Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Not Afraid to Fail by Tami Veldura

(source: everything technology marketing)

I have participated in the beast that is NaNoWriMo for six years straight. 

I haven't won even once.

I make a one month commitment every year for six years and I can't even say I've stuck to it for 30 days. I've either got the world's worst fear of commitment or I'm nuts, but either way I'm trying this thing again, and by Grabthor's Hammar, it will work this time. Right up until a friend of mine wants to hang out for an afternoon; then all bets are off.

When Chris Batty decided to get some friends together and write a stupid number of words in a stupidly short amount of time, he didn't actually think anyone would do it. He didn't really expect anyone to hit 50k. He thought he'd picked a number so unfathomably astronomical that the very thought of it would kick the inner editor out of the picture and allow creativity and progress to flow unimpeded. 

Then this thing took off like a pumpkin from a slingshot and thousands of people hit 50k words for years in a row. They developed techniques for hitting 50k (no contractions!) and debated the merits of pantsing vs. plotting. They built wordcount trackers and winners got digital badges of triumphAnd somewhere along the way NaNoWriMo became about hitting 50k words in 30 days no matter what or you didn't win.

I've done NaNo for six years in a row, and I haven't won once.

But I have done NaNo for six years in a row and I have made life-long friends who are just as crazy about writing and character and grammar as I am.

I have done NaNo for six years and I have learned more about time management than any public school press of homework could ever hope to teach me.

I have done NaNo for six years and I have screamed myself so silly I've cried in a public coffee house with nine other WriMo’s during write-ins.

I have done NaNo for six years and I have found hidden depths of genuine emotion in paragraphs of otherwise bland exposition. It takes 10 thousand hours of practice, 10 thousand paintings, and 10 thousand words before the real writing shines.

I've done NaNo for six years and I have seen communities spring up (#1k1hr, #writeordie) with the single purpose of driving this creative force within us to show what we're made of.

I've done NaNo for six years and I've grown as a writer in leaps that my school teachers would be pressed to explain.

I've done NaNo for six years and I have broken every rule they've set down and I still haven't managed to win even once, but NaNoWriMo isn't about writing 50k words in 30 days. 

Not really. 

It's about coming together and celebrating the arts. It's about taking a challenge and running with it with all your heart, even when the world says no. It's about proving that the impossible can happen every single day. It's about not having to prove anything to anyone. It's about expanding your horizons, taking leaps of faith, trusting your gut, stepping out of the comfort zone, rushing headlong into battle, and never settling for less.

It's about Butt In Chair, Words On Paper.

It's about producing.

It's for the love of craft.

Happy writing!

What has NaNoWriMo taught YOU so far? Are you in it to win it or just to have fun?

Tami Veldura is a 24yr-old fresh from college with a BA in long form creative fiction. Her first short story: Closer Than Touch is coming out in January 2012. You can find her on twitter @tamiveldura and her website. And finally, you can also find her as tamiveldura on the NaNoWriMo site. 


  1. Was last year your first time? Welcome to the club! You're practically a veteran by now! How many novels have you written this way since you figured out how well it worked for you?

  2. You could sign up for Camp NaNo instead. They basically do NaNo in months that aren't November just because Nov. is so busy for a lot of people. And you still get the community that way, though I don't know if they have as strong a following for real life gatherings. I guess that depends on your local community. I know some cities have get-togethers year-round.

  3. Hmmm that sounds like a possibility. Thanks!

  4. I LOVE this post!!! You're absolutely right! You hit every point about what makes doing NaNo so great -- just like most things in life, it's about the journey, not the destination. Although I do wish you lots of luck in "winning" this year. Seems to me, though, that you've more than won already. :)

  5. This is exactly the point. Thanks, Rik! The madder, the better. It all adds up to the thrill. And it sounds like doing NaNo was a life-changing experience for you. I feel like it changes me a little every year. Hope it's just as mad and fulfilling this year!

  6. Which reminds me... I never really used my CopySpace offer in previous years. I was never happy with the 'end product' so I kept postponing my free print copy. This year, however, it would be ridiculous to miss it again. :D

    And YES, I'd be extatic if you joined the loonies. <3

  7. Hmm, but the live and fast experience of NaNoWriMo is one of a kind. I'm sure it's not that good in other months... but of course it depends on the writer's schedule. It's worth it, however, to go through the motions. :)

  8. I agree with our head cheerleader, Jen Gracen! You found the perfect words and the right spirit to portray one of the most curious experiences in the writing world. I love this post, Tami. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!!! :)

  9. This will be my 6th NaNo and hopefully 6th win ;) I'm an ML for Lake County Florida and Love it. I've seen people who have never written more than a letter to a friend find a joy in creating stories short and long. I can't wait to start the wild ride this year with a new novel and a big bag of dark chocolate handy :)

  10. My first time participating in NaNo was just last November, and honestly I didn't expect to win. I thought I'd do my best, have some decent writing under my belt, and move on. But I got so darn competitive during that time! I would reward myself with gaming or hanging out with friends if I got my wordcount in for the day or week. Next thing I knew, I not only had written 50k in a month, but I had a near-finished novel before me.

    That novel's still in it's final drafting stage - it wasn't very clean at all after it came out of NaNo! But I've already got plans for the sequel underway, and about 25k written on it. I finished the July Camp NaNo this year too, and came out with 2 Big Bangs completed and my 25k book part. I guess if NaNo has taught me anything, it's that I can still surprise myself. Now that I've won it a few times, I know I can do it. It takes time, patience, and some understanding friends/family - but I can do it. And being able to throw myself into a novel for a month's time causes my characters to come out of the woodwork. I've turned minor nameless characters into main heroes just by forcing myself to keep writing. Sometimes that's the only thing that gets me through the tough spots. =)

    Just keep at it! You'll win it eventually. All your drafts combined, you might just have 50k in front of you!