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  • Patricia Hollett

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NaNo-Determined to Finish


This month while I’m doing NaNoWriMo, I find there are some great lessons to be learned and to take away from the whole experience. It’s my first attempt at something like this, and it’s not easy. I’d like to say it was, but I’d just be bull shitting everyone. It takes commitment, stamina, endurance, perseverance, desire, and ideas. And, that’s just touching on the basics. I’m not even going to attempt to talk about the difficulties, the frustration, the time involved, the self-doubt, and the desire to give up. But, I can’t give up. I’m too determined to fail at something I set my mind and heart to doing.

Why is it easier to write short stories than a whole novel? Well for one thing, they don’t require the stamina and time commitment that a novel does. Recently I read some comments about NaNo and the “I’ve been Week Two’d” comment by someone, which basically says, I got to week two and ran out of steam or ideas with my novel, or realized that I had a great idea to start with, but just didn’t have what it takes to make a whole novel out of it. There are many reasons novels don’t get finished, but if you don’t see your project through to the end, you’ve lost something greater than a good idea.

Why do some people quit halfway through? The story has lost it’s charm, it’s fun, and you’ve lost the desire to write it. You’ve lost your momentum, your desire to see your project finished, or you’re afraid to finish it. Why, you ask? Because, it started out as something fun and then you realized that it’s not going as you planned, the ideas are not flowing freely like they did when you got ‘that big idea’ for this story, or you think the whole story just sucks.

So, the big question is… do you keep writing it, knowing it sucks and try to salvage some good out of it, or quit and start something new? I don’t know the answer to that, but deep down every writer has probably faced that dilemma. So what happens next is entirely up to you. Do you quit? Yes, quit!

Or keep writing. Why, you ask? What you’ll gain from writing that whole novel is the fortitude that you can do it. The will, determination and pride that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. And, even if it sucks in the end and it stays locked up in the bowels of your hard drive, you’ll know you finished what you started. But, at least you’ll know that you succeeded in writing that first draft of your novel and it was an endeavour worth doing.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and write the next bestseller, but unless you finish that novel, you’ll never find out. So go on…finish that novel. And whether it’s good or bad, you’ll feel better that you’ve made a huge accomplishment by doing so.

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9 Responses

  1. Hey Pat,
    I think you keep going, you can go back later and rework it and you’ll be surprised how much good stuff comes out later that just requires a rework of the original part.

    Short stories may seem like an easier option but for Nano I’ve been writing Childrens books. Yes I won’t get the word count but I’ll have a number of finished YA picture books that I’ll be able to start shopping to agents. Which at the end of the day is the goal for each writer.

    All power to your writing elbow,

    Gareth

    • I think so too Gareth. I also think writing Children’s books is much tougher than it sounds. Although the word counts are less, it’s the quality which is difficult. It has to be age appropriate and entertaining for them to want to read. A difficult combination that requires a certain skillset. 🙂

  2. I’m torn on this one. Last year, I KNEW my NaNo wasn’t working. I wanted Scrivener though, and the half-price thing pushed me to bust ass and get my 50k. I tried to keep writing so I’d finish it, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t working, so I made the hard decision to let it go. Three months later I re-wrote it as a novella (in a different genre) and it was my first sale.

    So I think there is a time to let go, but I also think you need to be sure.

    And I don’t think letting go means forever, it means “for now maybe forever”. Distance will help determine if there was really something there (the characters or SOMETHING will call to you).

  3. I think your point about ‘being sure’ is key. If you know it’s not working and there’s no way it’s going to, then yes quit. But, in your case, you made the right decision and look how it turned out for you. Brilliant! 🙂

  4. I agree with Sel, there is a time to say “enough is enough”, but you damn well better make sure that’s what you really want. There were more than a few times I wanted to give up on my novel, but there is an obscene amount of satisfaction in typing the word “The End”. If you’re unsure, keep writing, keep pushing. Everyone struggles with the middle of the novel, it’s normal. The beginning is always fun and the end is always exciting, but every writer needs an extra push in the middle. Don’t let it stop you.

    Good luck with hitting 50K!

  5. I guess it depends on people’s character: I’m one who NEVER stops until its finished, even if I know it sucks and I’ll need to work on the thing afterwards.

    The thing is: you may write a character, a plot twist, a development that doesn’t quite fit in this novel but will in something else.

    My own experience: I wrote a LOT of short stories taken from my novels… seriously. The 2,000 words cut from a 100,000 worked so well on its own that I took it out and sold it as a shorter piece.

    Then again, if your guts are telling you it ain’t worth it, follow your instincts – they are rarely wrong 🙂

  6. Hi Pat!
    You know, my first year doing NaNo was something else. I found out about NaNo on November 1st. That was me ignoring all the NaNo posts on Kelley’s board, but I got curious and took a look… and yeah, I signed up. I started with a vague idea to write a series of interconnected short stories and ended up writing a full fantasy novel about a girl who travels to other worlds on horseback. (sound familiar?) This was in 2005. The first draft of the original version of Arabian Dreams shall never see the light of day again… I have a copy but it is well hidden on my HD. It sucked, hard core, but… I learned how to finish a novel, that I could finish a novel… and guess what, five years later, that NaNo novel is getting published. It is very different in form, but the idea is exactly the same. It’s still a fantasy novel about a girl who travels to other worlds on horseback.

    Keep writing!!! Even if it sucks, something good will come of it, even it it is just learning how to stick with a project and get it finished.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Julie/Firewolf

  7. Thanks for all the answers everyone. It’s a personal choice really. I think you’ll know if it’s time to call it quits. And, if that happens, like Anne said, maybe there’s something salvagable to take out for short story submissions. Great input everyone.
    Julie…yes it does sound familiar. LOL 🙂

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