A Guest Post by Sam Knight
Did NaNoWriMo kick your butt? It did mine. Again. I failed to win. It’s great! I never realized how easy winning could be!
Wait! You read my title wrong didn’t you? It’s okay. It’s that whole Oxford Comma thing. We’ll figure it out one of these days.
I guess I should explain myself, now that I’m pushing the edges of your attention and agitation.
Last year I set a goal for myself of writing 50,000 words in a month for NaNo, as many writers do. I had made it easily before, so I saw no reason why I wouldn’t again. (Well, maybe not that easy, but nonetheless…) I failed. I got about 36,000 words in on a story that I gave up on and threw away.
Yes. I threw it away. It was that bad. I know of no other piece of writing I have done (since I got out of school) that I felt was throw-away bad. I’ve still got the idea, so not a total loss, I guess.
But I learned a valuable lesson!
I can’t set an impossible goal for myself. If I do, I will fail. Very simple math.
Wait! I said Nano was easy, done it before, do it again… How can that be an impossible goal?
Well, let’s look into that, shall we? What is NaNo, really? It is a fire lit under the butts of people who need to get crackin’! And you surround yourself with others of a similar ilk, so that you can succeed! It’s a good thing!
But it was not a good thing for me. Why? Well, I’m what you call a professional.
Okay. Maybe you don’t, but I like to. Here’s my point. I didn’t need motivation to write 50,000 words in a month. When I took on that challenge, what I really did was take on a third full-time job.
When I “won” NaNo, it was my second full time job. I was a writer, that’s what I did, so I wrote a novel in a month. By last year, I had moved on past that stage in my career. I had a bunch of irons in the fire. NaNo was just another hot potato to juggle, another metaphor to mix, and I literally could not keep up.
I thought I could. I dictated my story at my kids’ sports practices. No games, just practices. 36,000 words dictated 30 to 45 minutes at a time, three to four times a week. For a month. That means I managed to put, at most, around sixteen hours into NaNo. It was about all the time I had!
No wonder the story sucked.
I was working on all of the other things I had to do. In fact, whenever I had a free moment I could have been working on NaNo, I didn’t. I procrastinated. And I did that by working on other things I really wanted to.
In November of 2013, I failed NaNoWriMo. And I felt a little crappy about it. But then I discovered a strange side-effect; I won. All of the other things I had been working on came together, all at once.
I finished up, edited, formatted, converted, and self-published THREE illustrated children’s books, a short-story collection, and a novel between November and January. Five projects. Five. Done, finished, completed, and moved on from forever.
Because I failed at NaNoWriMo. Because NaNoWriMo was too much pressure, so I didn’t work on it, I ignored it and did other things I really needed (wanted) to do. And they got done. They ALL got done.
So this year, what did I do? I set an impossible goal for myself. And I failed! But I did it to win.
A Colorado native, Sam Knight spent ten years in California’s wine country before returning to the Rockies. When asked if he misses California, he gets a wistful look in his eyes and replies he misses the green mountains in the winter, but he is glad to be back home.
As well as being part of the WordFire Press Production Team, he is the Senior Editor for Villainous Press and author of three children’s books, three short story collections, two novels, and more than a dozen short stories, including a Kindle Worlds Novella co-authored with Kevin J. Anderson.
A stay-at-home father, Sam attempts to be a full-time writer, but there are only so many hours left in a day after kids. Once upon a time, he was known to quote books the way some people quote movies, but now he claims having a family has made him forgetful, as a survival adaptation. He can be found at SamKnight.com and contacted at Sam@samknight.com