So, you wrote a novel . . . sort of

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Yesterday, after I crossed the finish line in the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I felt so damn powerful.  It was odd feeling, really.

I finished the challenge at approximately 8am on Saturday morning, a day and a half before the final deadline.  After which I celebrated by going back to bed until noon and sleeping the sleep of the accomplished.  After I got up I felt absolutely elated.  Normally I’m not a dance around the house kind of girl, but there I was, singing at the top of my damn lungs doing what I approximated to be dancing.  I have to admit, it felt good, really really good.

But, what had I accomplished, really?  The novel isn’t actually finished.  I would say I’m about 8-9/10ths the way done.  It’s not particularly good.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say it’s a big steaming pile of goose crap.  I mean, if I’m this excited about compiling a bunch of poorly constructed words in a limited period of time, I don’t know what would actually happened if it ever got published.  Yeah, I need to dial it down some.

I know, I know, this whole NaNo thing isn’t about coming up with something brilliant.  It’s about putting your inner editor and critic on hold for a month and just writing like your fingers are on fire.   Done and done.  And as a result I have 8-9/10ths of a first draft of a novel. But, here’s the funny thing, I never really aspired to be a novelist.  I guess I sort of fancied myself a bit of a writer as of late, but a novelist?  Interesting what one can do on a dare.

And that’s what I’ve learned about myself.  When dared or faced with a challenge most people, including myself, think is a tiny bit insane, I’m all in.  Well, that is, if the challenge only lasts about a month.  110,000 long mantras in a month?  Sure.  Cut out all caffeine, sugar, gluten and dairy for three weeks?  Done.  But, if you were to say challenge me to exercise more, eat better and floss on a regular occasion?  Not so much.  Long term lifestyle changes are not really my thing.  Could you perhaps rephrase that in the form of a 30 day seemingly impossible challenge, then maybe I’ll consider it.

The other thing I learned, I think Jaynova said best,  is that basically the only thing that has been holding me back from accomplishing what I wish to accomplish is me.  It’s not circumstances, it’s not time.  When I put my mind to something, I can do it no matter how silly or challenging it is.

It’s a good lesson to remember

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16 responses »

  1. Congrats!

    Yeah, my “novel” (technically, manuscript, but hey, whatever) is bad. Let me rephrase that: It’s BAD. There were a few moments of near brilliance, but those are burried beneath a lot of fecal matter.

    My question is, what does a lazy Buddhist write about?

  2. “Can’t edit what’s not written.”
    Great line FluffyCat.

    Congrats again LB. I wish I had waltzed across the finish line with you but November beat me up pretty bad. Maybe next year.

    And like you, i never really thought of myself as a writer, so to jump into the NaNo fray was pretty silly.

    But you know… i don’t think mine is too bad. Like I said, I am the furthest thing from a novelist and I don’t really read too much but I kinda like where mine is headed and I actually want to see how it ends. I’m gonna try to finish it anyway, hopefully in the next couple of months.

  3. That’s an interesting insight – that your will only works with difficult challenges and limited timeframes. Having a goal – even if its just ‘the end’ of whatever it is you’re doing – is a powerful motivator.

    Congratulations to you on an important and impressive achievement. I’m so pleased for you!

  4. Maybe you should try setting yourself the challenge of being perfect, one minute at a time. 🙂 Impossible challenge, very limited time frame. I predict enshrined sainthood for you in a year or less.

  5. You’re right. You can do anything you put your mind to. Great lesson. Worth every one of the “bunch of poorly constructed words”!

    Mine isn’t great either but I think it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever written that it’s worth editing, just for me.

  6. CB – Thanks. 🙂 Yeah, I’m not sure whether I’m going to be up to again next year. Did you ever do anything else with your output from last November?

    Jaynova & Robin. Thanks! And congrats right back atcha Jaynova. As for what a LazyBuddhist wrote about? Here’s the elevator pitch: think Princess Diaries meets Kundun.

    LFC – Excellent point. I just wish I hadn’t created such a Herculean editing task for myself. But, who knows, maybe with a little space when I pick it up again I’ll think “wow, that was freakin’ brilliant.” Or maybe not. We’ll see.

    Anonymoussy – Why yes, yes I am. 😉

    Jules – I think it’s awesome that you were willing to jump into this nonsense in the first place. And if it has helped you get a start on something that you think is good, that is even awesomer. I hope your December is easier for you.

    Truce – I was having an interesting discussion with my always negative colleague, Doris about the nature of goals, and why the hell I would get to call myself a “winner” simply because I wrote a bunch of words chances are no one will ever see. Normally, yes, I am motivated more if I owe someone something – in other words, if I’ve promised someone I will have something for them, whether it’s a project finished, or a clean house to host dinner, I’m more likely to finish. The ol’ external expectations or validation thing. Which is probably more common than not. I mean, how many people lose weight not for their health, but out of shame or a need to impress people at a reunion or wedding or to look good in a bathing suit.

    So, why does NaNoWriMo work? In theory if you’re so damn motivated to write a novel, you can do that anytime. And it’s not like at the end you have anything to share or show anyone. I guess it’s the power of a mass psychosis, and the possibilities of thousands of possible buddies to push you along. It was great to do a search on NaNoWriMo in Twitter and see all these other people twittering about their progress, their obstacles. And there were a handful of Twitter buddies (Hi Corina, Hi Jules) who were there cheering me along at every milestone. There is something quite powerful about not only a deadline, but a deadline with a built in cheering section. Plus, I think anyone who takes on this challenge has to love writing, it’s not like we’re challenging ourselves to shovel horse manure for a month.

    David – You predict sainthood within a year, I predict a nervous breakdown within a week. 🙂

    Corina – Congrats to you. And thank you for all your support. Also, could you do me a favor? Next time you find me whining about something in my blog or on Twitter, remind me of the fact that I am capable of getting through anything I put my damn mind to. I feel like I’ve already forgotten that lesson.

  7. Well.

    *shuffles*

    What do we do now?

    The new manuscript contest on Amazon in partnership with Penguin is intriguing.

    I might be up to having a polished product by *next year’s* contest. I actually like the re-writing part, and your descriptor- princess diaries + kundun got me very curious.

  8. Fantastic! I have nothing but respect for the people that completed this challenge.

    I’ve written two novels. The first took two years. It was a painful birth, and is a painful read now. The second came out in a burst of creatively that lasted five days.

    Congrats, LB. You rock!

  9. “Could you perhaps rephrase that in the form of a 30 day seemingly impossible challenge, then maybe I’ll consider it.”

    OK ~ floss a porcupine for an hour everyday for a month without using yer hands

  10. “After which I celebrated by going back to bed until noon and sleeping the sleep of the accomplished.”

    now thatz watt eye kawl novel !

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