I have done, and “won,” NaNoWriMo nine years running. Sometimes it’s gone right to the wire (like minutes to the wire) and other times I finished with plenty of time to spare. But here’s a news flash:
I am done with NaNo. Not just done for the year, but done.
Some of you may be sitting back, scratching your heads because why would someone who has won nine years in a row, from the first time she attempted to this, most recent, year quit. I’ll tell you why (and why it might be time for you to re-examine your own NaNo experience):
NaNoWriMo as a published author is not fun.
At least not for me. It used to be, but not anymore. In fact, I can draw a timeline that shows in stark detail how my joy with NaNoWriMo deteriorated…
2007: Avalon’s Return.
I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I started strong, with a 7k day on the first, 14k by the end of the first weekend. Granted, my early lead turned into a slog (because I didn’t know what I was doing), but I rounded that corner and crossed the finish line. Avalon’s Return was my first (horrible) finished novel. I reveled in the both the novelty of the competition and the pride in winning my first time out.
2008: Pretty Souls.
My gods, I loved this book. I loved writing it, I loved re-reading it. I loved editing it. This book was the first time I really felt like an author.
2009: The horrible book that would eventually become Badlands.
Even with that heading, I still enjoyed NaNo this year, because I loved the guts of that story. The execution (during NaNo it was a space western, not a steampunk), however, was horribly flawed. But part of what I loved about this year was the knowledge that I could win and still shelve the project to look at again later.
2010: Kiss of Death.
This was my first NaNo as a published author. Of Course I Try had already come out. And I had three more releases already in the pipeline (possibly four–I really don’t feel like looking up the exact date of contract on the fourth). I was full of piss and vinegar and absolutely certain that with the reviews the first Blood Kissed short was receiving that I was on my way to stardom. (I might have been a teensy bit naive.) But I loved the story. I loved my new career. Everything was right with the world.
2011: TtWM (the book that I’ll revisit someday)
This was the last year NaNo was honestly fun. There had been a little bit of career upheaval in the prior year and I wanted to write something totally different. I took this book all sorts of places and enjoyed every second of it. But I never revised it to submit, because I needed this one to be just mine for a while. (Please note that it is still just mine. Someday that might change, but not today)
2012: Kiss of Life
I was super excited to revisit Jocelyn and all her crazy compatriots, but the shine was off this particular rose. I was no longer writing for fun, I was writing for work. The series was already in play. This was a book I had to finish. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the book or the series, but no matter how much you love your job, it’s still a job. In this case I was trying to shoe-horn my job into the OMG-awesomeness of writing for fun. Book turned out great, but my mental state after…not so much. (Mind you, this was also in the midst of my marriage failing, so I was able to blindly shift some of that blame to real life.)
2013: AKA the year “win” first started appearing in quotation marks.
I started out writing Kiss of Eternity (I still have that file somewhere), but it was “broken.” 10k in and the story was not working> I didn’t know why, but it just wasn’t. So, I jumped projects and started working on the book known only as “Dapper Gentleman.” I have no clue how far I made it on that book, but I do know it wasn’t ever finished. I think sometime mid-month was when I dove into Tempting Her Fake Fiance. I know whatever I ended November with DID get finished, because I have Facebook updates about revising it in December. This year I learned that when writing as a job, some project are fun, some are hard, but you never know which until you try to write them.
2014: The Bad Samaritan
I will admit, I had “fun” with this book. Why it’s in quotes is basically that I’d been writing romance so much without a break that I took NaNo 2014 to write something dark, like as dark as I could go. It was a much needed break that allowed me to return to romance feeling much lighter for the month off. But the entire time, amid breaks to edit other books and promoting still others, it was a stressful month. And one where I felt guilty that I wasn’t working on something contracted.
2015: The Good Rebel and Twice Upon a Time
I went into NaNo this year, fully intent on writing the sequel to The Bad Samaritan. Turns out I wasn’t in a bad enough place to pull out the level of darkness I needed. I’m close, but I’m not quite there. So, I jumped projects after 11.5k…to something I had absolutely zero prep done. It’s a highly sellable project, but it definitely felt like work.
And that’s my final NaNoWriMo take-away. I write as a career. I love my job and I never want to give it up, but that makes doing something that is supposed to be fun but is still work…less fun. For me, it’s double the pressure, and I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.
I’m writing this post at 10pm on November 30, and I’m completely tapped out. I “won” NaNo a couple hours ago. I’m taking the win and, after I schedule the post, I’m taking the night off. The book isn’t done, but I’m back to looming deadlines. So, tomorrow is all about getting back to a project I have to do. And then maybe I’ll have a week to finish Twice Upon a Time. It won’t take long as I’m within spitting distance of the end of the rough draft, but I’m putting my self-imposed deadline way out there, like…January 1 out there. Because I’m tired, and I’d rather have fun with a project without it destroying me for whatever comes next, and that’s exactly what NaNoWriMo threatened to do to me this year. And I don’t want that anymore.
So if you love NaNo, by all means do it…until you stop loving it. And then go your separate ways without any guilt. It’s a contest, no a friend, not a loved one. It’s okay to walk away.