NaNoWriMo 2021. A failure?

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I participated in NaNoWriMo this year—as I have just about every year since around 2013. Some NaNo are more successful than others. And I know writing a 50k novel in a month isn’t for everyone.

To be completely honest, it isn’t always for me either.

Up until 2019, I’d generally done fairly well with NaNoWriMo.

2019 threw a lot of curveballs at my husband and me. It was a rough year. And I remember going into 2020 thinking that I hoped it would be a better year. Shall we all laugh at my poor ‘sweet summer child’ self?  Better to laugh than cry, I suppose.

2019, 2020, and now 2021.

All three years that I suppose have technically been a NaNo failure. I haven’t hit the 50k goal. I got closer this year than I did the past two, so that’s something.

The difference this year is I feel better about what I accomplished.  I went into November with the hopes of hitting 30k. I’d have been thrilled with 40k and stunned if I hit the 50k.  I was about 1k short of 30k so I consider that a win.

Listen, if you wrote anything during a globally traumatic event, I think you deserve a medal. It is incredibly difficult to accomplish creative endeavours with so much pulling at our minds. So I’m celebrating my 29k words.

It’s 29k that I didn’t have at the beginning of November. It’s over halfway through a fun cozy mystery that I am thoroughly enjoying writing. And it’s taken less time than my last WIP, which took over four months to write.

Maybe the biggest lesson for me through the last two years is to give myself space and time.

Also, celebrate even the smallest wins.

And when all else fails, there’s always chocolate.

I’m just saying.

How about you? Did you take part in NaNo this year?

What is failure?

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I don’t know is the short answer.

2019 was a year from hell, personally. Hospital visits. A husband diagnosed with heart failure. A death in the family. A car accident where my aforementioned husband almost drove off a mountain (only being mildly hyperbolic.)

If it could go wrong, it went wrong in 2019.

And I remember thinking fuck, 2020 has to be better, right?

I set goals. Intentions. A word for the year. I was so hopeful about 2020.

Or maybe, cautiously optimistic.

And to borrow a quote from George RR Martin…”ah, sweet summer child.” How wrong I was.

2020 hit like a wrecking ball and hasn’t slowed down since.

Initially, I found myself feeling like a failure because every time I set a deadline or goal, I had to move the finish line. It’s been three years in a row of taking longer to write novels that I did in 2017 or 2018.

It feels a lot like failure but it isn’t.

The thing is that finishing any creative project in difficult times takes strength and resilience.

So what if I didn’t cross the line I set for myself within the time frame that I thought I would?

I still finished.

Maybe it takes months longer than expected but finishing a project is success.

Not failure.

And seriously, if you’ve managed to complete any sort of creative project during the trashfire of the last few years?

You should consider it a massive success.

4 Things I Love about Motts’s Cottage

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One of the main characters in my Motts Cold Case Mystery Series has to be the cottage. I know it’s not a person but it has a personality all its own. Here are just a few reasons I love it.

The Garden

Vegetables, fruit, herbs. Cactus adores running around the garden. It very much is a safe haven for Motts.

The Fireplace

Motts spends a lot of time in front of her fire. She tends to run cold outside of hot flashes, so keeping warm is important. And also, Cactus is very sensitive to the cold.

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The Bathroom

Despite being a little cottage bathroom, Motts loves her tub. Cactus, however, is highly suspicious of water.

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Do the Job

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Do The Job.

It’s a phrase written on the dry erase board over my bookshelf. A small reminder to myself. Do. The. Job.

I don’t remember where I saw it, initially. I think a friend shared something on Instagram. I don’t remember. It stuck in my head, though. And I scribbled it on the board over a year ago.

Do the job.

The job in question?

Writing.

I love to write. It’s what ‘brings me joy.’ My head becomes way too cluttered when I don’t. Some days I’m working on a novel, others I’m writing simply for my own entertainment.

Stories I’ll never share with the world.

My hobby?

Writing.

My way to relax?

Writing.

My job?

Writing.

And therein lies the problem.

When one of your hobbies or ways to relax becomes ‘the job,’ it adds a lay of stress to your joy. It adds a deadline. Responsibilities. I don’t just want to write–I have to.

It’s often a struggle. One of the reasons I wrote the phrase on my board was a reminder. If it’s what I do, I need to do it.

Take a break when required.

Step back when needed.

But eventually, I have to do the job and write.

Writing Advice Revisited

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In 2016, I wrote a post about writing advice that boiled down to simply sitting in a chair and writing. Still true. But I can think of a few more things I’ve learned in the last five years so I thought I’d revisit the post.

First, Do Not Respond To Reviews. And especially don’t respond to bad reviews. Don’t call the readers out. Stay off Goodreads if it’s bad for your mental health. Nothing good ever comes from responding to a negative review.

So, just don’t. Don’t track the reviewers down either. It’s unhealthy, at the very least.

Second, take all advice on writing with a grain of salt because what works for one author might not work for you.

Third, toxic productivity is a thing. Don’t get sucked into the idea you have to write/publish at a particular pace. It will only lead to burn out.

Fourth, read your contracts carefully.

Fifth, find people who want to support you with no strings attached. It’s brilliant when you have a healthy connection to other authors or people in the writing community. Just be careful about expectations.

Sixth, there are many paths to publishing. Find one that works for you.

Seventh, a good editor is worth their weight in gold.

Eighth, not every story is yours to tell.

Ninth, don’t steal images from photographers. Seriously. Don’t. If plagiarism in books bothers you, stealing from photographers should as well.

Tenth, or maybe 9.5, learn what you can about copyrights. It can help you avoid a lot of scary legal trouble.