Monday, November 17, 2008

The Ides of NaNo

Now that we are at the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month, it's time to take a clear-eyed look at my progress. With two weeks to go, I am at about 10,000 words. In order to succeed (reach 50k), I will need to write more than 3,000 words a day, every day, from now until November 30th.

I am probably not going to make it.

This is a very bitter pill for me to swallow. I can see how I set myself up for failure. My arrogance was tremendous. I was sure I could win NaNo, and easily. Admittedly, I wrote A Knight of the Land, more than twice as long as a NaNo novel needs to be, in two months, but 50k words in 30 days is a huge undertaking, and I should have been more realistic about it. Also, that summer - one of the otherwise most wretched of my life - was unique. For all that I was able to dedicatedly write a novel in two months, I should have expected that I wouldn't be able to reproduce the same feat in a less miserable state. Finally, while accepting one's quirks is admirable, as I wrote about in a previous post, I should have come to NaNoWriMo more prepared to challenge my assumptions about myself and how I write. I probably would have squeezed more writing time out of our sharply limited 24 hour day if I had.

Well, the take home lessons are obvious. Next time, I will approach NaNoWriMo with more humility and more flexibility. I'll start faster and finish with more grace and elegance, and I will win.

That doesn't mean I'm going to give up, though. I may not win this race, but I will finish it. That may be the biggest take home lesson of all. It's easy to quit when failure looms ominously and harder to soldier on, take the lumps, and stumble on past the finish line with as much pride as possible. What won't be hard at all, though, is to try again next year. If I find it so, I know I can trust you all to keep me honest.

And who knows, I may just surprise myself. The Abigail and I are going to a write-in this weekend and as I wrote, I'm not giving up. I will fight to the last man, to the last shred of graphite in my mechanical pencil, to the last drop of ink in my veins. Time, perhaps I cannot defeat you, but I will make every inch of empty space, every unwritten word, as dear as I can. A dumb force of nature you may be, but you will remember this fight!

Finally, to wax self-referential again, I noted when I wrote about success that we all need to define success differently and should not hold ourselves to goals better suited to another. Now, it's cheap to redefine success as soon as failure becomes too likely, but perhaps failure could do with some perspective as well. Succeeding at NaNoWriMo was not beyond my abilities, but can I look at my achievements - a good start to a good story, 10,000 words of evocative writing, two cool characters - and stare the likelihood of failure (not giving up, remember?) with pride? Can I say "well, I didn't do what I set out to do, but I did something worthwhile"? I can.

The Abigail's novel, by the way, is awesome.

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