NaNoWriMo: A Failed Attempt at a Novel in a Month

November: the month when writers all round the world pick up their pens – well laptops and write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. November for me was the month I failed NaNoWriMo! Last year was the first year that I attempted the challenge of writing 50,000 words; I felt motivated and keen to reach the goal on my first attempt – and I managed it. The funny thing is I was a hell of a lot busier last year, yet I managed the goal.

So what went wrong this year? Why did I only manage 4,000 words in a month?

Motivation. One word that is any writer’s worst enemy. Often it’s easier to write when you are busy as you carve out time to write; you take every spare minute you can to jot down words. You set yourself targets and make sure you write every moment you can as you know you may not get another chance that day. Last November I was still running my music website, I was working and I still managed a busy social life of seeing friends and family, and going to gigs – yet I still managed to write pretty much every day – or play catch-up when I did find myself lagging behind. But this time last year I didn’t know what relaxing was and I felt like I had to be busy all the time. Now that’s changed.

So why is it so hard when you aren’t as busy?

When you aren’t as busy you think you have as much time as possible to write, but soon you find your days slipping away, and before you know it a week has passed and the good intentions you had on day one have gone. I did start writing on the 1st November; it may have been a tiny amount, but I was adamant that I was going to do NaNoWriMo again. I wanted to know that I could do it, that I was picking that creative writing degree to good use by kicking my brain into action and getting creative again.

I could simply blame lack of motivation for me failing to get past the first 4,000 words, but in actual fact there was a number of factors. Firstly a new boyfriend, yes insert an awwww that I got wrapped up in the joy of having a new boyfriend – in other words a major distraction (a very good distraction I should add!) Yet despite my soppiness and obvious joy at being wrapped up in a new romance, this wasn’t what caused my lack of motivation. Even with the boyfriend on the scene I could have carved out the time to write by using lunchtimes at work or filling evenings when I was at home alone. Yet the simple fact was I didn’t like what I started to write. I felt no love for my main character; I wasn’t even sure if I liked her, so how could I expect any sane human being to actually like her? I certainly didn’t like what I had written and the direction it was going in. By 4,000 words I felt I couldn’t take my idea further; I had stalled. My character felt like all she was doing was moaning (a bit like some people may think of me reading this post) and my plot wasn’t developing in any shape or form. Basically I didn’t feel inspired.

Could I have prevented this? Yes I could. In an ideal world I would have planned. I’m not a huge planner at the best of times but last year I at least had a chapter by chapter rough guide to see me through; this year all I had was a few notes with a very vague idea of what I wanted to do, a list of characters and a vague idea of character traits. Past that I was stepping into the dark. Nightmare.

So what have I learnt from my failed attempt at NaNoWriMo?

The obvious is that I am easily distracted when I don’t have to find time to write – yes that is my own fault and only I can change that. You can’t be forced to do something you don’t want to; you have to be keen and willing and this year I wasn’t. Most importantly you have to like your main character; you have to know them inside out; you have to be able to know what their next move is and what they are thinking or quite frankly you’re screwed. The most important thing I have learnt, is that no matter how much I hate it, I have to learn to plan. If I had planned prior to November, when I hit that first wall I would have been able to get myself past it – even if it was skipping a few chapters – or even skipping right to the end and writing the final chapter – I would at least have been writing something.

My idea for this year was that bad I’m not going to pick it up again and try and actually complete it. What I will do is pick up what I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo; I will finish what I started and write the missing chapter and finish the editing off. I will kick myself up the arse and get it finished. Now I’ve written it on here for people to see I pretty much have to do it – which of course is the aim. I want people to know this post exists so they can yell at me to write. I always said my dream was to write and publish a novel so I need to stop being my own worst enemy.

So here it is now; my resolution for next year is to have my novel from NaNoWriMo 2013 finished. The pile of papers sat under the table in the living room will get edited and the missing chapter will be written.

Wish me luck!

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