Why I Did NaNoWriMo – A Discussion on Personal Projects

Not everything I write needs to be for the consumption of others.

You might remember this post I did back in 2019 called “Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo“. In it, I discussed the sort of… fetishization a lot of creators develop over their own destruction. I still stand by that post, if I’m being honest. I agree with everything younger!Alex said. Still, with all of this in mind, I decided in 2021 that I was going to do NaNoWriMo.

Why did I decide to do it? I’ve undoubtedly mentioned a few times now that I was published as of October. Honestly, I fully credit any activity I’ve had since then to said publication. While I believe we should learn to not rely on external motivators, this achievement was just the boost my confidence needed — and the perfect kickstart to get me back into motion. Still riding this high, I endeavored to carry it forward and rewrite fantasy novel and dear darling of mine To Our Own Devices.

I didn’t win, in case you were wondering. It was a struggle to get halfway. But it wasn’t the winning that mattered to me. I set out aiming to rewrite at least 50k of that novel, because I originally wanted to revise this book and maybe self-publish it. However, I quickly realized this wouldn’t be the case.

I wrote TOOD back in 2017, mostly. The novel started with a couple of scenes I wrote for a final for a class I absolutely loathed. If anything, I wrote them out of spite. Around this time, I was working on worldbuilding and decided to combine the two things I was creating together. What followed was a fantasy novel of epic proportions. I threw everything into this novel. Everything I loved. Everything I wanted.

In looking back on this novel for NaNo, though, I realized something. I don’t think this is a novel I want other people to read.

It’s such a weird notion, isn’t it? It’s expected for writers to want others to read the things we make. We work on our projects for months, maybe even years, fantasizing about future readers reading and adoring the books we produce. It’s the ultimate dream, for many of us, to be published. But, for me, this dream has slowly shifted and tarnished over the years. That’s a subject for another time, though. The important element here is the realization I had:

Not everything I write needs to be for the consumption of others.

I think this realization is a vital one for all writers to have. Not every book you write will be loved. Hell, not every book you write even needs to leave the junk drawer. We’re constantly pushed to produce content, to make ourselves marketable and palatable to our worldwide audience. Sometimes, though, it’s enough to write something that you yourself loved – the book you’ve always wanted to read.

To Our Own Devices, my darling novel born of love and spite, will never be published. I understand that now. I don’t state this with any sort of sadness, though. It was the kind of book I needed to write when I wrote it, and I’ll always be proud of that.

Have you ever decided to keep a project just to yourself? Why? How did you come to this realization?

Climbing the Mountain – Camp NaNoWriMo Recap

I am so out of practice, honestly.

I’ve been floating between projects for the past year, unable to produce much of anything for all of them in the process. 2020 was no joke. I know I’ve said this before, but I still maintain that. But, then again, I’ve said that before about other years, too.

A couple of Novembers ago, I wrote Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo, a post discussing NaNo and self-care. I still maintain my stance on this, too, and I don’t plan or anticipate doing NaNoWriMo 2021, but Camp NaNoWriMo is a slightly different monster. I’ve been trying to get back into writing for a while. All previous attempts the last year or so have failed, but now I’m on the other side of April, a little more excited about my projects than I was before. I can’t call this a comeback – not yet – but I’m still optimistic about returning to a routine.

And routine really is what I need.

To recap, I initially set out to write 10,000 words of my dark fantasy novel, Those Who Emerge from Ashes. I call this draft six, but there’s a lot about this attempt that is wildly different than its predecessors. I spent most of March outlining and planning things out, and on April 1st, I took off running. The result was better than anticipated. I crossed the 10k word goal by day 13, then 15k on the 21st. By then, my trajectory was slowly. I hoped I could finish the month out with 20k, but left myself with a more conservative goal of 18k. A good thing, too, as I ended the month with 18,993 words to my name.

I also had three minor goals to maintain alongside this one. First, a discord server I’m in challenged us to write at least 20 minutes a day. While I didn’t keep official track of this goal, I definitely maintained that. Second, I challenged myself to write every single day. This, again, I maintained, ending my sessions with clocking my new count into the NaNoWriMo website. Lastly, I challenged myself to write at least 350 words a day. I fell short on the very last day, but otherwise maintained this – with some close calls. I won’t give myself flack for the last day. At that point, I’d already hit all of my other goals and really did need a break.

I think it really helped to shift some of the major plot elements and reconstruct this project. 80% of the last draft has not made it into the new one so far, and a lot of the remaining 20% has been heavily altered to match these new circumstances. I can’t say it’s a new story, though, when a lot of the main idea remains the same. That said, the newness is part of what made this draft so appealing. I found new arcs and scenes to be excited about. This draft won’t be the final one, I know, but I’m starting to feel like it’s the first major step to how I’ve always envisioned this story.

This post is getting a bit long. I’m going to end it with some small excerpts of my favorite parts from this month, but first… Did you do Camp NaNo? What was your result? How’re you feeling about your project now? Feel free to discuss what you did in the comments!

And now, some of my favorite bits from Those Who Emerge from Ashes.

Chapter Three
There was a scar on the inside of her arm. As a younger acolyte, she had once gone foraging in the woods under strict supervision. Monsters had come from the shadows and overwhelmed her small group. Maka was the only acolyte left standing from it. Everyone else had died in bloody heaps. Maka had bled, too.
Scholar Selene had tried everything to scrub the memory from Maka’s brain, and for the longest time, Maka thought she had succeeded. Now, there was no denying what she was.
Without thinking of the consequences, Maka dashed across the desk, grasped the athame, and sliced into her palm.
Apprentice Maka, how dare—“
Blood rushed down her arm. She couldn’t clench her fingers. The athame fell with a thud on the carpet, all but forgotten as pain lanced through her. Where she had expected garnet liquid to stain her coat and the carpet, it was instead a shimmering gold.

Chapter Four
There wasn’t time to think. Dakota closed the distance between her and the train. She wouldn’t be able to board, but there was an empty carrier car sweeping by now. She took a breath and lunged.
For several heart-stopping moments, she hung from the rail, clinging for dear life. Shouts of alarm chased her. She thought she felt something tugging at her coat, but then it was gone again. Huffing, she fought the urge to look down to the tracks and tugged for dear life.
Another pause as she flew through open air, then Dakota collided with the train car floor. She rolled with a moan, panting. Through her thick cloud of air, the tall figures stared, seeming to realize it was too late to stop her. One of the figures, the most decorated of them all, pressed their lips into a thin line before turning away.

Chapter Seven
Dakota stared at her cards until she went cross-eyed, but they still didn’t make sense.
She blamed it on the train. The rails rattled beneath her. Riding along had been smooth so far, save the vicious winds tearing at her from all sides. She’d found a small pocket of the car, which was more an open box than anything, where the wind hadn’t yet ripped everything apart. It was here her divination cards lay now, smooth to the touch and made from linen. Three such cards stared back at her now.
She tapped the first card, depicting five thin sticks clashing together. The suit of rods, for travel and opportunity and chance. This specific card spoke to conflicts, but of what? There were many avenues, she thought, it could apply to.
The accompanying cards cleared up nothing.
The second card featured a figure with no face, arms spread wide to the sky above them. A thin curved scratch shaped the moon. Pinprick circles were the stars. From what she could recall, this card spoke to religious wisdom, which was especially odd to her considering she had never been a spiritual individual.
Meanwhile, the third card was the outline of two figures on opposing ends of the linen, connected by their outstretched hands. Though they appeared to mirror each other, Dakota had studied this deck enough to notice the subtle differences. The Twins spoke to choices, though it could speak to relationships as well. She traced the face of one of the figures, though no true face existed, and frowned.

Chapter Nine
A few things happened in rapid succession. Dakota shot out a hand, murderous thoughts racing through her head. Something in the back of her mind snapped. The wind around them whipped into a sudden frenzy. Dayan slipped and the cards exploded from their hands and fluttered in all directions. With a yelp, Dakota dashed forward to recover them all. They made slow descents like leaves in the autumn. It took her a couple of minutes to gather them all.
Dakota counted them under her breath. Seventy-three cards in total – or, there should’ve been. She came close once, twice, then a third time, brow creasing first in confusion and then in anger.
“Missing something?”
She met Dayan’s gaze for half a second before lunging for the card in their grip. Three Vahnic wine bowls, as dark as the night sky, flashed on the card’s surface. Friendship and celebration.

Chapter Ten
Damn Maka. Damn the Scholars. Damn everything.

Writing Plans – April

My original plan was to make a post for the entire year, but the year is already 1/4 through… So I can try to make a post covering my goals for the month, at least.

For April, my goals are pretty simple. It’s Camp NaNoWriMo right now and my goal for this is 10,000 words – though if I keep writing a lot every day, I may need to bump it up some. 15,000, maybe, or 20,000. Unsure if I’ll be able to do more than that.

What am I working on for Camp? If you don’t follow me on my other media’s (namely, my Twitter) then this is probably the first time you’re hearing about it. I’m writing draft… six? Of my dark fantasy novel, Those Who Emerge from Ashes. I commonly pitch it as “dead gods and sad lesbians”. It’s mostly that, but it centers around three young women and their entwined narratives as they escape religious cults, become gods, and fall in love. This story has had many false starts and reiterations, but I’m in love with the direction this draft has taken so far. Hope I can keep up the momentum!

Maybe I’ll make a whole post about it someday. I don’t know.

Again, as I’m trying to do Camp NaNoWriMo right now, that’s all of my plans for April.

Next month, I’m hoping to get a personal copy of one of my other novels, Lilium, so I can read through and annotate. Once that’s done, I’m going to go into another round of edits, send it off for another round of feedback, and then hopefully pursue publishing with it!

But who knows. I’ll talk more about that next month.

What are your writing goals this month? Are you doing Camp NaNo as well? Feel free to let me know what you’re doing and how it’s going for you down below.

Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

Alternatively, a discussion on self-care.

This year has been rough. Like, “spent most of it in a memory-dissolving depression haze” rough. I made a lot of plans for myself that I simply couldn’t complete, let alone start. And of course, this made one nasty spiral as failure after failure added up and I became consumed by guilt over it.

One of the biggest “failures” came as of this month – and last. I’ve been getting into art more and more as of late. I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided I was going to do Inktober. And it failed. Terribly. I lasted… about a week, and I’m proud of what I managed to make, but then so much happened and I crashed and burned.

It is with this in mind that I decided that I didn’t need to do NaNoWriMo, either.

I suppose if I really put myself to it, I could do it. Maybe. There’s not much going on this month aside from my hectic work schedule. But still, I have been noticing a trend in creative spaces that I don’t think benefits me. I don’t think it benefits anyone. And it’s partaking in events regardless how much it stresses you out or how much time you actually have… almost, fetishizing destroying yourself for the sake of partaking in an event. We’ve seen all the memes about artists despairing in October, and I started seeing them again for November.

But, honestly? Endangering your mental health “for teh memes” or to feel like you’re a part of something isn’t worth it. And sure, NaNo is hard. That’s why it’s a challenge. I’ve done it before, and I’ve won and I’ve lost. But lately it feels almost… expected to do it. It’s all over our social media feeds. It’s a major topic in the writing community.

This year, I’m not doing NaNo. I don’t know if I’ll do it next year. All I know is that I know it isn’t good for me or anyone else to push our limits for the sake of an event that, while it fosters a sense of community, won’t benefit us mentally in the long run.

Instead, I’m taking the time this month to focus more on myself and my well-being, and to check in with myself often. And even if you’re partaking in NaNo, there are things you can do to keep yourself in check:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated. Water is best, but most fluids are beneficial.
  • Take breaks. Staring at screens all day hurts. Every hour or so, stand up, walk around, get your blood flowing. Just for five minutes.
  • Make sure to eat something! If you don’t have the energy to make an entire meal, that’s okay. Just make sure you eat something.
  • Check your posture!
  • Flex your wrists. Carpal tunnel is a bitch.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goal. What’s important is you did your best.
  • If you need to take a day off, or multiple, do so.
  • Most importantly, check in with your loved ones and reach out if you need to be checked on! Reaching out is one of the hardest goddamn things to do, but know that you are valued and loved and needed.