Why Not Winning NaNoWriMo is Totally Okay

Two posts in one day? It’s a miracle! Earlier today, I put up my Animated Meta post. It’s about The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Religion; you should check it out. And today, since I’m finally free of the horror that is finals, I thought I’d post about my NaNoWriMo experience, and why even though I lost this year, I’m not really disappointed. In fact, I’m actually pretty pleased with myself.

Like I said in my introduction post, I started writing more often last October and it was glorious. When last November came around, I went in with a plan, and I kicked ass. I finished early too! It was a nice feeling. And right there by my side, I had my brand new writing buddy cheering me on.

This year didn’t quite go as well. How did my NaNoWriMo plans get derailed so badly? Well, it was a lot of things, actually. But there were three main factors, and I’ll present them in escalating factor. I feel like driving fits as an analogy for this, so basically, the first factor was like a minor road bump, the second was like when you make a wrong turn and have to turn around and get back on track, and the third is the car breaking down on the side of the road.

1) I took on some new responsibilities this month. Early in November, I became an intern, and then in the middle of November, my lovely writing buddy and I started up Animated Meta. Well, she started it up, and I ended up co-writing, actually. Basically, I had an idea burst for what to write about, and she told me to write about it. So I did, and now we have a lovely site that we hope will take off. What you should take away from this ramble is that my life became a zillion times busier this month, which made balancing writing with everything else I had to do a little hard. On the bright side, it was a fun kind of busy. I spent November doing some really great things I loved, and now I’m continuing on with those things. (Yay me!) So technically, this was only a minor bump in the road. It’s the other two factors that caused more trouble for me.

2) I restarted a week into NaNoWriMo. Normally, I do not advocate this whatsoever. If you want to restart because you get some shiny new idea, it’s not usually a good idea. Usually, that shiny new idea is trying to divert you from finishing your project. And if you don’t finish your projects, you end up in an endless cycle of not finishing things, which is terrible.

Anyway, I don’t advocate jumping ship on a project unless you’re 100% sure there is absolutely no way to save your old project, and you have absolutely no desire to save it. And in my case, that was exactly what happened to me.

At first, I didn’t think about restarting. I started out well, after all:

3 daysLook at this progress! Three days of escalating above my word count. You’re probably wondering what could possibly ruin my story if I started out so well. So what happened?

Well, after three days, I hit a wall. See, when I decided to write my story, I didn’t exactly plan it out too well. For last year’s NaNo, I went in with a plan. I had the first five chapters charted out, and I had an endgame in sight. Granted, a lot changed as I wrote, but the more I wrote, the more ideas I got, and suddenly, I was staring at a complete draft and it was a wonderful feeling. I’m sure my upcoming third draft will end up looking quite different from my original first draft, but the draft I wrote last November set a really great foundation to work off of.

That didn’t happen this year. The further I got, the more frustrated with my plot I got. I had a really great set of characters, but I hadn’t fleshed out my world, I was starting to hate my plot and I spent three days stewing about what to do. I started considering quitting NaNoWriMo. Then my writing buddy gave me a sharp kick in the pants. It was exactly what I needed to restart. So on Day 7, I restarted. Yes, a week into NaNo, I restarted. I took the characters I loved and kidnapped them from their dystopian plot, then I dropped them into a more contemporary setting. I briefly questioned the sanity of this decision, especially when I set my word count back down to 0 and this happened:

plummet
(Look at that plummet. It makes me sad just looking at it.)

But hey, you know what? Things went uphill from here. My characters adjusted quite well to the move, and I also ended up with quite a few new characters that I really enjoy. I wrote each day, and slowly, my word count crept higher and higher each day. So why didn’t I defy the odds and win anyway?

Well… 3) Halfway through November, I came down with a horrible cold. And when I say horrible, I’m talking about one of those colds that takes the wind out of you. Some days felt like I’d run the mile and was permanently out of breath. Other days, I just felt super spacey and not up for writing. It impacted everything I needed to get done in my life in the most annoying kind of way, especially my writing. I had some days where I only got down a few hundred words each day, or worse, nothing at all. Luckily, I had some wonderfully productive days as well. I think in the end, that’s how I got as far as I did.

As the month came to an end, my cold began to wane with it, which was a glorious feeling. Thanks to that, I got about 10k written in the last couple days of November, and I hit 32k just as the month ended. Even though I didn’t win, I was actually pretty happy with my progress. Despite taking on a ton of new duties, despite an exhausting cold, despite restarting, I still made a huge chunk of progress. In the end, even though I didn’t win, I have 32,000 more words than I did before November started, and I’m on track to finish in the next couple weeks. After that, it’s onto editing draft 3 of High-Stakes (whose query you can see on my Holiday Query Blog Hop post), which I’m super excited for. I have some major cuts to do, and some rewriting as well, but I think I’ll come out of it with a draft I’m super satisfied with, so that’ll be fun. I definitely recommend writing a query once you’re a few drafts in (or even after your first draft, if you so desire). Even if you’re not ready to query, it has a surprising way of helping you center your plot and figure out what the really important focal point are. It’s also great practice for the future. 😉

To finish this post off, I figured I’d post my beautiful graph, for you all to see. Tada!

nano '14 graph

The initial rise, the restart, and the slow climb of progress toward the end. Despite not winning, it was a pretty satisfactory win for me. To any readers who did NaNo this year, did you guys have an easy go of it or was yours marred with challenges as well? How many words did you manage to write? And what are your post-NaNo plans?

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Holiday Query Blog Hop: High-Stakes, YA Paranormal

Happy December, everyone! In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m doing a Holiday Query Blog Hop (click the link for more details), in hopes of improving my query. I’m not quite at querying stage, but it never hurts to practice. 😉 I’m excited to see what feedback I’ll get for this! Enjoy my query, and I can’t wait to go out and give feedback on everyone else’s.

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Revision #1: 12/9/14

Dear Blog Hoppers,
If Phoebe has to hear her friends squeal over one more fictional vampire, she’s going to write another expose about it, preferably one that gets more notice. So when she’s attacked by a vampire one night, she’s shaken but vindicated; she has the story of the century and proof that vampires really do suck. Unfortunately, it’s the one story she can’t tell, according to Benjy, the cute vampire hunter that saved her life.

Phoebe is determined to fight back, and she’s willing to do it with or without Benjy’s help. Luckily, he agrees to give her the full Buffy experience. Balancing vampire hunting lessons, cross-country practice and her campaign to snag the prime fall article for the paper are hard enough. It becomes almost impossible when Emlen, the vampire that attacked her, reappears. When he entangles himself romantically with her best friend, Phoebe is terrified that her friend will become his next victim. With Phoebe under hunter protection, Emlen turns his attention to the people Phoebe loves, smashing cars and locking them in coffins. Phoebe and Benjy work together to smoke him out and reduce him to dust, all while attempting to keep her friends in the dark about her newest extracurricular.

But secrets don’t always work out so well, and vampires are crafty bastards. Phoebe must make her moves carefully, or risk sacrificing everything and everyone she loves, including her own existence.

HIGH-STAKES, a YA paranormal novel, is complete at 85,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Melanie Wozniak

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Original Query: 12/2/14

Dear Blog Hoppers,
If Phoebe has to hear her friends squeal over one more fictional vampire, she’s going to have to write another expose about it, preferably one that gets more notice. So when she’s attacked by a vampire one night, she’s shaken but vindicated. She has the story of the century and proof that vampires really do suck. Unfortunately, it’s the one story she can’t tell, according to Benjy, the cute vampire hunter that saved her life.

Determined to fight back, Phoebe takes up vampire hunting lessons with his family. Phoebe is a natural. If only she could stop butting heads with her insufferable instructor, Benjy’s older brother. It’d help if he stopped accusing her of playing Buffy and took her seriously. Balancing vampire hunting lessons, cross-country practice and her campaign to snag the prime fall article for the paper are hard enough. It becomes almost impossible when the vampire that attacked her reappears: rats in lockers and threatening notes galore. When he entangles himself romantically with her best friend, things go from nerve-wracking to Scream-worthy. As he ups the ante, Phoebe matches him blow for blow, all while attempting to keep her friends in the dark about her newest extracurricular. If they knew the truth, it’d be even easier for him to sink his fangs into them.

But secrets don’t always work out so well, and vampires are crafty bastards. Forced to play chess against the ultimate chess master, Phoebe must make her moves carefully, or risk sacrificing everything and everyone she loves, including her own existence.

HIGH-STAKES, a YA paranormal novel, is complete at 85,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Mel Wozniak