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?

The Cat Reviews: Secrets My Mother Kept

This book is also a fine example of the “secretly adopted” trope without it being… weird.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m part of an Indie book club over on twitter – run by Jodie Renee – and have been since November of 2020. This is one of the books the group read.

Title: Secrets My Mother Kept
Author: Rebecca Tucker
Genre: Contemporary
Quick Summary: An identity crisis of a different sort…
Thoughts:

A lot of times, the secret adoption plotlines I’ve read are too far-fetched for me to buy and enjoy. This is not one of those times.

Secrets My Mother Kept is the tale of a Jewish woman who discovers she was secretly adopted after she gets sent the wrong copy of her birth certificate. What comes from this is a heartfelt unspooling of emotions regarding one’s heritage, sexuality, and faith. This is a journey many of us go through in our own lives, and that makes this book deeply relatable. Sure, not all of us are adoptees, or come from Jewish backgrounds, but there’s enough elements that something will be relatable to everyone who reads it.

This book is also a fine example of the “secretly adopted” trope without it being… weird. Sometimes, this trope is used to pair up characters in… interesting ways (see: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, all the “we’re dating, oh no we’re siblings, oh no we’re really not” stuff). Here, the trope is just used for good ole fashion family drama, and it’s done so well. Well enough, in fact, I whipped through this book quite quickly. It’s short, sweet, and quite relevant to the times we find ourselves in. And most importantly, it leaves you with a sort of cozy feeling by the end.

If you would like to read it for yourself, Secrets My Mother Kept can be purchased here.

The Beauty of Bullet Journals

Can I call what I’ve produced a bullet journal? Not in the strictest of senses, but the general thought is there.

Invented by Ryder Carrol in 2013, bullet journals aimed to help journalers better reflect and declutter their minds using a simplified system of symbols. Since conception, they’ve exploded both in popularity and creativity, evolving in a myriad of ways. I kept hearing the term “bullet journal” or “bujo” get thrown around in various circles, but I didn’t dive into what it is and means until late 2020.

I’ve had a wide variety of notebooks through the years, each creatively dubbed “A Book of Observations, Version x”. These journals started in high school when I realized trying to make a notebook for each project was… put simply, ill-advised. Still, these notebooks were… a disaster. I had no real organizational prowess – I hopped from topic to topic as my mind unraveled. If I wanted to find notes I’d made from an old notebook, I’d often have to spend a lot of time flipping through and hoping I had the right journal.

However, with the pandemic looming overhead and my own mental health crumbling around me, I was dying for a change. I took this term I kept hearing all around me and decided to do some research.

Obviously, something I wanted to prioritize with this new system was making it easier on myself to find specific notes – but that wasn’t all. I’d taken inspiration from the “bujo” community at large and their creative use of spreads. So, after hours scrolling Pinterest and YouTube and Instagram, I started making lists of the things I wanted my newest journal to include.

My first attempt, as most first attempts are wont to be, was messy. It was an easier-to-contain mess than previous journals, sure. However, I’d found myself struck with Shiny Object Syndrome and wanted to include everything I’d seen. This just wasn’t feasible. I needed a happy medium between the way my old journals were and bullet journaling.

With the second journal, I scrapped things that don’t suit me. Spreads I kept were designed in ways that made sense to me and are fun to maintain. The largest sore point in this second journal was the paper – black pages look cool as fuck, but they’re a pain in many ways to write on.

So came version three. I further refined the things I wanted to include and gave myself stricter guidelines. I considered what spreads could be redundant (why have a Year at a Glance page when I never use it and default to my phone calendar more?) and scrapped accordingly. With this notebook, I think I’m starting to get somewhere.

Instead of having a log of everything happening this year, I have a spread of me reflecting on events from last year. I have a kanban/project board I’ll periodically update as projects get finished or published or put into metaphorical drawers. And, most importantly, I start over each month. Hard stop, make a title page for the month, set up my goals and what I want to read, and move on. Coupled with a cohesive table of contents I’m diligent about updating, this notebook makes my brain feel unstoppable.

Can I call what I’ve produced a bullet journal? Not in the strictest of senses, but the general thought is there. I’ve become a massive fan of dotted paper – it has the structure of lines while still granting me freedom. Plus, this adapted method has been a great help when it comes to keeping track of writing achievements or the things I’ve gotten completed.

Each notebook setup has been meditative, in a way, as has my monthly setup. And, most importantly, it’s been fun! That’s the most vital part, I think, in keeping my writing journals.

I’ll end this with a picture of my latest notebook (see below). How do you keep track of what you’re writing? What do you use to keep track of it? How did you find a system that worked for you?

Image description: the opening pages of a notebook against a Grey brick background. The left side is the company mission statement of the notebook brand, Peter Pauper Press. On the right side, “A Book of Observations, Version 12” is wrote in different fonts. End ID.

A Wild Alex Appears! Reprise

Back at the end of 2018, I wrote my very first post on this blog – an introduction post. I aimed to use this blog a lot more than I have been – this was never supposed to be a “I drop in every few months” sort of deal, believe it or not. I originally aimed to make this a monthly thing, if not weekly.

Hopefully, I can get myself to that sort of place once again.

Hi! My name is Alex and I am a nonbinary writer from the Pacific Northwest. My main genre settles somewhere in the scope of speculative fiction. Often, this means “fantasy”, but not always. I’ve been a lot of places on the internet over the years – Twitter, Tumblr, Wattpad, some other, more defunct writing websites. You may have seen me around, you may not have. Regardless, welcome to my page.

The main purpose of this blog remains the same as when I conceptualized it: writing and exploring the writing world of other authors. There may also be some discussions of gaming and game design.

These are some things you can expect to see on this blog:

  • Book reviews
  • Discussions of tropes in books and games
  • Experiences I’ve had with writing/as a writer
  • Publishing discussions
  • Snippets of things I’m working on
  • Writing advice

And if there’s anything else you’re keen on seeing, feel free to say so! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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.