How I failed but also won at #NaNoWriMo

So, you read that right. I won’tΒ finish my book during NanoWriMo this year. I didn’t cross 50,000 words. Heck, I didn’t cross 13, 000 words. So, given the fact there are just 2 days left in November and that I cannot write 37,000 words in 2 days, by all accounts I failed at my first NaNoWriMo.

It should be a vaguely unsettling feeling, since it’s been a long time since I failed at something. But the interesting bit? I’m not sad and I’ll tell you why.

Failed at Nanowrimo, how I failed but also wonFor one thing, Β I know that my announcement at the beginning of November was that I was taking a break from blogging in order to complete the book. For the most part, that did happen. How? Well, I had already written about 18,000 words of my book. So, this was a continuation of the same. As of now, the unedited version of my first draft has 30,000 words(give or take). That’s way more than I could have expected back in February, when I began the book, so win #1 is that I wrote more than I’d anticipated.

Second, I realised I have more clarity on how the book must come out now. For all you know, the timing isn’t right and there isn’t a way for me to say everything I need to say in the space of one month. I need more time; win # 2, for what it’s worth.

Third, I loved, nay adored, the energy that came with WriMo. I revelled in waking up early and sprinting with fellow writers, doing it on weekends and holidays, writing even when I felt like giving up and feeling the rush of writing because I can.

So why didn’t I complete the book?

Well, it’s funny but at some point a few epiphanies came my way. I am writing a memoir and for reasons rather complex, they are very difficult to write. It’s a tapestry of your being that you’re putting out there for the world to read and a part of me, a huge part, wants to ensure that it comes out exactly right.

Writing has always been a visceral process and if I cannot find the right words to say what I want, I cannot add to theΒ word count for the day. I don’t find this to be much of a problem when writing fiction, interestingly. There is more liberation and far more flexibility in that mode, I realise.

This is a book which I am writing for reasons beyond just ‘writing a book.’ I’d like it to be the kind of book you’d reach out for when you’re feeling low. It should be something that will resonate with you if you suspect symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder. I’d be overwhelmed if people seek help thanks to the experiences I recount in it.

And that takes a lot out of me. I want it to be just right, just the way I’d reach for a hot bowl of soup, if I had a cold and was snuggled up in bed.

I honestly admire, applaud and am in awe of everyone who’s already completed or on the cusp of finishing NaNo this year, because it is no mean feat. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it next year?

In the meantime, there’s this hope, a spark, that this book will see the light of day when it is ready, when my soul feels at utter peace with having said what I’ve wanted to say. So, all told, there’s definitely more ‘win’ than loss in this edition of NaNoWriMo.

How about you?

Did you attempt Nanowrimo?

Did you finish?

*This month was also very special because I was featured in two interviews. The first was via one of my favourite writing sites, Yeah Write, who honoured me with this piece. Thank you, Arden!

The second was this interview with the White Swan Foundation for Mental Health, who reached out to ask me if I would share my story with them. The memoir will cover those points in greater detail.

33 thoughts on “How I failed but also won at #NaNoWriMo

  1. You know you’re a winner, Shy. It’s not about the finishing – but often about the journey; having been part of it ‘virtually’, I know you’re in a better space now – good luck for the book!

  2. You are a winner, Shailaja. The purpose of Nanowrimo is to inspire, urge, push or kick writers into achieving that much more than what they would under normal circumstances. So Congratulations.

  3. Way to go Shailaja. I am glad you aren’t in a hurry to get this done. Your book, when it is done, will be way different from any piece of fiction. I am not taking away from the writing of fiction but what you are doing involves so much more of yourself that slow is the way to go. Meanwhile, we’re all waiting!

  4. Congratulations!! yay! I’m so happy for you and so proud!! πŸ™‚
    I don’t know if I have it in me to write a book yet… But, I am back to writing and that is a good first step πŸ™‚

  5. That’s the spirit dear Shailaja- if you don’t do it this year, maybe you will do it next year. Life is to short to linger with stuff like that- celebrate the small joys, and do what you like and what feels right here and now. Inspiring post which I enjoyed reading today. Had a similar experience, and it felt good reading – it’s ok – we celebrate still the small victories, and we move on… Big hugs

  6. I think for me, the NaNo was the catalyst to going from I want to write a book to I can write a book. 50K words apart, it needs a ton of work to become something I can be proud of. I was just mulling the very real possibility nobody other than me and close circles will even see what I have written and realized that no matter what, I did something I wanted to and that should count for something.

    I know. Too complex a sentence. πŸ™‚

  7. I know the thing about deadlines. I have a fetish for them too! πŸ™‚ Having said that, the memoir was probably not the best thing to experiment with for NaNo. Perhaps if I had taken up a fictional work, it may have moved easier.

    How sweet of you to offer the beta reads! I am really touched by that and will definitely reach out once the first draft is ready. Thank you and congratulations on doing NaNo with flying colours πŸ™‚

  8. Loved reading your take on NaNoWriMo. Am glad I did it too because I work best with deadlines. All the best on your memoir. Let me know if I can help with beta reads and stuff.

  9. A spirit we must all inculcate, enjoy the journey, the destination-is bound to happen, sooner or later. Your book which is so close to the heart, deserves all the time and introspection you think it does. In the meanwhile, the NaNoWriMo contest did you lots of good….so definitely a win situation. Hoping to read your book soon! Cheers πŸ™‚

  10. I think taking time off FB was actually partly my undoing where the word count was concerned. I lost the sprint momentum somewhat. But, having said that, I am very glad that I did sprint on the first 10-15 days without relaxing, because it gave me the idea that this is really do-able. Glad to hear you are on the same page too, Aditi. Good luck to you as well πŸ™‚

  11. Yep! It’s a win! πŸ™‚
    I enjoyed sprinting with you Shailaja, and missed you during your FB time off. I couldn’t get to 50k mainly because I started out as a panster. But the month helped me getting a fair idea of where I want to head, so happy!
    Looking forward to your book…love!

  12. Welcome back, I’ve missed you! Sounds like your attitude is just right about NaNo. You got further than I did just starting it. Looking forward to catching up on life again soon x

  13. When it comes to writing a book, Shailaja I strongly believe that each book has its own destiny! Also a book comes to the writer and its NOT the other way around.
    Pls don’t fret. Simply enjoy the process. Live it.

  14. Roshan, I am so overwhelmed right now by your kind words. I really am. To hear it from someone who I know is a gifted writer such as you just makes me feel wonderful. I agree, when it is time, it will be time. Thank you so much. You made my Sunday and made up for that feeling of emptiness that I had while penning this post. Very grateful. πŸ™‚

  15. I had been following your morning bursts of writing energy through the month. And I agree with what you said. At the end of the day, there us a difference between the book you are writing and the story others are attempting for their personal satisfaction of completing Nanowrimo (I know this since I did it twice in 2005 and 2007, I think)

    Your story doesn’t just aim to be published but also to touch hearts and evoke change. It is personal and therr are memories in there that will be hard to put on paper. That cannot happen all at once over a period of a month.

    The contest was just a kick in the backside to help you write at a quicker pace and the way I see it, it definitely achieved that.

    When it is time, the book will be ready and it will be the book you always wanted to write

  16. While I always knew you had it in you, I think the information and emotions conveyed just in that White Swan interview proved it to me. So compelling and definitely useful to anyone who reads it, I know your book is going to do that on many more levels. So take your time and complete that masterpiece when it’s meant to be done :).

  17. Yes exactly. I realised that writing daily is highly productive and wonderful for the brain but when it comes to writing a memoir, it takes time and pause. A deep meditation made me come to terms with this and I am very happy about it. Thanks for all the love, my dear. Always <3

  18. You are right; I would consider this a win too. πŸ™‚ You will get to the finish line when you will; in the meantime, enjoy the process, and do your best (which I know you always do) – the finished book will thank you for it. πŸ˜€ Keep writing. πŸ™‚

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