NaNoWriMo 2016: How I Survived the November From Hell

This post has been cross-posted from J. R. Frontera’s author blog, but as all of us Wordrwraiths had quite a challenging year this year for National Novel Writing Month, we thought we’d share it here, too. Because in the end, we ALL still won! How did that happen? Read on to find out!


 

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner_congrats_modified

2016 was my 5th consecutive year of participating in National Novel Writing Month. (Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun!)

 

Beginning in October, as it has been every year since my first NaNo, I started getting very inspired. I really, really love the fall season for writing. Probably conditioned by my years NaNo-ing, as soon as the pumpkin spice flavor hits everything and anything, my brain and body go into full on “noveling” mode. So, naturally, I was beyond excited for NaNoWriMo Day #1 to roll around so I could FINALLY really dig in and get to work on that word count!!!!

Unfortunately, a few things were in the works that would not only derail my word count, but nearly take me out of the running for NaNoWriMo this year entirely.

Such Obstacles were:

  1. My writing partners and I hosted our very first online virtual workshop … a workshop for #NaNoPrep, in which we outlined all of our best strategies and tips for winning NaNoWriMo. It was an absolute BLAST. In addition to planning, filming, editing and uploading the workshop, we later hosted a live Q&A session, another first for us. And more fun. So. much. fun! However, doing this took up a lot of time (basically, the entire month of October). A lot of that time I otherwise would have used to plan my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. So, I didn’t pre-plan this year. (Which is, btw, breaking our #1 Tip for Success…)
  2.  I was again going to be a NaNo Rebel, meaning I wasn’t going to be writing a new novel this year. Even though last year I said I wasn’t going to edit for NaNo ever again, this November arrived and it was pretty clear I needed to edit for NaNo again. Not only was the novel I first started 3 years ago STILL NOT FINISHED (with edits), but I had already announced my next book, a collection of science fiction short stories, would be released November 15th, 2016. So Mistake #2: not starting a new project, which is always more exciting than editing an old one.
  3. And that leads into Mistake #3: I’d have a new book launch right smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo. (Yeah, don’t ask me what I was thinking, I really don’t know!) Which meant I had to polish that up before publication! DOH. So there was coordinating to do with cover designer and interior formatter, plus final edits, plus uploading and reviewing files, plus promoting … all during NaNo. -_-
  4. OH and THEN … we had The Election. To go into the trauma November 8th caused me would take far more time than I have right now, so that might be a post for a later day. For now, I’ll just say it caused me to spend days questioning the point of writing. Questioning my fellow Americans. Struggling very deeply with coming to terms that my country, and some friends and family, weren’t what or who I thought they were. I confess, I’m rather an idealist. Up until November 8th, I genuinely believed that overall, in the end, good and love would always win out over evil and hatred. On November 9th, I no longer believed that. And it absolutely, completely terrified me. Because if that’s not the case … then what hope do we have a species? What is the point in continuing? What is the point in each day, if ultimately the forces for good can be swept aside by the whims of a hateful few? I had just watched X-Men: Apocalypse a few days before, and in my despair and crushing depression, one scene in that movie kept coming to mind: the scene where Jean Grey finally lets go of her fear, transforms into Phoenix, and obliterates Apocalypse. And the refrain that fought up from my eternal optimism, still bubbling down in there somewhere unseen and forgotten, said, over and over and over:

NO FEAR.

UNLEASH YOUR POWER.

So how exactly did I survive this 5th NaNoWriMo when all of these things (especially #4) conspired against me? When I didn’t write for a whole week during a month where writing every. single. day was critical? When there were many days I seriously, seriously, more seriously than ever before in my life, questioned the point of writing anything at all?

  • I hung on to that mantra: No Fear. Unleash Your Power. I refused to be afraid. I refused to run away. I refused to stick my head in the sand. I resolved to do my part to fight hatred, intolerance, bigotry, and inequality in whatever way I could as one person. I realized I had power as an individual, because many individuals together can do great things. I resolved to never, no matter the circumstances, allow such things to happen in my presence. I vowed to always stand up and speak up.
  • I kept writing and editing, because that was the one immediate, solid thing to hang onto. As V. E. (Victoria) Schwab declared on her Twitter profile on November 8th: “I will get up tomorrow and write about a world where monsters are slain.” I realized the true power of fictional stories for escape, for representation in a way that could literally save a life, and as a force for change. I realized I cannot stop writing my fictional characters in their fictional world with their fictional problems, despite whatever is happening in our real world. None of us can.
  • I found community. Especially on Twitter, my feed was awash with people feeling the exact same things as me, retreating and coping in their own ways, and then coming back ready to fight for continued social justice. And since I’ve now cultivated an almost entirely creative community there, it was full of authors and artists rallying together as a group to commit to continued representation and resistance. Then I saw millions of dollars be poured into social justice, equality, and environmental protection agencies. I contributed myself to these organizations, made a list of representatives and senators to call, signed lots and lots of petitions, and generally did everything I could as an individual to be sure my voice was heard. And part of that was to continue with my books.
  • The Wordwraiths wouldn’t let me quit. Well, they certainly didn’t force me to finish NaNoWriMo, but not a single one of them was ready to give up on winning, and so I couldn’t either. Chalk it up to my secretly competitive nature, pure stubbornness, something, I dunno, but when my writing pals around me are writing and consistently updating their word count, I have to as well. Granted, November wasn’t easy for any of us. ALL of us struggled this year. One of us, Rod, had the absolute most epic come-back of all time, IMO. His graph was much more dramatic than mine. But the bottom line was, he didn’t give up. He still won. We all still won, despite everything November 2016 threw at us.

nano-graphs

To be honest though, it doesn’t really feel like winning. It was rather anti-climactic, given most of the 50k was in rewrites and editing (where an hour of focused editing = 1000 words). And I’m still fighting periodic bouts of depression and panic over the real world stuff. But, the point is … I still came out on top. I still made progress.

The point is, I’m still fighting. I published another book, and the one undergoing rewrites and edits will be queried out at the beginning of 2017.

So here’s to hoping.

Here’s to hoping the USA proves that good can win over evil, for realz. That the power really does lie with the people.

Here’s to hoping that Martin Luther, Jr. was right when he said:

“THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG, BUT IT BENDS TOWARDS JUSTICE.”

In the meantime, I will keep doing what I can, and slaying monsters with my pen.

❤ J. R. Frontera and the Wordwraiths

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