NaNoWriMo 2022 is half over! Which means I’m officially failing NaNoWriMo 2022, but only just, sitting on 22k words. Can you believe it?
This NaNoWriMo, I’ve given myself the freedom to fail. But wait, isn’t failure bad? Shouldn’t we all go into things with the intention of succeeding? What about “failure is not an option” don’t I understand?
Well, to be perfectly honest, I find that sort of attitude to be rather toxic. The push to succeed at any cost, the “all I do is win, win, win no matter what” mentality is awful for most people’s mental health and leads many down the path to unhappiness.
Truth is, life isn’t about winning. No, life is about doing, about taking action that will, ultimately, benefit you and those around you. And for us writers, that means creating something.
It means writing.
And you know what? Failure is, indeed, an option. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that FAILURE IS SUCCESS!
How Failing NaNoWriMo Can Help You Become a Better Writer
The reason NaNoWriMo exists is to provide motivation to writers, to give them the kick in the butt most of us all need at some point. NaNoWriMo is about doing, taking action, writing. Its primary goal is to get people putting words together, because we all know how hard it can be to get started. Moreover, the mental discipline required to build writing into your schedule is often immense.
However, once you’ve done it, setting aside a strict block of time for your writing and following through with it, it gets a lot easier. Creating new routines, whatever they may be, is always challenging. And when it’s something like writing, a practice unlikely to offer you any sort of immediate validation or reward from the outside world, it can seem to be nearly impossible.
Of course, the good news is, it’s not. Writing for yourself every day is very possible. I don’t care how busy you say you are. There are always ways to make it happen.
And at the end of the day, there’s really only one way for writers to develop their writing abilities and craft, and that is to write! Failure is part of the growth process—embrace it and grow, or hide from it and stagnate.
How to Get the Most Out of Your NaNoWriMo Failure (3 Tips)
If you’re a pantser like me, you might be discouraged by a lot of the advice you find online on how to write a novel. But take it from me, if you set things up just right, you don’t have to rely on an outline and tedious character studies (which I’ve found from experience to be quite useless).
You don’t need any of that junk!
The trick to writing “by the seat of your pants” is to have strong characters. Once you know your characters, what motivates them, and how they react to things, all you have to do is put them into dramatic situations and let them do what they do.
Here are a few quick tips to keep your manuscript from flying off the rails at this crucial half-way mark
1. Mistakes generate inspiration
Don’t be afraid of mistakes. When writing a first draft, you are in the creation step, which means you need to trust yourself and allow what may at first appear to be mistakes to blossom into interesting and original events.
2. Trust your characters
This is the number one most important skill to have as a pantser. Know your characters, trust them, and allow them to dictate the direcdtion of the narrative. I know some are intimidated by this process, but if you can let go, the results can be amazing.
3. Use this opportunity to experiment
Writing in this way, for speed, provides an opportunity to try something a little different. You can’t take whatever you produce during NaNoWriMo too seriously. Write, and watch it grow. Later, you can return to the piece and decide what to do with it.
An Excerpt From My NaNoWriMo Scribbling
I concluded my first article about NaNoWriMo with an excerpt from my writing efforts this month, so I’ll do the same this time. If you get the chance, let me know what you think.
One time, when Riley was six years old, not long before his dad left forever, he had been playing by himself in his room.
He had dragged the end table from the side of his bed to the center of his room–removing the lamp, a couple of books, and his tiny TV from it first, placing them on the floor–and was building a card tower on its flat surface, just like David had showed him.
First, he had taken several cards and carefully propped them against each other, forming a line of inverted Vs. Then, he had placed cards over the tops of the upsidedown Vs. This was the first level of his tower.
After that, he began on the next level on top of the first.
As he worked, he kept catching himself holding his breath, letting it out in little gasps.
Vaguely, far away, as if at the other end of a long tunnel, he could hear Henry, his stepfather, talking and talking, But that was nothing unusual. Henry was always talking, his mother listening politely, never saying much. He had learned to block it out. He heard Henry’s droning as one who lives by the ocean hears the waves.
David hated Henry’s incessant yammering and had voiced his disgust of it to Riley on more than one occasion. He said that was why he always wore headphones around the house now, but as far as Riley could remember, David had always worn headphones around the house, even before their mom had split up with their dad and Henry had come into their lives.
In fact, the only time Henry ever stopped talking was when their dad came around. Their dad, who couldn’t sit still, always with a drink in his hand.
Riley let out a little gasp of air, took another breath to steady his hands, and slowly placed another inverted V on his card tower.
Riley was so focused on what he was doing that he didn’t at first see the beetle skitter out from under his bed and begin to make its way over the carpet.
When he did, he wasn’t surprised and finished placing the next card before he began to look around for something to smash the insect with.
The beatles lived under the house and he didn’t like them. They weren’t cockroaches, he knew that much, but other than that he wasn’t sure what they were.
Slowly, he backed away from his card tower, not wanting to knock it down and reached for one of his sneakers lying at the foot of his bed. He picked up the sneaker and began to raise it over his head.
The insect skittered up his little 12” TV that he had put down on the floor and stopped on top of it, its feelers wriggling at the air.
For a moment, Riley examined it. He wasn’t disgusted, but it was disgusting. Its body was bulbous and fuzzy, as if dusted with mold, its legs spidery, its eyes on elongated stalks that blinked at him rapidly. It made faint hissing sounds.
He brought his sneaker down with a practiced ease. It made a loud slamming sound on the plastic top of his TV, resoundly ending the beetle’s life.
The TV flicked on.
He glanced at his card tower, to make sure it hadn’t fallen, but it remained standing. Then he turned his shoe over. On the bottom of it there was a sick, yellowish mass, like a particularly revolting loogie.
“Gross,” he said to himself, and tossed his sneaker away.
On the TV, a distorted face spoke in a staticky rasp he couldn’t understand.
They didn’t have cable and the antennae lay askew on the floor nearby. Impulsively, he struck the TV again, this time on its side with his free hand, in an attempt to clear the image, but it didn’t work.
At the corner of his vision he could see his card tower tremble and, as he turned, it began to fall.
“No,” he said, dismayed, reaching his hands out as if to somehow catch it and prevent it from falling, but it was already too late.
The card tower, that he had worked so hard to build over the last couple of hours, fell with a crash.
He looked at the cards scattered flat over his end table and on the floor. “That was stupid,” he said out loud.
“Hello,” a polite voice said, making Riley jump. “I was wondering if you could do me a favor?”
Riley turned to the TV. The face remained distorted and fuzzy, but the voice was crisp and clear.
“What kind of favor?” he asked, stunned, even though he still wasn’t sure if the voice was meant for him.
“LET ME IN!”
Riley lurched away from the TV, falling to the floor.
That voice. Gravelly and impossibly deep. Demonic.
The TV rising into the air. Everything rising into the air: his lamp, the bed, crayons and papers from his desk, the cards like leaves suspended in water rising up around him, his sneaker with the squashed remains of the beetle on it rotating slowly in the light.
A buzzing sound coming closer and closer, louder and louder.
His body was suddenly extremely heavy. He couldn’t move. His brain was tingling rhythmically, as if it were receiving a steady pulse of electric shocks. The ground seemed to be shaking. Colors burst before his eyes.
And then he was looking down at his body, eyes closed, apparently sleeping, right there on the floor of his bedroom.
He could feel something pulling him, tearing at him, trying to get him.
He fought it. Willed himself to go back, tried to swim back to his body, but he couldn’t move. He didn’t have arms or legs. He was nothing.
Wake up! Wake up, please!
He felt himself floating away, away into darkness.
His eyes flew open.
He sat up with a lurch, his heart pounding. He looked around his room, but everything was where it was supposed to be. Nothing had changed.
It was over just as quickly as it had begun.
He looked at the TV, but it was dark and silent.
Somehow, without knowing it, he had fallen asleep.
“Shit,” he said to himself, a word he still wasn’t comfortable saying out loud, but one that he knew would make David smile if he heard it. It made him feel a little better.
“Just a dream. It can’t hurt me. It can’t…” He trailed off, forcibly slowing his breathing, the buzzing dying down in his head.
After a while, he began to pick up the scattered playing cards.