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 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.

Writing Recap – January

I’ve also debated making an email list, but I think I’ll just stick to these recap posts for now.

In the past, I’ve struggled to aptly recap what all I had accomplished. I’ll probably make a post on this at some point. In summary, this failure to track accomplishments, no matter how small, made it a challenge to see any of the progress I had made. And this year, I want to change that.

So. January. Let’s recap this first month of 2022.

  • I decided to partake in NYC Midnight, an annual short story writing competition. The first round ended on the 22nd and in this round, I was challenged to write a romantic comedy. I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. I’ll know in April if it was good enough for me to advance. Wish me luck!
  • The same group that published me last year has had submissions open for a second anthology to be released this summer. I decided to shoot my shot with it with a short story about two best friends and the Maenads, a historic cult of women devoted to Dionysus. I’m supposed to find out if my entry made it in a few weeks. Crossing fingers!
  • I did a lot of thinking about TWEfA and the events that happen after that book this month, including outlining a new magic system.
  • I started taking my blog more seriously! If you’ve been here a while, you might have noticed more posts going up lately. I’ve also updated my bio and links page, acquired a professional domain, revamped my Ko-fi page, and am currently planning out a subscription model to use on said Ko-fi. I’ve also debated making an email list, but I think I’ll just stick to these recap posts for now.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work, as we can tell. For February, I aim to make the work I do more tangible, including continuing on with this draft of Those Who Emerge from Ashes, my dark fantasy novel about reincarnated gods. I also want to finish subscription options for my Ko-fi and have them live by the end of the month.

If you’re interested in what I’m working on, consider subscribing to this blog. I also have a list of all of my works available, which I do plan to revamp somewhat. What about you? What’s something you’ve done to bring in 2022?

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.

A Roadmap To 2022 – Writing Plans for the Rest of the Year

Any time I’ve tried to stick to a resolution, I’ve not followed through and have spent the rest of my year saddled with the guilt. That’s not the way I want to live my life.

I’m not a person for New Years Resolutions. I never really have been, but I especially stopped being so a couple of years ago. Near Years resolutions are the sort of phenomenon that many people say they’re going to do and then don’t follow through on. In fact, this study says “Seventy-seven percent maintained their pledges for 1 week but only 19% for 2 years.”* And I, personally, know my limits and my mentality. Any time I’ve tried to stick to a resolution, I’ve not followed through and have spent the rest of my year saddled with the guilt. That’s not the way I want to live my life.

But there’s never shame in knowing your limits.

Instead, I try each year to make myself more general “goals” to complete through the year. Resolutions are normally something Big and abstract. Losing weight. Eating healthier. Travel more. A list of goals with no set concrete steps to it. Personally, I find this abstractness difficult to conceptualize, and even harder to achieve.

That said, I have some writing-related goals of my own, which go as follows:

  • Back in October, I was published in an anthology with a short story about gods and cults. This same place is currently accepting submissions for a new anthology to release this summer, so I’m currently trying to finish
  • I have been given the chance to participate in NYC Midnight, an annual short story writing competition. The first round starts this Friday. My goal here is simple: get as far as I can. Wish me luck!
  • I have been really vibing with this latest draft of Those Who Emerge from Ashes, my dark fantasy novel about what it means to be a god.
  • I have been working on outlining a high fantasy adventure novel and I would like to finish that this year.
  • I’d like to finish rewriting Lilium, my paranormal novel about the bonds of family and how they extend beyond the grave.
  • I’d like to write some more short stories and see about self-pubbing a collection or something.
  • I’d also like to use this blog more. Post more writing advice, more reviews, and just in general more posts about writing!

That said, a lot of these goals are lower-stake and come with their own sets of steps, to help aid in their achievement. Time will tell how well I fare.

What about you? What are some goals you’re aiming to complete in this coming year?


*Study Cited: Norcross JC, Vangarelli DJ. The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. J Subst Abuse. 1988-1989;1(2):127-34. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6. PMID: 2980864.