NaNoWriMo 2008 washout confessions

So NaNoWriMo was a bust for me this year, as I’ve given up only ten days in. Why did I wash out this year when finished in 2006?

No one to race against. One of the big motivators for me in 2006 was racing against my writing partner, Josh Curry of Maximum Geek. Josh sat out this year, preferring to spend his time doing schoolwork for his degree, like higher education is important or something. So I was pretty much going it alone, and couldn’t rely on anyone else to push me.

Lack of incentives. Other than keeping the blog going, I didn’t really have anything to reward me when I did well, nor any negative consequences if I didn’t make my quota. Again, this is where self-discipline should have kicked in, but if I had strong self-discipline, I might be fundamentally unqualified to be a writer.

And there’s one reason I thought might be factor, but I won’t use: lack of time. I’ve had time if I’d really wanted to write. In the past week, I’ve installed OneCare on both my desktop and laptop, cloned and then reconsidered the Windows 7 user interface on XP (I’ll do a writeup of this later), how to blog in OneNote, rebuilt my phone around Kinoma instead of BeyondPod and AudiblePlayer, then back to BeyondPod again, watched nearly all three seasons of "How I Met Your Mother" and found lots of other ways to waste time I could have spent writing.

Too afraid to screw up a book I care about. This is the big one. I know now why Chris Baty makes it a rule not to use pre-existing material for NaNoWriMo. I was rules-lawyering my way around that prohibition by starting an entirely new draft of Ghost Ronin, but I’ve had this story developing in my mind for damn near two decades now. I’ve done years of research for it, have the 17 chapters of the book planned out in some detail, and oddly, that very preparation is what killed me.

NaNoWriMo is based on what Anne Lamott calls “shitty first drafts,” something that no matter how much I understand the concept intellectually I can’t manage to internalize. I kept freezing up, not wanting to get anything “wrong”. While I know I have to work through this eventually if I want to ever finish anything, I doubt it’s going to happen this month. Ghost Ronin’s firm structure and abundant research and backstory will make it great for writing at my own pace, but they also served as constant roadblocks for the silly abandon that is supposed to characterize NaNoWriMo.

I’ll try again next year, and I have tentative commitment from Josh that both he and his girlfriend will be joining me. I’ll pick a story concept that I don’t already have much investment in, but one that seems exciting enough to carry me through 50,000 words. I’ll set up a system of rewards for hitting certain milestones, and try to really enjoy the ride. For now, though, I’ll keep plugging away at Ghost Ronin at my own pace and try to get it finished before Script Frenzy next spring.

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