I totally lost NaNoWriMo and it feels so good.
One of the criticisms leveled at NaNoWriMo is the “winning” and “losing” aspect of it. If you crank out 50,000 words in 30 days, you “win.” If you don’t, you’re a loser, baby (Someone should totally write a song with that in the lyrics). For the record, I wrote ZERO words in 30 days.
This year has been a busy one for me. I did some contract work at the beginning of the year, but not much. I moved to Japan to teach and do research for Stormcaller #3. I knew early on that I wouldn’t have as much time to write as I’d like, and that’s proven to be the case. I miss my ferry commute to Seattle. Two hours a day of uninterrupted time, without Internet access or other hassles, and with beer (Overpriced, but still!)? I could easily manage 50,000 words.
Still, does any of that make me a winner? Does not doing it this year make me a loser?
Nope. It means I did (or did not) write 50,000 words in a month. That’s it. I’m not like some writers who can crank out a book every couple of months. For one thing, by the time I’ve gotten a book out the door, I’m really sick of it. I need time to recharge my creative batteries. Many writers don’t have word faucets in their brain. It’s hard for them to manage writing 500 words a day, much less 1,600+. Too often, writers equate activity with achievement. “I wrote 5,000 words today. I am a superior writer. Quiver before me, worm!”
I can write 5,000 words in a day. I’ve done it a few times. When I reviewed that work a few weeks later, I was considerably less impressed. I cut whole pages of crap. Doesn’t make me a bad writer. Doesn’t make me a good writer. Just means I beat the crap out of my keyboard one day.
Writing is not a race. Publishing is not a race. It’s a long game. Elation surged through me when I published Antigone’s Fall. I had visions of Scrooge McDuck-sized mounds of money to dive into, acclaim from my friends, and a really fat deal for the movie rights. When I look back, I realize that it’s very much a first book. I like it. Parts are great (the last quarter rocks, IMHO), but it didn’t go anywhere as a novel. I enjoyed nice sales for a few weeks. Then it was just a cool picture on my blog.
Stormcaller proved different. It enjoyed great sales, and continues to sell. It will be a significant factor in my dealings with the IRS this year. It will not buy me a yacht, but it did pay for my plane ticket as well as a month’s expenses when I moved to Japan and had to wait out my first paycheck. The money that has continued to come in made for nice supplements to my meager salary. With the publication of Assassins, Stormcaller has seen a surge in sales. I’m curious to see how that plays out over the next year, but my point is this: writers build their success over time. Years, not months.
Let NaNoWriMo inspire you to knuckle down and crank out a book (Or at least part of one–most fiction clocks in at 80,000+ words). Writing, like life, is a race against yourself. No one else can bestow failure or success upon you. If you made an attempt at writing for NaNoWriMo, good for you. If you knocked out 50,000+ words, well done. That’s no mean feat. If you knocked out 1,000 words, well done. You made it to the second page, which is more than most people can say.
Keep going. You are a writer.
“You know what I did after I wrote my first novel? I shut up and wrote twenty-three more.” – Michael Connelly