4 Reasons Why I "Lost" NaNoWriMo On Purpose
November 30, 2017 -- the last day of NaNoWriMo -- I allowed myself to “lose”. And frankly, it was the most liberating decision I ever made. I learned about NaNo in the year of 2015, but I was vastly unprepared to take on the challenge.
The following year, in 2016, I took up the challenge again, and crushed it. Proudly so. However, 2017, was a different experience. I lost NaNoWriMo… by choice. Granted, I will admit, I began the month of November with 100% expectation, believing I would in fact complete the challenge of 50 thousand words in 30 days…
My novel had different plans. Truly, in hindsight, I’m much better for it. I can understand the desire to take on such a grand challenge, and come out victorious. Writing 50K words in 30 days is no easy feat.
If you have ever won NaNo, I congratulate you. But with life, comes seasons. The same goes for writing. There are seasons where we must plunge forward and write on! Then, there are seasons that sneak up on us, and instead of plowing through it, we find that the story desires attention, time, and a bit of intimacy.
So, we must take our time. This was one of my reasons for calling the challenge quits about a week in.
Let’s talk more about it, shall we?
1. I Refused to Rush the Story
There is something about NaNoWriMo that makes me feel… rushed. Granted, I place no blame on the founders, or any of the “rules” (are there ever any rules in writing?) but for whatever reason, I do find myself rushed. Writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days straight is actually not as difficult as it may sound, but in the month of November I felt like there was a hype. A sense of plodding through the story. Get it written, even if what is being written is absolute trash. I didn’t like that.
Something about not having the ability to take my time because I needed to hit a specific word count by a date just bothered me. Now is doing this wrong? No. I have deadlines for my manuscript, and word-counts I have to hit each day all the time. However, the story is fully developed in my outline, and I have a different focus in mind.
I’m rushing to tell a story that’s begging to be told, rather than plodding through a story that isn’t ready to even see my notebook pages yet. Stories have seasons, and during NaNo just wasn’t the time.
Besides, when writing outside of November, it’s also not -- oh you know, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, holiday season where the house is bombarded with family, wrapping up preparations before the new year begins -- and so on. There’s too much happening too quickly in November and my story didn’t want that. So, I pulled the plug and said no. I enjoyed my ham and greens, slept through Black Friday, continued plotting out my story, and rejoiced with everyone else who did plod through NaNo. Hopefully all of them were happy with the manuscript once they started revising...
2. I Was Writing the Wrong Story
Initially my NaNoWriMo book project was meant to be a novella-prequel so to speak, that would lead into The Awakening, my religious fantasy novel. After all, when I published the book, I meant for it to be a series, at least a trilogy, and for the story to continue on. I also wanted to share some backstory and pull in my readers with a shorter story that would lead into book 1.
This idea was all fine and dandy until I sat and began to actually prep and plot for the book and series as a whole, like sane people do. As my preparations became more steep, new characters showed up, plot twists manifested, and new worlds begged to be birthed, I found myself in a serious dilemma. The story I was plotting was NOT meant to continue The Infinite Devices Series.
As much as I love the series with all my heart and wanted desperately to continue it -- after all, 4 years of my life went into bringing it to life -- it just didn’t happen. So, I had to pull the plug. I reached out to one my closest author-ly friends, and she let me book vent… yes, this is a thing. Then, I was able to cut the cord, and dive right in to the new story.
Within days I had a new series planned out, names for the first 2 books, ordered the first book cover, and launched into a thorough outline. The story flowed like an open well and I found myself in the writing sweet spot again. It dawned on me that this is where I needed to be.
I was no longer forcing my story, rather, the story inside was now simply coming out. It’s caused a few rifts for me professionally, but that’s okay. Not all stories are meant for all people. However, all stories are meant to be told. So, I said goodbye to the old, and welcomed the new.
Naturally, this caused me to be WAY behind and pull the plug on NaNo.
3. I Got Intimate With the Story
Dear reader, THIS is where you want to be with your story. There is nothing more beautiful than reaching a place in your story, where you have found your sweet spot. And now, all you need to do is bask a little while and let your sweet baby write herself as you follow her along on her journey.
I didn’t want my story rushed. I didn’t even want to tell my story. I wanted my story to tell itself. I needed to get to the place where it came out on it’s own and showed the world itself. I wanted to get intimate with the meaning underlying every word. I wanted to get to know my characters -- like, truly, know my characters. I wanted to understand them. Understand their personalities, traits, fears, ticks, motives, and so on.
I wanted to get to know my world. To craft a new universe from the ground up. Developing every single bit of that land. Creating its government, means of commerce, and way of life.
These things all take time. Knowing your world so thoroughly, you can describe it better than present day planet earth, takes time. And cramming all of that into October just so I could execute in November, was not a probability. So, NaNo was a no-go.
4. I Decided to Let the Story Tell Itself
My story had its own personality. About 2 weeks into NaNo, it grew its own voice and basically said, “You’re not telling the right story, and from now on, you’re not telling it period. I am.” Brazen don’t you think? Nevertheless, I was thrilled.
Nothing is more powerful than a story that leaps off the pages and tells itself. It shows you the side of the characters that need to be seen at the right time. It takes you through paths and journeys you would’ve never followed, had you not allowed the characters to do whatever they wanted.
It brings you to revelations, sometimes even about yourself, you didn’t see coming. (Hello plot twists!) And it blossoms in your heart in a way you would have never seen before.
When the story comes to life and tells itself, it enters in your heart, and cultivates a place for itself where it becomes a part of you… an extension of you. This is what this new story has done for me, and frankly, I’m beyond excited it has taken life the way it has.
I tried to make this all happen during the time frame of NaNo and the universe said no. So, naturally, I obeyed.
Let’s Bring It Home!
Please understand, this post was by no means some outward rant as to why you shouldn’t take the NaNoWriMo challenge. I will by ALL means take it up again in November. There is something invigorating about knowing what you are writing and pushing to finish.
Many beautiful stories are started during NaNo, and many are even completed as well. It’s a beautiful vision, fosters tremendous community, and is a great way to give yourself a much needed kick in the pants at the end of the year to get writing.
However, we’re all not meant to finish because of varying factors. And that’s okay, too. This was my journey this past NaNo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again.
There comes a point where your story chooses the direction it wants to go in. Be willing to drop your prior plans, and follow it along the journey. You’ll be surprised what you’ll cultivate when you do.
Have you ever started NaNoWriMo and quit because your story went a new direction?
Hey there! I'm a fantasy author, poet, and book writing strategist. I help writers find the story they need to tell from within themselves, then write it, one word at a time. I'm here to help you go from wonky idea, to completed manuscript. When I'm not writing, you can catch me binging Disney or nose deep in a fantasy novel, because, priorities.