I really didn’t think I was going to reach the finish line for National Novel Writing Month in time. November was pretty calm compared to the first two months of my semester, but I still had a few group projects and final papers to prepare. I was behind on my word count for National Novel Writing Month until the very last second. I validated my 50,000 words around 10pm on November 30th, after sprinting the last 5,000 in only a few hours.
But I DID win! The first draft of The Granddaughters is complete!
It’s a very messy, disorganized draft, and it’s going to take a lot of editing come January. (I’m giving myself a month-long break as a reward, to celebrate the holidays, relax, and maybe focus on blogging over fiction-writing.) But the first draft is done. And that’s the hardest part.
In all honesty, I was counting on NaNoWriMo to lift my writing spirits — and my spirits in general. After I graduated from college, many things happened. I was expecting a great summer vacation before grad school, especially since I ended college on such a high note with my work published in the campus literary magazine; but instead, life decided to throw a barrage of bullets my way. I’ve been pretty down-in-the-dumps because of it, and it all took a toll on my confidence levels.
I stopped writing for several months. I felt uninspired. And, worse, the longer I went without writing anything, the more I felt like a waste.
I know if I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this past month, right now I’d be feeling pretty useless. I would feel like a failure, like I didn’t truly deserve to call myself a writer. I would see everyone else celebrating as they crossed the finish line while I was left to eat their dust. In short, I would feel even worse now than I did all summer if I didn’t crank out that first draft in time.
This quick pep talk is for those of you who might be in that exact boat right now.
I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo almost every year for the past 6 years. The only time I won before now was way back in 2008, as a sophomore in high school who had no job and only some homework to worry about. I’ve tried Camp NaNoWriMo too. I “won” that once, but not really, because I only wrote and edited a 5,000-word short story for a school assignment and counted each draft towards my word count (there were many drafts, and my goal for that month was below 50,000 words).
So I know what it feels like to watch the clock hit midnight and see the calendar switch to December 1, and realize that you’ve “failed.”
Except that you haven’t failed. Not really.
So maybe you didn’t reach 50,000 words in 30 days. You don’t get to type your name and the title of your book onto your “winner” certificate. Whoop-dee-doo. That stuff is fun and cute and all, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
What does make a difference is that you have written something. You started creating something, something that has the potential to be beautiful and brilliant, or at the very least a learning experience. That’s more than most people can say.
The point of NaNoWriMo is to kick your butt into gear and get that first draft down on the page. You can still do that even though November is over. You can still write every day, even if it is only a few hundred words. You can still finish that draft. That is better than abandoning the project, or else not starting at all.
You still deserve to call yourself a writer even if you didn’t finish the draft on time.
Make every month “National Novel Writing Month.”
Keep going. You started, so you may as well, as Chuck Wendig puts it so eloquently, finish your shit.
Good luck, friends.