NaNoWriMo 2019: 10-Day Progress

You know, until just now I wasn’t sure I was going to write about NaNoWriMo this year. I had a different post written up from a few days ago that I was going to post, a much more positive one. Like many people, I have hard time sharing the “bad” things online. Partly because I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to get attention or sympathy, and partly because don’t we all want to present our best selves to the world? I do, and right now I don’t feel like my best self.

This year, I decided I wanted to try a Reverse NaNo. This means high word counts to start, and then each day your word count decreases a little. If you follow the exact word counts, on the last day of November you only need to add 1—yeah, you read that right one—word to hit 50,000. The theory behind the reverse NaNo is sound: you do higher word counts at the beginning when you’re still super motivated and in love with your story and all things are possible. Then, towards the end—when you start losing momentum, or have family events where your presence is expected, or even have travel for those events—your targets are a lower. Of course, theory and practice are different animals entirely.

Here’s how my first 10 days went:

Days One & Two: Made those high word counts and boy it feels good to be able to do that. It’s been a while since I last wrote anything so I’m glad to know the juices are still there. Under normal circumstances (which is to say that I have a full time day job, and am not a writer working under contract or deadlines imposed by anyone other than myself), a good writing day has me hitting 2k words, so hitting 3k+ words on the first two days is amazing.

Days Three & Four: Still going, but it’s starting to feel harder. Part of that is that hitting the high word counts regularly is hard, but part of that is that I’m losing interest in my story. I get around this by jumping to the fun scenes, and still manage to keep ahead of the official count, even if I fall behind on my personal Reverse NaNo count.

Day Five: Exhaustion starts to set in. I get a lower word count at the write-in, and while I tell myself I’ll keep going at home, instead I end up almost falling asleep on my laptop, and decide to call it a night. Still ahead of the official count, but falling further behind on my personal count.

Day Six: No write-in. Less than 100 words because I am easily distracted. Interest in my story has waned heavily, and I’m not sure I even like this story. Even so, I’m still ahead of the official count and I start to feel comfortable coasting a little.

Day Seven: I remember that this is not a mandatory thing and supposed to be fun still. And that this year I don’t need to win. I can just do my thing and not stress and try to enjoy my story. I try to write more fun scenes, the scenes that are exciting, and manage to keep going just a bit. Still behind on my personal count, but still ahead of the official count, so I call it a win.

Day Eight: I really hate this. I hate my writing. I hate the act of sitting here writing words that I hate. I don’t want to write. Less than 300 words because I just can’t quite make myself do it. Husband decides that this is this is the day to bring home a new cat (and let’s be real, I didn’t discourage him), so there are clearly more important things I could be doing.

Days Nine & Ten: No writing. Zero words. The cat is great and introducing her to our other cats is a welcome distraction. I still hate my story, nothing is fun or interesting to me, and on top of that I now feel guilty that I’m not writing because that’s how my brain works. I’m now behind on the official word count, as well as my personal count.

Here’s the thing. We all know that not every day will be an amazing creative day where you feel inspired and motivated and the words flow and the story is going exactly where you want it to go. That is just a fact of creativity. (For me, and many creatives who I either know or have heard talk about this. I suppose there must be people who are blessed with perfect joy in their creative endeavors at all times, but I don’t know any.) At the same time, I feel certain that the phrase running through my head on nonstop loop while writing shouldn’t always be, “I hate this. I hate everything about this.” Hard-but-manageable is the sweet spot.

I’ve written (briefly) about creative exhaustion. But that’s not all that’s going on in my brain lately. I’ve been struggling, struggling with everything. Summoning interest in the things I love doing is the hardest. In October I read two books—and one of them was technically a reread—when I usually manage 5-8 in a month. My MMORPG of choice had their annual Halloween event (which of course is my favorite event) in addition to releasing new content, and I can’t seem to find the desire to play. It’s like that for All the things I would normally like doing: I know I should want to, but I don’t.

All of that to say… knowing my brain like I do, I recognize all this as symptoms of depression. I’ve known that for a little while. I think I was hoping that NaNoWriMo would help, would unlock a door or a gate or a window and allow me to see the light on the other side again, so that I could begin to feel my way back to normal. (Well, my normal at least.) But that hasn’t happened, and waiting for it to happen isn’t a reliable solution. Since I may not be equipped to handle this on my own, I’ve decided to seek professional help. This at least feels like a step in the right direction.

As for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to keep writing, but slower. I think I’m going to put my current project (working title acronym: VAU) on hold. I’m not abandoning it, but I think it needs a rest before I can look at it again and see if it’s actually a viable story. In the meantime, I’ll likely return to ALA, the project I was working on for most of the year, or maybe even noodle around with something else.

I hope your National Novel Writing Month has been going better than mine!

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2019 3rd Quarter Reading

Well, I’m still reading.

But I’m also still mentally fatigued, I think. Or depressed. Or anxious. Fatigued and depressed and anxious? Some other combination? Who knows. Brains are weird, and it can be hard to tell what is actually going on behind the apparent symptoms. But reading remains a constant, even if the speeds change.

Honestly, I find myself reading reading as a distraction from the weird things my brain is doing to me. At the same time, it’s harder to get into a book, which means I’m reading a little slower, and I start a few new books at a time before one sticks. I remain optimistic that the fatigue won’t last forever, which is somewhat cheering, but can also just make me tired.

40. » Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha 1) by Tasha Suri
41. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
42. » Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
43. The Gallows Black (The Grave of Empires .5) by Sam Sykes
44. » The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
45. Fangirl* by Rainbow Rowell
46. ◊ Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books For Better, Faster Writing by Libbie Hawker
47. » Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars 1) by Elizabeth Lim
48. Furyborn (Empirium 1) by Claire Legrand
49. Kingsbane (Empirium 2) by Claire Legrand
50. Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy 4) by Ilona Andrews
51. The Unkindest Tide (October Daye 13) by Seanan McGuire
52. American Royals (American Royals 1) by Katherine McGee
53. Sabriel (Old Kingdom 1)* by Garth Nix
54. » Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
55. » Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House 1) by Tamsyn Muir

So far this year I’ve read less each quarter than the quarter before. I’d like to say that I’ll try to read more in the last quarter of the year… but that seems unlikely. I always read less during NaNoWriMo than normal. There are some exciting things coming out towards the end of October and beginning of November though, so hopefully those will carry me through the Writing Month.

There were some really good books in this quarter’s line-up. You’ll likely see a few of these on my Best of 2019 list at the end of the year. I slacked off on nonfiction last quarter and that trend carried itself into this quarter as well, so I’m starting October with some nonfiction to balance things out. (Also with an interesting subject, it seems somewhat easier to fall into a nonfiction book right now with the whole brain weirdness.) Hopefully the last quarter of the year will have more than a few nonfiction books in the lists.

We’re moving into the cold months, which is both when I read most and also when I slow down for various reasons. I think the end of the year tends to be slower, but I usually find myself picking up speed at the beginning of the new year. I’ve maintained a relatively consistent average for the year though, and I anticipate hitting my minimum goal of 80 books read in a year—even if Goodreads is telling me that I’m behind on that goal…

Been thinking about reading one of the books above? Or just curious about one? Ask me in the comments, and I’ll let you know what I thought about it. Spoiler free, I promise.

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Thinkin’ About: Creative Exhaustion

So it’s been a little while.

When last I wrote, I was heading into the last week of July Camp NaNoWriMo. I did end up claiming my win, but by the end I was just… done. I put down the novel and I haven’t gone back to it since then. It’s been almost two months since I finished Camp NaNoWriMo and I still feel creatively exhausted, drained. The well is empty, or at least low.

This isn’t such a strange feeling. What’s strange—or at least unusual and perhaps a bit concerning—are the other feelings that come with that exhaustion.

I’ve been reading a lot while I haven’t been writing. Normally, reading would help. Reading other works usually makes me think, “I want to do something like this!” But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, I’ll never be able to do something as cool/well-written/complex/creative as that, so… is it worth it to even try?”

I worry that I’m not creative enough: my worlds will never be as detailed as other authors’, my characters will never be as complex as other authors’, my ideas aren’t “cool” like other authors’.

Intellectually I know not to make those comparisons. My drafts are drafts, the books I’m reading are finished products. If this were cake baking, it would be like comparing my bowl of dry ingredients with someone else’s finished confection, frosted and gorgeous. The two don’t compare. And the rest—the feelings of inadequacy, and the loss of confidence—is more of a reflection of my current state of mind and/or brain chemistry, than anything else. But knowing that and knowing that are often two different things.

I know that “this too shall pass,” I know that this isn’t forever—my brain will rest, the well will refill itself—but every day that I continue to feel like this makes me think, “This is it. That’s all there was. There is no more.”

It’s a question of balance, somehow, and I don’t think I’ve quite got the trick of it yet.

At the same time, NaNoWriMo is beginning to peek over the horizon, and I want to start something new. For now I’ve accepted that I’m not going to be working on ALA (as I’ve come to call my most recent WIP) for a little while. It needs a break, I need a break, breaks are good. But now I’m actively trying to get those creative juices flowing again… this time in another direction.

I’m starting with the big questions: What would I like to read? What would I like to write? What would excite me?

Here’s hoping that come November I’ll have something that I can be getting on with.

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Camp NaNoWriMo July 2019: Week 3 Progress

Let’s just pretend I’m not a little late with this blog post, shall we?

In Week 3 I both caught up and then fell behind again. I managed to catch up after falling a bit behind in Week 2, but then hit a scene that gave me three days of trouble. Three days! Three days of not meeting my word goal and struggling. Three days of feeling like this was the end, this was where I ran out of steam, this was there the novel died. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s what it felt like in my head for those three days. I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I would never be good enough.

Why do brains do this to us?

There are a number of authors I follow on various social media sites who have made an effort to show their followers not just the good days, but also the hard days. Days like the ones I had. It’s hard to remember it when I’m drowning beneath the bad thoughts, but those bad days are part of the process too. I think if I wasn’t in the middle of Camp NaNo I might have been able to remind myself of that, but with a deadline and a goal—self-imposed though that goal may be—I wasn’t able to break out of that spiral.

But I knew I needed to keep moving forward. I’ve said before that I have trouble putting tension between my protagonists (it’s something I’m working on) and this scene—a scene I knew was necessary, even if I didn’t know exactly how it needed to happen specifically—needed to have plenty of that. I just couldn’t find the tension. I added words and crossed words out, and I kept moving forward. But it was tiny movements, not the leaps forward I wanted. I’m not entirely sure that I found the tension, but I’ve at least given this scene some structure to work with when I start editing this manuscript.

In the meantime, I gave myself permission to write something else—not another project, but a scene that would follow the scene I was struggling with. It might not strictly be adhering to my plot, and it might get cut (or at least significantly shortened) should this novel go on to publication.

But that’s ok. Why? A few reasons: 1) It’s something fun, 2) it’s something I’m excited to write, and 3) it’s something that will still allow me to do some character development. The story continued on.

  • Weekly Word Count: 16,259/16,947
  • Current Word Count: 16,259/25,000
  • Manuscript Total: 53,511/80,000

It’s at this point that I take a look at my goal and consider whether or not I’m going to make it. (Or, as Camp NaNo calls it, I do a Goal Check Gut Check.) I won’t make any decisions yet—there are three days in “Week 5” that I can still adjust if needed—so for now I’ll concentrate on writing as much as I can. I think I can catch up again before the end of Week 4, so I’m going to give that a try.

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Camp NaNoWriMo July 2019: Week 2 Progress

Camp NaNo continues on, and I continue to write. And, mostly, to have a good time with it!

Somehow week 2 is always the hill I have to get over. I’ve written before about my week 2 struggles, and this month basically remained true to that. My word counts this past week weren’t as high as week 1—although they remained higher than the bare minimum. It doesn’t feel like I’ve slowed down, but the numbers don’t lie.

Like the previous week, I budgeted my words for one day off and still managed to stay ahead. What I forgot to take into account were the plans I’d made with friends that took up an entire day. Instead of one planned day off, I ended up taking two days, one planned and one unplanned, off. As of yesterday, I’m officially behind on my word count. On the other hand, because I was a bit ahead, I don’t need to write an astronomical number of words to make up the difference, and I expect that I’ll be able to do that and once again get head so that I can still find one day this week to give my brain a rest.

Right now the balance of writing and not writing feels almost as important to me as the actual writing. On the one hand, I want to participate in this fun event and I want to finish this manuscript. On the other hand, I love my husband and I love spending time with him. I don’t want to give up one for the other—that wouldn’t be fair to either of us. Finding those ways to meet my goals and not give up all my social or family time has been an ongoing challenge, but I also think I might be getting better at it: writing during my lunch time so that all my time at home isn’t taken up trying to meet my goal, and taking time not to write have definitely made me a happier writer.

Speaking of writing during lunch: that continues to be one of my best ideas. I don’t always manage it, and sometimes I don’t bother at all (my writing group meets Thursday evenings, so I usually wait and do all my writing at the meet up) but when I do, I’m always glad that I did. There are writers out there who make time to write in the tiny cracks during their days: in the few minutes between when they wake up and when the kids wake up, during the commute (hopefully on public transportation, but I suppose a driver could also be using a voice-to-text or otherwise recording themselves speaking), while their kids are at various lessons, etc. But I’ve tried that, and I find it difficult to get back into the headspace when I don’t have a lot of time. That 30 minute lunch break is probably the shortest possible time that is really useful to me.

  • Weekly Word Count: 10,929/11,298
  • Current Word Count: 10,929/25,000
  • Manuscript Total: 48,181/80,000

(Small note: I realized the other day that my manuscript total isn’t a wholly accurate number. There are sections that I’ve counted as words written that I’ve then crossed out so I could rewrite the scene. In fact, I’ll be doing that today during my lunch break because the last thing I wrote didn’t quite work. If I had to guess, I’d say there are somewhere around 1,000 to 1,500 words that probably shouldn’t be counted in that total—and certainly not more than 3,000—but since I count the words as written, I won’t get a more accurate total word count until I start typing this beast up.)

I expect this coming week to be somewhat difficult. In the next day or two I should enter a section the details of which I’m somewhat fuzzy on. I know where my characters need to end up, but connecting what I’ve already written to that next part is likely to give me a little trouble. This is the part of the story I basically skipped over in the last draft, so the next chunk will be completely new to the story. I might take the time to do some brainstorming, but I might also just write with some vague ideas and see where the story leads me.

And so we go ever onward!

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Camp NaNoWriMo July 2019: Week 1 Progress

As it turns out: I love Camp NaNoWriMo. Maybe not as much as I love NaNoWriMo in November, or maybe I love it differently, but I do love it. Camp NaNo reminds me of my early years on the internet, when I hung out on LiveJournal and communicated with my friends in the way we all loved best: through text. We blogged, sure, but we also shared stories there. Fanfiction and original fiction, it didn’t matter, because we were doing the thing we loved, we were writing. I’m still friends with some of those people, and I have the fondest memories of that time in my life.

My cabin for Camp NaNo is a bunch of friends I met through an online writers group. I haven’t met any of them IRL, we’ve only chatted through the group Discord server. But we’re all doing that same thing we love: writing. And we’re all cheering each other on. In that way, it feels a lot like those golden days of LiveJournal.

Unlike years past, when I’ve attempted to write new projects during Camp NaNo, this year I’ve used Camp NaNo to rewite a novel. This year is also the first time I ever won a Camp NaNo. Coincidence? Maybe, but it’s also possible that rewriting/editing during Camp NaNo is a more doable thing for me, and that’s now something I know and can investigate further, so not only did I write a bunch of words, I also learned something about my ever-evolving process. And there’s always NaNoWriMo in November to dump words into a new project.

So far my plan to write during my lunch breaks has worked wonderfully. The task of hitting my daily word count feels so much more manageable when I sit down after work and already have 200-300 words. Right now I’m in the middle of my plot, all kinds of things are happening and I’ve been able to get higher word counts than the bare minimum—which certainly helped when I didn’t write at all on the 4th. I’ll keep doing that as often as I can since I know that my momentum is likely to slow down later in the month, and a buffer will hopefully help me win and let me do it without undue stress.

    • Weekly Word Count: 6,248/5,649
    • Current Word Count: 6,248/25,000
    • Manuscript Total: 43,500/80,000

Looking at that last number right now, I’ve just realized that this draft is now longer than the entire first draft of this book, which was a little over 41k words. That draft had the main plot structure pretty well established—the bones were all there—but didn’t have a lot of descriptions or sub-plots. Or, well, any of those things, really. It was missing all the connective tissue and the organs and the… Ok, I probably don’t need to continue that metaphor; you get it. This manuscript is growing into something that resembles a real book, and I am so incredibly thrilled with my progress on this draft. Go me!

In this coming week, I’m going to continue my lunchtime writing. I’m going to continue to hit word counts as a high as I can to maintain that buffer. I need to update my day-by-day notes for this book (which is to say, I need to update the notes that tell me how many days have passed in this novel so I don’t do anything too weird with time). I also need to make some notes on the Big Things that are about to happen so that I have a better idea of how and when those things happen.

For now, I guess I’m just going to keep writing, writing, writing!

How’s your Camp NaNoWriMo going?

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2019 Second Quarter Reading

We’re already halfway through this year! That seems impossible to me—but then I guess my understanding of time passing has always been strange. There are still six whole months in this year left, but I still feel like I’m running out of time in 2019. And there are still so many things I want to do in this year!

Since the last time I posted about my books, I’ve started working again full time, and so I thought that I would have read less books in the second quarter of the year than I did in the first. But in the end I managed to mostly catch up with myself, and I feel pretty good about that. (This is partly because I squeezed in some novellas, which are obviously quicker reads, but I’m counting it all the same.)

21. » Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer to the Crown 1) by Zen Cho
22. White Stag by Kara Barbieri
23. ◊ Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
24. Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy 1) by Emily A. Duncan
25. » Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World 2) by Rebecca Roanhorse
26. Getting Wilde (Immortal Vegas 1) by Jenn Stark
27. Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson 12) by Patricia Briggs
28. » Her Royal Highness (Royals 2) by Rachel Hawkins
29. » Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
30. Kings of the Wyld (The Band 1) by Nicholas Eames
31. » A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals 1) by Alyssa Cole
32. » A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals 2) by Alyssa Cole
33. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
34. Bloody Rose (The Band 2) by Nicholas Eames
35. The Women’s War (Women’s War 1) by Jenna Glass
36. » A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals 3) by Alyssa Cole
37. » Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals 2.5) by Alyssa Cole
38. » Can’t Escape Love (Reluctant Royals 2.6) by Alyssa Cole
39. Seven Blades in Black (Grave of Empires 1) by Sam Sykes

My nonfiction reading slacked off this past quarter. I’d like to say I wasn’t sure why, but I remember starting a few of the ones on my list and just not getting pulled in the way I was with the books I read last quarter. In the next three months I’d like to catch up with that somewhat, especially as I keep adding nonfiction books to my TBR list. Eventually I’m going to have to read some of them, right? Or else the list will just keep growing forever…

I am going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and I usually slow down a little on my word input when I’m pushing so hard for word output. I’m going to keep an eye on that this month and try not to slow down too much—and I do have a plan to help with that, so we’ll see if that plan works.

So far I feel pretty good about my reading for the year, and there are still so many books I’m looking forward to reading!

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Thinkin’ About: July ’19 Camp NaNoWriMo

Summer camp. But with writing! Once again I’ll be plunging headfirst into the month-long writing frenzy that is Camp NaNoWriMo.

In April I was still looking for a job and had all the free time that wasn’t spent applying for jobs to write. But at the end of May I became a productive member of our capitalist society once more, and am now at a full-time job 5 days a week. This will obviously affect my writing time and output, so I’ve set July’s goal with that in mind at 25k words. It’s less than my original goal for April, but it’s a goal I managed to accomplish that month. Ideally I will exceed that wordcount, but at least I know it’s a target I can hit.

To get to 25k words, I’ll need to write about 807 words per day.

Right now my plan is to do some writing on my lunch breaks at work, as well as when I get home. Normally I read while I eat my lunch, but I also read before I go to sleep, so cutting out my afternoon reading won’t mean cutting out reading entirely. There isn’t a convenient cafe I can slip off to and write during those lunch breaks, but there is a park only a block away. Weather permitting, I may end up taking my food and my notebook there for some uninterrupted writing time.

One thing I have learned from my recent NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo wins is that sprints and the Pomodoro Technique is a great way for me to get out the words. My version of Pomodoro-ing is perhaps less rigid: I put on music, and tell myself I only have to write until the end of the song. Most songs are 3-4 minutes long, which is such a small amount of time that my brain almost automatically goes, “Yeah, we can do that.” But 9 times out of 10 I find that by the end of the first song, I’m on a roll and I end up writing for longer than 3-4 minutes. By the time I look up, it’s usually been about 20 minutes, and I can take a mini break! I’ll be applying this modified Pomodoro Technique a little more strictly to my writing routine in the coming month (which is to say: I’ll be keeping those mini breaks mini, possibly by using a timer). Hopefully that, plus my lunchtime writing, will make 807 words every day a breeze.

Overall, I’m excited! I didn’t get nearly as many words written in May or June as I wanted (“Best laid plans…” etc. etc.), but I’m hoping to start Camp NaNoWriMo with 40k words already written on this manuscript, which puts me at 65k—or more?!?—by the end of July. My current word count is just over 36k, which means I have some writing to do before the end of the month, but I think I can manage that.

To anyone else attending Camp this July: Good luck and happy writing!

P.S. There’s a book post coming soon too, for my second quarter reading.

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 4 + Wrap Up

I did it!

I pushed myself the last week and wrote 8,727 words in the last six days alone, and validated my count last night at 25,070 words written in the month of April. That’s 25k words on this rewrite, and I am so pleased to have gotten this far so quickly.

Of course, the work still isn’t done. As I texted a friend who was helping me stay on track: Now I get to… keep going… But I’m actually looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to continuing this story; there’s still tons of cool stuff that hasn’t happened yet! Things I’m looking forward to writing. And I’m looking forward to eventually finishing this draft. That’s the most exciting thing I still have to look forward to.

Things I learned this Camp NaNoWriMo:

  1. I’m still struggling with descriptions. Sometimes I remember to go back and add those descriptions, but not always. I’ve already made a note to myself that this is something to watch for and add where needed when I’m doing edits on this draft later on.
  2. I also struggle with putting my protagonists against each other. I struggle to write that sort of tension—between two of my protagonists who may not entirely get along for whatever reason—in a way I don’t struggle with when pitting my protagonists against my antagonists. I don’t feel like I’ve quite nailed it in this draft, so that’s also something that I’ll work on when I’m doing edits later.
  3. Sometimes you have to give your brain a break. And that’s part of the writing process too. Look, brains make basically no sense. They’re our greatest tools, but sometimes tools break or get dull or otherwise need some repairs or need to spend some time not in use. What I’m saying is, don’t break your brain by forcing it to keep going when it needs a rest. You won’t be doing your brain or your novel any good. (Caveat: Yes, obviously sometimes you do have to push past mental blocks or other mental nonsense that keeps you from writing. Knowing when it’s just a block and when it’s really time to take a break is probably a skill we could all develop and hone.)
  • Final Word Count: 25,070/25,000

I’m already planning on doing July Camp NaNoWriMo as well, and will set my goal at 25k words. (And yes, you can expect me to blog about it again, I hope you’re not getting tired of reading about NaNoWriMo and my experiences with it.) I expect that in May and June my writing will slow down a little bit, but I would really like to write 30k words in those two months combined (about 15k words per month). That would bring my novel to an even 80k words, which is my goal for this draft.

So now, onwards!

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019: Week 3 Progress

“Best best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, ain’t that the truth. If you’re keeping track of my word count (and I’m not sure why you would be, but I suppose you could be?), you’ll probably notice that I did not hit those high word counts this past week that I intended. I did spend some time beating myself up for this. I’m a failure, I thought. I’d been doing so well, I’ve been keeping up with my word count and my outline and writing (almost) every day. But now I’ve failed. I’ve failed this novel. This is where it all falls apart.

But then I remembered one important thing: brains are liars. That helped some.

Then Camp NaNoWriMo sent out an email that helped even more.

We’re just about halfway through the month, which means it’s officially time for a Goal Check Gut Check!

Never done it before? Here’s how to perform a Goal Check Gut Check:

  1. Go to your Camp project and look at your target goal.
  2. Ask yourself one question: “Does this goal still feel good? How’re you feeling about it, oh-gut-of-mine?”
  3. Revise your goal if your gut is telling you that it needs an adjustment. Maybe this means raising your goal to push yourself to even greater heights! Maybe you need to lower your goal because this month has been stormier than anticipated. It’s all about making your creative goals work for you.

It reminded me that one of the best parts about Camp NaNoWriMo is being able to set your own goal, and being able to change it—up or down—when your plans don’t go the way you think they will. “The best laid plans” and all that jazz. This morning I adjusted my goal, setting my target at 25,000 for the month instead of 30,000. Rather than beating myself up about it, rather than being resigned to meeting a smaller goal than initially hoped for, rather than any number of harmful thoughts I might be having, instead I’m psyched. Once again I have a goal that I know I can meet, but that will still be challenging.

At my last check in I admitted that I had a day when my brain just refused to brain, and then a day where I recovered from being unable to brain. Those were two lost writing days. This past week I lost another two: On Friday I straight up forgot to write. I was getting in bed that night when I remembered that I hadn’t written that day. On Saturday I went to a wedding, which was an hour’s drive away, and spent most of the day before that getting ready for the event (both physically and mentally). I remembered as I was getting in the car for the drive that I hadn’t written yet for the day. I shrugged it off.

These things happen. And that’s ok.

What matters is that you keep going. Those days aren’t failures; they’re just a different part of the process. You keep going, keep putting words together into sentences, keep stringing sentences into paragraphs, and eventually those paragraphs become chapters. But you don’t get any of that unless you keep going.

So for now, I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

  • Current Word Count: 14,650/25,000

(Full disclosure: There’s a last step in the Goal Check Gut Check process, which I omitted because it’s not particularly relevant to me personally. YMMV.)

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