“Crash and Burn” Just Means You’re on Fire

It’s December now, and NaNoWriMo has been over for more than a week. I promised to report back to you on my results, and here I am to keep that promise. Not surprisingly, I crashed and burned on my first attempt at winning NaNoWriMo. The reality is that I pretty well stopped writing after the first 5000 words or so. I’m not going to make any excuses for myself, but I do see reasons why it happened.

First, I am not a professional writer. I haven’t yet developed the discipline needed to complete a project of that magnitude in a short time. I’m sure that you will agree with me, as you have experienced evidence of me trying to “find my groove” here on the blog.

Second, as a reader, I had no real idea of the WORK that is involved in getting the stories and characters from my head to the page. When I’m thinking a scene through in my mind, it seems as if the events and the dialogue go on for hours. On the page, it turns out to be a few paragraphs, may be a couple pages if I’m really lucky. Now what do I do? Go to a new scene? Create more dialogue? More background information? It’s a delicate balance.


Third, I’ve spent my life as a wife and mother. I have not yet learned that it’s okay to create a time and place in the day for me to concentrate on myself. People are constantly talking and writing about “self-care”, and this is just another form of that. Learning that I am important, and that it’s okay to put aside the needs of others in order to accomplish my own goals. I’m honestly not sure that is a lesson I can ever learn.

Fourth, I am a professional procrastinator. I’ve told many people that my house was never cleaner than when I was going to college. Every time I had a paper or project due, I suddenly discovered the dishes or laundry needed washed, or a closet needed cleaned. Or something similar would occur at the most (in)convenient time.

Having said all that, I have a question for you—have you ever seen anything crash and burn? Does the fire instantly die out? NO. What happens is that the fire continues to burn, consuming everything, burning brighter when it finds more fuel. And that is what has happened to me. No, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year. I didn’t really expect to. But I did light a fire, and am now consumed with the dream if being a professional writer.

So come along with me, follow the adventure, join me if you will—the dream is burning bright.



For those of you who haven’t heard, November is also called NaNoWriMo. And if you don’t know what that is all about, let me take a few minutes to explain.
Apparently, a few years ago, some writers got together and decided that the holiday season wasn’t causing people enough stress. Between Halloween decorations and costumes, Thanksgiving dinners and family obligation, and the impending gift-buying season, they still had too much time on their hands.
So, being writers they asked the question, “What if?” In this case, it was, “What if we came up with a way to motivate writers and challenge them to set goals, form support groups, and write a novel? And just for fun, let’s tell them to write AN ENTIRE BOOK in a month. And for even more fun, we’ll schedule it for November, dropping it smack dab into the middle of the holiday season!” And so they did.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and as I stated above, it occurs every November. All joking aside, it really is a fantastic program. It’s easy to sign up for, you can challenge yourself, or work with buddies to try to outdo each other, learn some great motivational skills, and also WRITE A NOVEL.
As I stated in my first post, I have dreamed of seeing my name on the cover of a book since I was a small child. What better way and time than NaNoWriMo to give it a try? I would have a structured environment, plenty of support, and a tiny taste of what our authors at Oghma go through year round. And as I told one author, even if I crash and burn, I still have material for my blog. What do I have to lose?
I promised myself I would not start early, (some authors do, and that’s ok), because I wanted the most authentic (in my mind) experience. But I did spend the end of October thinking about a storyline, obsessing over a title, reading about NaNoWriMo, visiting their website (www.nanowrimo.org ) to get hints and tips, and preparing to WRITE.
My husband (the real writer) (you know, the guy with published books) is completely supportive of my project, and says I’ll be a great writer (bless his heart). I set my account up (it’s free) and started my profile, found a couple buddies among our authors, and anxiously started planning what I would do next.
I discovered you can EARN BADGES, connect with BUDDIES, find events in your REGION, and other fun activities. You can participate completely online, or meet up with groups in your area to write for a few hours. My favorite feature is the spot where you can update the number of words you have written, to show your progress as well as find out your expected completion date if you follow your current pattern, and the number of words you still need to write to reach 50, 000 for this project. I’m basically lazy, so this is a nice touch. You can also see how many words your buddies have written when they update their word count.
The main point is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You “win” if your reach the goal by November 30.This comes to an average of 1667 words per day, and I advise that said words are actually found in some known language and form coherent sentences. In all fairness I did not see anything in the rules that said you must follow this formula.
It is also not against the rules to continue a work-in-progress if you are already writing something, or want to use this time to work on a collection of short stories or poetry, whatever YOU need to write for your own fulfillment. The only real rule is to keep writing!
On November 1st I logged into my account (my handle is SecretKeeper17 if you want to be my buddy and follow along), added my title and synopsis, then found and uploaded a cute picture for my book “cover”. There is a space to upload an excerpt from your novel, but not enough space to upload the entire book. That isn’t the purpose of this site anyway. The purpose of http://www.nanowrimo.org is to provide a motivational community. You write your novel in your own space, and track it online.
On day one I fell a little short of the word count, on day two I wrote enough to exceed the necessary words for the day as well as make up for my previous shortage. The goal of 50,000 words is achievable. I do have an idea of where my story is going, but I am writing without an outline and meeting my characters as they come along.
Is this easy? No, I’m not a writer, and I have a family and a day job. Will I someday have a novel on the shelves? Maybe, but it’s not why I am doing this. I am embarking on a new adventure, meeting new friends (some real, some not real yet), and gaining a greater understanding of what every author struggles with when telling us their stories.
So go ahead— give NaNoWriMo a try. It’s not too late to get started!