’s the case, you’re reading the wrong blog, sweetheart). No matter what your situation is I have some links to share that might get you through your writing slump and back into the marathon.

Why Sara Zarr is inspired by failure
The creative process, and the creative life, is mostly full of moments between the idea and the being done, the spark and the blazing fire, the shimmering magic and the finished piece. We’re always living in the gap between our vision of what could be and what might be, and what is.

Don’t Avoid Painful Writing
We must reveal that part of ourselves that we’d rather hide. But this is the part of you we’re all longing to see.

Learn From The Greats: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers
6. James Joyce. In the pantheon of great writers of the last century, Joyce looms large. And while more prolific writers set themselves a word or page limit, Joyce prided himself in taking his time with each sentence. A famous story has a friend asking Joyce in the street if he’d had a good day writing. Yes, Joyce replied happily. How much had he written? Three sentences, Joyce told him.

How to Flourish in Your Writing
Always have great kindness for yourself. Look over your shoulder: there is no one there. No one cares if you write. It has to come from you, from your effort. There is no hierarchy in writing; you elbow your way into the lineage by your human effort. It is democratic and should be in the declaration of independence—the right to liberty, justice, the pursuit of happiness, and writing. Only human beings write. Clouds don’t, ants don’t.


Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon

It’s November again, and in case you aren’t sure what that means, it means the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. It means this is when thousands of writers lock themselves in their offices and bedrooms after their work days and write a novel with the goal of reaching 50,000 words written in the month of November alone. Once again I am attempting this goal, working with a novel in process to make it into a novel that’s finished (at least, the first draft anyway).

This marks my 6th attempt at the 50,000 word goal, one that I only reached as a Sophomore in college in 2004. This year I do plan to win. What do you get when you win, you ask? Well, the satisfaction of knowing you completed it, and a certificate you can print out. And maybe, if you want, you can buy yourself a NaNoWriMo t-shirt that declares you a winner.

Lots of writers have different opinions about NaNo, varying from supporting it to disapproving. Here’s the one thing they everyone must remember if they’re setting out to write a novel in a month: you’re writing a first draft. And it’s going to suck. Sure some parts might be good, but mostly it’s going to be a lot of crap to wade through and stuff you need to edit. That’s how writing works. And you need to forget about editing for November. Just write. Get the gunk out, find some gems, challenge yourself and just write. That’s what’s important this month.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? If you want to friend me on the NaNo site, you can click here.

Melanie Kristy

(The fact that it’s November also means that it’s almost my birthday! On the 12th I’ll be another year older. Does anyone have any birthday rituals? Every year for me is different.)

NaNoWriMo Update

Oh, NaNoWriMo, you’ve failed me. Or rather, I have failed. I guess failing isn’t the right term. It’s not an encouraging term for a writer. I’m not going to receive a big fat F agree the Google Document entitled “Nano”.


I was doing so well. I could write 3000 words in one day. I did, in fact. A few days. Without even trying. And I would marvel at how awesome I was and how I loved this story because I had been thinking about it for so long. I had started writing it months and months ago (I confess), but the story I started this month was all new material.


Somewhere after week two I got lost. There was no action in my story. Only dialogue. Oh, how I love dialogue. But I was getting nowhere. I wrote makeout scenes instead (maybe I should have turned to erotica). I skipped around when I was lost. I worked so damn hard. All during the beginning of last week I was caught between writing pep-talk blog posts and typing in another dialogue scene when really I just wanted my characters to keep on making out. And fighting, of course.


Then on Wednesday I was sick enough to call in to work, I spent the entire day in bed and had forgotten about the work I had thought about doing earlier in the week. Thursday was work and Kate Nash and I spent all of Friday watching Harry Potter and eating delicious food. By the time Saturday rolled around and I had finished working nine hours that day, I knew there was no way I would finish 50,000 words this month. I was only at around 17,000. I don’t have the time to catch up.


And so, I’ve failed.


But all is well. I don’t plan on abandoning this story at all and I’ll keep chugging along. To be honest, when I write I tend to write in huge chunks anyway. Two to three thousand words in a day isn’t all that unrealistic for me. What the challenge of NaNoWriMo is, for me, is keeping up with that word goal every day.


Unfortunately I have a habit of planning things and starting them but never finishing. I’m working on resolving that. One way is definitely by continuing to work on this story. I like the idea of it enough not to let it go.