My #NaNoWriMo #Fail and Why That’s OK.

A bookshop in Lyme Regis

This year I have failed to complete NaNoWriMo and I’m fine with it because I recognise why. This month would have been my fifth, non-consecutive Nano, and whilst having a good idea, and lots of pre-writing, I couldn’t complete it. The reason I couldn’t is because I have realised I’m way past caring about quantity.

Nanowrimo gives you a number of great skills which every new writer should be challenged to complete:

  • quantity
  • finishing
  • dropping the inner editor
  • discipline

If you really want to write for a living/career, you’ll need all of the above with the addition of planning and quality. Nanowrimo doesn’t deliver those two. The format doesn’t care a jot about it. Which is good, because it’s really hard to learn the other aspects if one focuses on quality, or plans without the labour of writing.

Quantity is the main goal. Without it you’ll just be trying to run a marathon by taking zero steps.

Finishing is the second goal. Most writers start with incredible enthusiasm, then lose motivation and direction and abandon the idea. Writing is hard; writing without finishing is simply playing. Not good.

Dropping the inner editor is the third goal. How can you amass quantity and finish if you’re continually going back over your working rereading? In Nano-land the editor is unnecessary until you’ve finished; and completing Nano really works to shut down that part of your brain.

Finally: discipline is the stealth strength of Nano. To write a novel isn’t particularly difficult; it’s easy to produce one body of work in our lifetime. Being a writer however, means completing this feat of stamina time and time again. Nano teaches you to get up early, use your lunch break wisely, and turn off the TV (and social life) in the evenings. If you’re serious about writing you will need to start treating it like a job.

The problem with the final strength of discipline is the Nano work-ethic stops in December.

This is one of the main things which frustrated me. After four times of successfully competing Nano, each month in December, I stopped writing and got my life back to normal. In that sense completing Nano to become a writer is more like asking a fish to take a massive gulp of air instead of learning to grow a pair of legs and walk on the land forever.

Congratulations: you’ve written a (big) story. You still aren’t a writer.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Hey, I didn’t quit writing after Nano!’ Then great, you’re one of the very few people who I would say has a true writer-ethic. This blog post isn’t for you: it’s for all the December quitters—which includes myself.

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The Things A Student Will Not Receive By Doing A Degree Course In Creative Writing

Here is a list of things that creative writing students are not getting on their course:

1. The chance to focus

– Students should work on one story from first year to third year – this will reflect the effort involved and commitment from beginning to end. They currently do not. They try various things in the first year, focus on becoming employable in the second year, and get to focus in the third year.

2. Discipline

– Students should be pushed to write everyday and be marked down accordingly – this will reflect the professionalism needed to consider yourself a writer. Every writer has to learn that writing is a job. You have to work at it everyday. The students are not pushed to do this. Sure they are encouraged, but they should be pressed and marked down if they under perform. Blogging everyday for three months solid is enough to instill a routine in anyone. Peer pressure – a public leader-board – will get students to pull their socks up.

3. Rules

– Students should be given the rules of writing – they exist: why is the 3 act structure not considered until the third year? Why is plotting not covered until the third year?

4. Software and workflow guide(lines)

– Students should be given the ‘How’ element of writing. We are given the Why and the What, but How? For that we’re told to use Word and ‘see you next week with a thousand words’. Not good. There are a plethora of ways to write, and write well. The students are not given (in any formal manner) these discoveries from teachers, or told what has proven to work for established writers.

5. Mature student considerations

– If you are a mature student, you are not catered for. Eg: You will be asked to ‘get a job’ multiple times. You will be asked to write a CV multiple times. You will be asked to perform ‘teamwork’ tasks multiple times. As a mature student, you need none of these and it is largely (99%) a waste of your time.

These are just 5 ideas, and I have more, many, more.

Getting a degree at 40 is frustrating.

However, the MA course has a 100% track record of getting people published! What is the percentage for getting BA students published in their chosen course; not as copywriter, or in advertising, but selling fiction? 1%? Appalling.