I did indeed end up ‘winning’ National Novel Writing Month this year. Well, if you consider winning “hitting 50,000 within the 30 day challenge.” This is my 8th win in 17 years of participating, and in past wins I’ve always felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. This year, however, I haven’t felt that. I came into November with a great sense of my story, the timeline, the characters, and a strategy for writing it all. Absolutely nothing during November went according to that plan.
Simply stated: I don’t feel like I won. Yes, I hit the parameters for ‘winning’ but it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. Only about 10,000 of the 50k that I wrote had anything at all to do with my original plot (Political Pursuits). About 25,000 of it was ongoing fanfiction (Star Wars and Harry Potter stories to be more specific) and the last 15,000 was a brand new story that wouldn’t shut up and demanded to be written whether it was November or not. This new story – a modern retelling of the myth of Persephone – started as a nightmare I had (gotta love mania nightmares! Not.) and bothered me to the point where I had to do something about it or I might drive myself insane. All of these words are something, they are all words, which is great – 40k terrible and unrelated words are better than none, right? – but I feel no closer to writing my original novel than I did on October 31st.
Looking at my statistics for the month, I did have some really prolific days, which motivates me because it means I am capable of having prolific days. I mean, I wrote 14,000+ words in one day. That is an accomplishment! Even if out of those, if only one sentence of eight words is gold, that means I’ve found gold! Outside of Nano, I struggle to write 1,000 words a day on top of life and work and relationships, but during November, I had multiple 3-5k days! That’s telling!
I’m doing my best to look at the bright-side – I wrote 50,000 words! Physical issues I had (my hands and my arthritis were both in moods all month, I’ll be honest) didn’t get in the way of writing 50,000 words in 30 days! I had great days! I had bad days but kept writing! But it’s hard. It’s hard not to get down on myself, not to let my already pissy brain chemicals (Bipolar Disorder is not my friend!) feed off of my feelings of failure. I’m not an insecure person but nature, but perceived failure tends to bring it out in me. I’m working hard to see past all of this, to see what I did as a positive and to feel proud.
I’m not doing an awesome job of it, if I’m honest. But I’ll keep working on it. And I’ll keep writing. And maybe I’ll even come back to Political Pursuits someday. Maybe I’ll keep burying my feelings in angsty fanfiction. Maybe I’ll dive deeper into the fantasy realm of my Persephone story. Who knows? But I’ll keep writing. And I’ll keep working. And I think that’s a fabulous lesson to take away from any project, be it a “win” or a “loss”.