So I didn’t make it. I stormed the castle of literary success only to be turned away by a feather, to have a few grains of sand move more quickly than my fingers. I was on track to finish revising my novel in a month, and then I discovered another character (you’d think after all these drafts, I’d have found them all, but, alas, no), and I’m now changing the way the climax unfolds: new location, new scenes, new dialogue. All kinds of fun.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who set a goal for NaNoWriMo/NaNoEdMo, only to fall short. There are always good excuses on hand: life, work, or, in my case, not starting until the tenth of November, but none of it matters. It’s December 1st, and I haven’t completed the project. But there’s some ways to turn even failure into a positive experience.

• Focus on what you accomplished. If you didn’t finish your novel, you still wrote a lot this month—maybe more than you’ve ever done in such a short time. Look for the positives and congratulate yourself for what you did do. You tried to write a novel, which is more than many people can say about their efforts this last month.

• Take away the treasures. In my case, I may not have finished, but I did solve a lot of problems from my earlier versions. My new character creates all kinds of possibilities for the future books in the series, and I really like what I’ve written so far. I like the beginning, I like the middle, and I’m working on the end. The building isn’t complete, but I’ve got a solid foundation to work on.

• Rejoice in what you learned. Even if your writing wasn’t great, I’m sure you learned something through the experience. Maybe you discovered something about your characters or your plot, or perhaps you realized that you aren’t quite ready to write your story yet—it needs to simmer a little longer. Even if you just learned how tough writing full-time (or nearly) can be, it’s a learning experience, and it’s worth something. If every good novel must have a certain number of tough starts and rough drafts, you are now that much closer to writing the final novel.
So take off a couple days, rest, and breathe. Read another book on writing. (I recommend Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by David Michael Kaplan; he looks at the writing process as a series of examinations, studying the story from different angles to get it just right without being pressured to make it perfect. Throughout, he talks about his own storytelling process in detail, examining his own struggles, like how it took him a year to write a short-short story. It was only a couple pages long, but, for a long time, he couldn’t figure out how to pull all the elements together.)

In any case, take heart. The New Year’s right around the corner. You came so far in just one month (or less); imagine how much you could achieve with a whole year before you.

Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren

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