I finished last night. I wrote my last 1500 words and then celebrated. I also wound up taking today off of work because I was up so late celebrating last night and I decided to reward myself this morning with a nice day off. A day of video games, reading books I’ve been ignoring, and reflecting on my month. Honestly, I could use a whole week off, but that’s a rather unreasonable expectation when I’ve actually got a 9-5 job to support my writing. It’s hard to support your writing with a job you’re not doing.
I think my biggest lesson from this month is that I’m still capable of incredible writing feats, though I really need to work on the “every day” part. Despite all of the time I’ve spent away from writing over the last year, since I entered NaNoWriMo in 2016 and decided not to attempt completion a day later, I’m still capable of pushing myself to produce a large number of words when I need to. My ability to write isn’t diminished, only my discipline and self-control when it comes to writing. Those will still be problems for a while, though. The end-of-month panic writing is clear evidence that I still need to work on pacing myself properly. Sure, I updated my blog every day, but the goal is to be able to write some of my story every day AND update my blog every day.
Which is something I still plan to do. Update my blog every day. I’ll find something for tomorrow and then spend my weekend working out an update schedule (for topics) and writing up a week’s worth of posts. Once I’ve gotten a decent buffer built up and worked out the kinks in WordPress’s scheduling function, I should be able to be able to just write the post a week ahead of time and schedule it for the next week. That way, I can still post on holidays without actually having to work on Holidays. Or, if I get sick again, I don’t need to struggle to make cohesive sentences, I can just focus on getting better and let my buffer take the hits. All-in-all, it sounds like a very solid if somewhat ambitious plan. Which is a theme of my plans. I really hope I manage to follow through on this one. It’d be really cool.
As for regular story writing, I’ll probably aim for 1000 words a day. Less than NaNoWriMo, but I’ll be able to go over 1000 words any time I want to. That, plus daily blog updates, should put me in the 1500 to 2500 word range which seems like plenty. I plan to continue my NaNoWriMo story until I reach the end, which should be in less than 100,000 more words. I would definitely say I’m in the 33%-50% range, so maybe I’ll finish it some time this spring. That’d be nice. Then I can get back to work on other projects while this story sits for a bit.
I’ve got so many things I want to work on and only what amounts to a part-time job’s worth of time to use unless I completely give up every other aspect of my life in order to write more. As rewarding as writing is, I think the last week has made it pretty clear to me that I need balance rather than unfettered pursuit. I’m super tired and ready for a rest. Maybe not a complete rest, but definitely a slow down.
In every story, there is a moment after the main action has concluded where the characters wrap up all the loose ends and make the last points on behalf of the author. Today, for the last day of National Novel Writing Month, write a scene about your character wrapping up your story. Maybe they’re talking with their friends after defeating the Big Bad Evil Person. Maybe they’re having a moment to reflect on their growth and the growth of those around them after coming of age. Maybe they’re looking back on all of their mistakes and realizing that they were wrong the entire time. Whatever it is, write it so that you can have the same sense of closure as the month ends.
One of my favorite things that crops up in older storytelling is the narrator speaking with the audience or invoking a muse. Tolkien didn’t do it in most of his fiction, but he wrote about what he called The Tree of Stories. Milton invoked a muse he referred to as The Holy Spirit. Shakespeare, in some of his plays, had the narrator invoke a muse. My favorite muse invocation is from Shakespeare’s King Henry V. The play begins with
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
The narrator is calling upon a muse to help them tell the tale of King Henry the fifth, a tale of war that could not be properly captured on a stage alone. At the end of the play, the author follows up the invocation of a muse with an apology:
Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen,
Our bending author hath pursued the story,
In little room confining mighty men,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.
This is a sentiment I feel a lot of writers share and one that I don’t think was entirely an affectation by Shakespeare. King Henry the Fifth was incredibly popular in England when Shakespeare was alive, so he likely felt exactly as the epilogue of the play depicts–the same way almost any amateur writer feels–like we’re not good enough to tell the story properly. It feels nice to see that even someone as huge in the literary world as Shakespeare struggled with these same feelings of inadequacy.
Remember, as long as you did something this month, even if it wasn’t necessarily more than you otherwise would have, the important thing to note is that you tried. Try often, fail frequently, and try again. As long as you’re willing to keep trying, you’ve never really failed. There are many lessons in a project and almost all of them come from the failures you experience as your go about completing it. Failure isn’t bad. Its part of learning and growing. If you don’t fail, then you’re not really pushing yourself. As Jake the Dog once said, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.”