Quitting NaNoWriMo

Not so much conceding; not so much viewing the whole ordeal as a failure; but stepping back in order to re-prioritize.

That’s the way to think about it. And from one writer to another – doing so is completely a-okay.

The fear of failure is so prevalent in the world we live in. Many people regard a notion such as failure with scorn, revile it with such reverent disassociation to anything normal – as if success is the only thing we have in our lives to strive for. As if anything less than success is death, itself.

One of the main characters in my upcoming YA novel, The Quest for the Crystals: The Book of Wind, states such fears with eloquent honesty:

“Every mammal fears death,” said the heretic. “Death is weakness. Death is dishonour. Death is the relinquishment of what we strive to protect: our livelihood, our legacy – our place in the order of tribal hierarchy. Once upon a time, these lands were not so kind … though the Wolfen Empire no longer stands, the tenants of its foundation still very much exist today: only those who with the will and wits to survive unto another day matter. The fear that death brings is innate within almost all of us.”

– Chapter 19, “Trial of the Toecutter”

So many of us fear failure, that we would risk living out the rest of our lives in mediocrity, pushing ourselves to do things that our hearts simply do not yearn for. Anxiety sets in. Over-thinking, and then soon enough, we crumble from the inside, out.

I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo four times. 2010, 2011, then in 2013, and finally 2014. Three of which were written from scratch; the second one a “rebel” cause. None of those books have yet seen the light of day. Each experience was trying and amazing in its own right.

The prospect of jumping back into NaNo this year in 2016 would have continued the novelling pattern seen above. Incidentally, it would have been another rebel cause, dedicated to revising the already-written sequel to Book of Wind.

Writing and revising Book of Wind had been a grueling, rewarding, two-year process. After sending it off to a handful of beta readers, it was time to work on something fresh, something on the back burner for a long while. I was looking forward to NaNoWriMo all year for this.

But then ideas came for the sequel, and the decision to hop right in was made. Logic told that letting the story stagnate for too long would only kill the momentum. Not a bad idea, but the problem came down to organization of the chapters already written.

Long story short, I became overwhelmed with the process of revising a story in as little as thirty days, especially when additional content needed to be written in lieu of processing older content, and my brain went kaput.

Thirty days is a generous amount of time to revise a currently 45,000 word novella. No doubt about it. But it was the pressure. The pressure of NaNoWriMo, everything it encompassed, exhaustion of things in my personal life, and the egoic need to succeed just shorted everything out.

So I decided to step back.  And that’s a good thing. Revising your novel shouldn’t be a hap-hazard, messy, race to the finish. That’s what first drafts are for. The process of revision is to deliberately slow down and analyze everything you’ve written – see what’s great, what’s redundant, and how many darlings there are to slaughter.

For first drafts, NaNoWriMo is an incredible asset. You sit down, you turn your brain off, you write, and write, and write. It’s such a raw, emotional roller coaster of a thing to do – that more often than not, you’ll end up pleasantly surprising yourself upon reading the manuscript.

I’ll keep working on my project throughout the month. Whether I finish it or not isn’t the point. Reaching the word-count goal – that’s not the point.

Yes, writing 50,000 words in thirty days, from scratch, is an incredible thing to accomplish. But don’t let that daunting number hang over your head. If you’re struggling this month, please know that “winning” NaNoWriMo shouldn’t be the basis for an end-goal.

Sitting down and getting into the habit of writing every single day – that’s the goal. That’s the real test. In essence, that is what NaNoWriMo is setting you up for, if you’re a writer who wishes to take their craft with upmost seriousness.

It doesn’t matter how long you write for each day.

It doesn’t matter how many words you write each day.

Just so long as you make the effort, get into the habit, to write at least a little bit, each and every day. It adds up, man. Believe me.

So if you’re feeling the pressure of NaNoWriMo, feeling the urge to quit – that’s just fine. If it’s too much pressure to keep up with, that’s just fine. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, and quite honestly, life gets in the way, our self-destructive minds get in the way. And that’s totally fine. Just do your best, and know that you at least did your best. That’s the important thing. Take your time, go at your own pace, and things will work out just fine.

 

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The Mother Moon

So, how many of you pulled away from NaNoing long enough to check out the super moon this morning?

If you missed it, likelihood is Twitter and Facebook have already force-fed your news feed with various articles and snap shots of the event. Good! Who gives a shit about Walking Dead spoilers when the moon’s been at its closest to Earth since 1948?!

 

Any excuse to crack out the old Rebel T2i is an excuse to be celebrated. Photography isn’t something I really dedicate enough time to, not since J-school, and when social media announced this astrological phenom, not a hound of hell could keep me from sneaking a peek.

I read somewhere that the peak time to view the moon was just before dawn – so around 6:22 am EST. Here are the best shots from in and around that time.

 

What a beauty. ❤

Shit like this is so important. Not just to science, but for us as human beings, individuals, living creatures uncertain of what lays ahead of us. The last few days have been especially unnerving for people in the U.S., over the election, and with everything going on with that – the spectacle of the super moon couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Our world, and everything beyond it, offers the wildest, wondrous, and most mystical of all gifts we shall receive in our life – all of our lives, combined.

We don’t know what’s going to happen. And I don’t even mean this from a political stance. As humans, we don’t know what’s next for us – for anything. There is only speculation. There is only hope. There is only fear, but with fear, there is also adventure.

Carl Sagan said it best, when he spoke of Earth as a pale blue dot:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

It really makes you think. Really makes you wonder. As this new week unfolds for you, dear reader, I hope you have something to look forward to. And if you don’t – it’s not too late to cultivate a desire for change, so that you do.

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NaNoWriMo: Week One

Woo-hoo! Day two into National Novel Writing Month. How’re we all doing so far, folks? Feeling overwhelmed yet? Exhilarated? I’m right there on the front lines, with you.

I look forward to NaNoWriMo every year there’s availability to participate. It’s really like Christmas in a sense: there’s so much mystery, so many surprises, and an overflow of excitement at the thought of starting – and completing – the 50,000 word goal in such a short amount of time as a meagre 30 days.

Reminds me of  writers, like Stephen King and Lawrence Block, who sneeze and, poof, a full manuscript seemingly appears out of nowhere. They produce volumes of work so quickly, it’s like they never sleep! Genuinely, they are Masters of the Craft.

I’m a slow writer as it is, because I overthink everything and let life drag me around by the back pocket. But the lifestyle of authorship is something so dear and important to me – as I am sure it is to all of you. So when November is near to roll around, I get super giddy and impatient. An excuse to execute my dreams and goals to actually sit down and develop discipline enough to finish something (let alone in a timely fashion) is simply just a beautiful thing.

Writers beware: whether you’re a NaNoNewbie or a celebrated veteran, the risk of burnout is real. As artists we are so hard enough on ourselves as it is, and this time of year brings a LOT of pressure into our lives – not even directly related to NaNoWriMo.

Much like anything we face day-to-day, it’s all about having perspective. We can view NaNoWriMo as a stressful fight against all odds, or we can view NaNoWriMo as a lesson that can teach us how to stay productive. Whether you’re a pantster, like me, or you’ve got a stack of notes on standby, the most important thing is to just have fun.

 

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Five Halloween Writing Prompts

There’s something very 1970s about autumn that I love. Maybe it’s the colours, intertwined with the fact that I live in an old neighbourhood. Whatever the reason, everything about this time of year just fills me to the brim: sharing Thanksgiving dinners with the people who I love; seeing couples out for walks, hand-in-hand, as the different coloured leaves all flutter to the sidewalks around them; the smell of the harvest; and the ominous whisper in the air that ghouls, and witches, and vampires just might be lurking while I sleep.

Halloween is less than two weeks upon us. It’s by far my favourite holiday of the year, due to the fact that I grew up naturally drawn to all things gothic and horror-themed. Not only is it the one time of the year my local Wal-Mart regularly merchandises a semi-wide selection of classic horror movies (usually at an affordable price!), but ideas of house redecoration that rival Morticia Addams can’t help but come to mind.

That, and the excitement for NaNoWriMo starts to kick in.

Yes, National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner. Whether this world-wide bonanza celebrating authorship and the death of procrastination fills you with vigour or dread, there is no better way to bridge the gap between now and November and prepare the creative brain-gears than some Halloween-themed writing prompts.

Obviously, you are free to do one, a couple, or all of them – however long or short you’d like. Doesn’t matter. The important thing is to at least get into the habit of writing by the seam of your pants, because come November, the terror of the word count begins.

1. I awoke to the sound of the baby monitor crackling with a voice comforting my firstborn child. As I adjusted to a new position, my arm brushed against my wife, sleeping next to me. – From Tickld

2. You are frozen with fear. You open your eyes, the tent is dark. But you can feel the heavy weight of a large tarantula covering one eye. Through the other eye you can see the shadows, from the moonlight, of hundreds, if not thousands, of other spiders covering the tent. – From Every Writer’s Resource

3. Write from the perspective of the antagonist. Give them a name and a backstory. What drove them to be the big bad in your horror story? What are their motivations? Do they have any special tattoos or scars or other sorts of branding? Where do they live? What do they have planned for their victims? What is their relationship to one another? – From Needle in the Hay

4. When we bought the house I assumed the scratches on the inside of the basement door were from a dog, but the neighbors say the previous owner didn’t have one. This morning the scratches had multiplied. – From Chicago Now

5. A hiker is trapped in a freak snowstorm but finds shelter in an old cave. As the weeks pass, he grows hungry. Water is not a problem, but he is a meat eater and he begins to look at his lower leg. “There’s a lot of good muscle on the lower leg.” He draws out his knife and prepares to do what’s necessary to survive. – From Letter Pile

Happy writing, my little ghosts and goblins! In the coming weeks we will be delving more into NaNoWriMo, and how to survive thirty days and 50,000 words of literary abandon.

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