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Sunday, 30 November 2014

I Didn’t Win at NaNoWriMo, But Here’s What I Learned

National Novel Writing Month is over for another year. As I wrote at the beginning of November, I had a plan and a commitment. I was going to kick-start my fiction writing and finally complete the work I have been writing for over a decade.

However, it seems the Powers That Be (The Universe, The Source, God – call it what you will) had other plans. I did well in the first week, my word count was on target. During the second week, despite plotting an outline, the words were not coming easily and I faltered.

I didn't win at NaNoWriMo, but here's what I learned



To give my mind a rest, I switched focus, from writing to reading, and picked up a novel that was on my reading list for over a year. I still wrote each day, but gave myself permission to ignore my word count and immersed myself in someone else’s story for a while.

About halfway through the novel, I realized I had a BIG problem. I wasn’t in someone else’s story, I was reading my own! I’m not talking plagiarism, it wasn’t word-for-word. But the premise, even some of the specifics were ones that I had included in my own work. I felt nauseous. NaNoWriMo was a kick alright, a kick in the gut.

But it was also a kick in the pants. A wake up call, because I’ve been kidding myself for all these years. Yes, I have stuck with my idea, and I am proud of myself for that. In the past, I have typically quit when the going got tough. However, I cannot honestly say that I committed to the story during the twelve years since its inception.

And for me, this is where the lesson lies. Ideas float around in the ether, they come to us in dreams and contemplation and initially I don’t think they are offered to any one of us individually. What makes the difference is our own unique ‘spin’ and our commitment. We have to offer those back to make the ideas our own.

In the beginning I thought I was doing that, and maybe back then I was. Also, to make things worse, I indulged in something I rarely do. I fantasized about achieving fame and fortune, that the book was a best-seller, even imagined being courted by Hollywood. To me, the idea was just that good.

But too much time passed and the manuscript remained neglected and unfinished. Someone else took up the story. They crafted it, finished it and captured reader’s imaginations with it. Turns out it was a great idea, one with which this other author has achieved all of the success I imagined. (I’m not bitter as I write this, it’s just further illustration of my belief in how things become manifest.)

No doubt, it’s been a tough lesson to learn. My initial reaction was that I had not only failed, but wasted a lot of time in the process. Needless to say, I felt sorry for myself and also quite lost without the constant companionship of my characters in my head.

But I will always write. One of the first things I did was pour my broken heart into my diary. And I never throw away anything that I have written. I may tweak this novel into something different. Or perhaps I will take scenes and characters and put them somewhere else. There are other novels, not to mention blog posts and short stories, so the words will still flow.

As Goethe said ‘Action has magic, grace and power in it.’ A hundred words a day, say fifteen minutes, written five days a week would have produced a first draft in three years. That is all the action… and commitment required. Shouldn’t fifteen minutes be easy to find? (Even for me with all my excuses?) It should, for our dreams.


So, if you have a dream (and I hope that you do), act now while it’s yours to grab!


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