My complicated relationship with NaNoWriMo has led to a bizarre legacy of unprecedented success, crippling failure, and shameless neglect. In every way, my performance in all writing-related challenges contingent on fast-drafting is predictably unpredictable: a true roll of the dice, a crapshoot. More often than not, I fail these challenges, but I think that's largely due to the fact that there's only one way to win and countless ways to fail. Now, after many years of winning rarely and failing often, I have to ask myself: Is it really worth it to try NaNoWriMo again? And if so, why?
After a little more rumination, I've realized the better question is: Why not?
We've all got our answers to that question, the majority of which I'm positive are saturated in both self-sabotage as well as self-destruction. Public disgrace, for me, comes to mind. I have the infuriating proclivity for publicly announcing goals that I seldom achieve, which has made me rightfully reluctant to show up on Instagram and say, "Hey! Who's doing NaNo?"
But there is another, slightly more disturbing reason for my NaNoWriMo aversion, which has nothing to do with the challenge itself and everything to do with its dashboard. I cannot find the words to convey how spectacularly mortifying it is to see that for the last five Novembers, I've been working on the same godforsaken project. That today, years later, I haven't moved on to a new story, with several publications already comfortably under my belt like all of my successful self-published peers.
This project dashboard has become a source of shame, I've realized. But why is that? Even if it's gut-wrenchingly mortifying to publicly showcase my creative stagnation, at least I'm still showing up. I'm still trying. I'm still making an effort.
You know what's more shameful than working on the same book for ten years? Working on the same book for ten years, and then giving up. You see, that is the thing about failure, the aspect of it that will have you laughing and crying at the same time: If you dare to fail and fail over and over again, eventually your resilience and dedication outshines the fact that you're not exactly where you want to be. Eventually the conversation becomes, "Look at her. She's still fighting for this!" rather than, "Well, we figured she'd give up. Most people do."
So, after a bit of reflection, I've come away with two conclusions. The first is that NaNoWriMo is like a roll of the dice for me in terms of whether or not I'll succeed, but even if the odds are against me, there's still a chance I'll show up in August with 50,000 more words. The second is that if I give up now, then all of the days and nights and afternoons I've poured myself into this story will go to waste. Actually, you know what? There's a third conclusion, and that's the reality that NaNoWriMo is about pushing yourself to do more than you ordinarily do, and the notorious goal of 50,000 words is merely an example of what's possible. Really, we're better off using it as a fun, community effort toward being proactive about our writing-related goals instead of an etched-in-stone law we're following.
All of this is just to say, I suppose, that I'll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, but not in the traditional sense of fast-drafting 50,000 words. Instead, I am going to use it as a fun motivator to push past discomfort and continue plodding along toward my goal of not only finishing A Dark Sky Opens this year, once and for all, but to fast-draft at least half of my very first Adult Fantasy novel. Do I do this daily already? Yeah, sure. But I do think there's just something magical about everybody striving to achieve their goals all at once. Like crossing the threshold of New Year's Day, there's a certain charge of energy that accompanies those in the NaNoWriMo space, and I think I'd like to tap into that.
So, if you're on the fence, know you're not alone . . . but also know that you've got absolutely nothing to lose if you decide to throw your hat into the ring. If you drop off one week in, that is still one solid week of effort you arguably wouldn't have had otherwise, right? Right.
Like most things in life, it's the effort that counts.
So, here are my official-ish goals for Camp NaNoWriMo:
— Finish sending the full manuscript of A Dark Sky Opens to critique partners.
— Finish outlining the rest of my Adult Grimdark Fantasy story.
— Draft aforementioned story to my heart's content.
For what it's worth, my existing draft of my Adult Fantasy novel is around 30,000 words. Ever the optimist, I've set the goal on my NaNoWriMo page as 50,000, but this really only means that the goal is to draft another 20,000 words before August. That's another reason why I do prefer Camp NaNoWriMo to regular November NaNoWriMo: You've got the ability to set a word count goal that suits your current circumstances.
By the way, if we're not friends on the NaNoWriMo website already, add me here so that we can keep an eye on each other's progress (or lack thereof — ha!) throughout July. I'd love to share this journey with you!
In the Writerverse Discord server, we've been doing monthly live write-ins that have been so fun to participate in, and we recently agreed to start doing live write-ins weekly. So, if you'd like to join in, definitely check out Tier 2.