Why I Keep Losing NaNoWriMo (And Why I Just Can’t Quit It)

Remember last October, when I made 31 posts about prepping for NaNoWriMo… and then promptly lost NaNoWriMo? I do. And you’d think I would’ve learned from that experience. But, no. This year, I got all jazzed up about it again, did some prepping for a new book idea, hammered out about 30,000 words, and then dropped the ball. So what is it about NaNoWriMo that just doesn’t work for me? Why do I do great for the first half of it, and then just… quit? Case in point:

NaNoWriMo 2018


NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNoWriMo 2016

I mean, look at 2016! I was doing amazing! It seems like there’s no way I could have lost, and yet I did. I’ll admit that 2017 was a bit more of a mess, because I started out writing one novel and then ended up jumping to another halfway through (because I was a NaNo rebel, and I didn’t care about breaking the rules, damnit). But this year I really thought I’d gotten my shit together. I’d done a little outlining, but not too much. I had a solid story idea with pretty well-defined plot beats. I was excited about what I was writing. So what went wrong?

The only conclusion I’ve been able to come to is so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. I mean, it really isn’t rocket science. And that conclusion is this: I’m not a fast-drafter.

Seriously. That’s the long and short of it. I’m just really not a fast-drafter. I’m not the kind of person who can sit down at a computer and bang out 1,667 words a day, at least not without getting burnt out. The fastest I’ve ever written 50,000 words is three months, and that draft was a hot mess. And I really, really don’t like to write hot-mess first drafts, because that means more editing and revising later. So, with that being the case, it’s no wonder I’ve lost every single NaNoWriMo I’ve ever attempted.

But why did I think I could be a fast-drafter? Where did this unmerited confidence come from? I guess I’d just been working under the assumption that, since other people had done it, so could I. Because, I mean, writing works exactly the same for everybody, right? (That was heavy, heavy sarcasm.) This is actually a problem I’ve run into a lot lately. I keep thinking that, because something works for other writers, it has to work for me, too. And if it doesn’t work for me, then I’m the problem. Since NaNoWriMo works so well for other people, the fact that it doesn’t work for me means that I’m doing something wrong. But, no. That’s not the case at all. And, you know what? I’m sure that some of you have had the same problem. Some of you may have also lost NaNoWriMo one too many times, and you’ve probably wondered if you were at fault. But I’m here today to say that it’s not your fault. You may just not be a fast-drafter, and that’s okay.

So does that mean I’m never, ever going to participate in NaNoWriMo again? No, I’ll probably do it again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I’ll also probably participate in every single Camp NaNoWriMo, too.

“Why would you do that?” you’re probably asking. “If NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for you, what’s the point in doing it?” And that’s a valid question. But, I mean, despite the fact that I’ve never won NaNoWriMo, that doesn’t mean I’ve ever really failed, either. Because, as I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter saying: Whether you get 10 words written, or 50,000 words written, you’ve still written something. And I think that’s a really good point. This year, I wrote about 30,000 words of a brand new project, which is awesome. Last year, I wrote a whole lot of words for two projects. And the year before that… I mean, look at that progress! Just look at it!

So, yeah, I may never hit 50,000 words in a month. I may not be a fast-drafter. But, at the end of the day, NaNoWriMo gets me writing. It gets me writing every day, and it gets me excited to write every day. I may have to start molding it to my own individual writing needs, so that I don’t burn myself out anymore, but as a whole I think NaNoWriMo is a great resource that can help a lot of writers get started on the projects buzzing around in their heads. And, even better, it can help to connect those writers to a community. That, to me, seems like the biggest victory of all.

What about you? Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? What’s your experience with it been like? Make sure to let me know in the comments down below!

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Let’s Talk About Writing – Creative Writing Degrees: Yay or Nay?

When you go to Google and type in “Are creative writing degrees…”, the very first auto-fill that pops up is “worth it?” And, it’s a legitimate question. If you’re going to go to college and spend tens of thousands of dollars on a higher education, you want to make sure you’re getting some bang for your buck, right? Because the last thing you want when you leave college is to feel like you not only wasted your money, but your time. I get it. And, having gone through four years of college to graduate with a BA in Fiction Writing, I feel pretty damn qualified to help you make that decision. So, with that said, let’s get started.

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Don’t Let the World Bring You Down

The best thing I’ve ever done for myself is getting off of social media.

I know, it sounds crazy. How can an aspiring author exist in this world without social media? How can they live without scrolling through the bookstagram tag or retweeting helpful threads written by agents? If they don’t stay up-to-date on the publishing world every minute of every day, how will they know if it’s the right time to query their debut novel? I wondered all of this at first, too. I believed the lie that the modern professional had to spend hours of their day on social media, or else they weren’t going to get anywhere. But I’m here to tell you that it simply isn’t true.

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Let’s Talk About Writing – The Shiny Thing

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled “The Allure of the Shiny Thing” in which I discussed how I was struggling to write one novel because ideas for a million other novels were vying for my attention. The phrase had been one I’d learned from a professor at Columbia College Chicago, and at the time I was adamant that pursuing the shiny thing was the worst thing I could possibly do. However, recently I actually did give in to the shiny thing. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

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Book Review – Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which was posted on 4/18/2018 (My Channel).

This book was so close to being a 5/5 star read for me. Soooo close! It was honestly that good. It was cute, and fun, and well-written. It was everything I was hoping it would be. Hell, it was everything I was hoping Burro Hills would be (you can check out that review here). So kick back and relax, because this review is going to be a fun one.

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Let’s Talk About Writing – Dust Off Those Vocal Chords

The title says it all. Dust off those vocal chords, because today we’re going to be talking about the benefits of reading your writing aloud!

“But Leighton,” you say, “why would I have to read my writing aloud? The whole point of reading is that it’s done silently.” To that, I say: Tell that to the audio book listeners out there. No, but seriously, this advice that I have to give you has nothing to do with whether your book will be read aloud someday or not (which, it totally will). It has to do with making your book the best it can be. That may also seem confusing, though. Like, how could reading a manuscript aloud make it better? Well, it helps in a few ways. Allow me to enlighten you.

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What I Learned Throughout 19 Years of School

I’m old. I mean, on May 12th I graduated college, which means I must be old, right? And being old in turn makes me wise. That’s just the way it is. I don’t make the rules.

No, but seriously. Nineteen years came and went, and I know that I learned so many life lessons along the way. So, I wanted to share those lessons with you now. These won’t be things I learned in class, though. These are the lessons I learned during the moments in between. In my time with friends and teachers. Some of these will be inside jokes, but most of them are applicable to all.

So here it is. What I learned throughout nineteen years of school:

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Let’s Talk About Writing: Cutting Your Manuscript Down to Size

Today we’re going to be talking about one of the most dreaded words to a writer: “Cut.” The word that makes us quake and hug our manuscripts tightly to our chests. “No, please, anything but the cut!” we cry. No matter how much we hate the word “cut,” though, I think we all realize that sometimes there’s just no way around it. Some things just have to be cut.

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Book Review – Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which was posted on 4/18/2018 (My Channel).

I went into this book having read and watched a plethora of negative and/or rant reviews about it. I knew the general plot of the book, I knew about the trigger warning for rape, and I knew about the Spiced Rigna and how “hope is a raging asshole.” So when I cracked the spine of the library book I’d borrowed (because obviously I wasn’t going to spend money on a book people were shitting on right and left) I thought I was in for a dumpster fire. I thought I would be trudging through the book from beginning to end, rolling my eyes at the awful writing and wishing I hadn’t decided to review it for my Book Breakdown. Then, the unthinkable happened.

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Book Review – Burro Hills by Julia Lynn Rubin

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

I was given an eARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free.

I’d like to get this out in the open right away: I was disappointed with this book. Now, this may have been partially my fault. I think I went into it with high expectations, hoping it would be similar to one of my favorite novels, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Not that I wanted it to be the same plotline. Rather, I was just hoping it would hit me as hard as that novel had. I wanted this book to make me feel something, and it just didn’t deliver.

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