NaNo Notes: Hitting the Wall

whydowefallAs Alfred famously said to a non-gravel voice Bruce. “Why do we fall, Master Bruce?”

Maybe you’ve hit a wall in your writing. This could be your first shot at NaNoWriMo, or you could be an old hand at it that simply was standing in the wrong spot when the guano life is capable of hit the proverbial fan. This can happen to anyone, and usually does. I’ve hit it now. Twice.

The original time that I hit the wall it was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. During those years, I had become certified in driving a 15 person passenger van. You don’t need a special licence to drive one, but you do in our state if you’re planning to drive the state employee van pool. Which is why I was going to be driving members of my mother’s rather large family to Pennsylvania for the funeral of her twin sister’s husband. The man that introduced my parents.

Even once I was back from the funeral I couldn’t write. Something in me had broken and I had lost the voices. Also, I couldn’t bring myself to write about death. This could also be the reason why I have resisted ever trying to write zombies again. That first story was a zombie story. I’ve never returned to it. I’m not sure I even kept a copy of the attempt.

This time around it was Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. I’d decided to write a collection of short stories. My goal was to do 30 short stories in 30 days. So, roughly, 1700 words per story. After Day 1 (and a story stretching to just under 5000 words), I knew there would be problems with this goal. I still intended to get 30 stories out of the attempt. My word count would just be high.

The 17th of the month, I had to put my dog down. I won’t reflect too much on it, but you can visit my 13th story for the month written the morning of the 18th on this blog. My 8th story will never see print as well, because it was for my family.

Brick WallI hit the wall. Or, more to the point, the wall hit me. It then backed up, rolling over me again, switched back to drive and hit me one more time before driving off. Once the 13th story was done that morning I didn’t write a single word the next four days. Around 7000 lost words by the “goal.” And when the words came back, they were missing something. An energy and life to them, now dormant.

I possess a truly staggering amount of sleep disorders. Stress is the usual spark for my insomnia. Now add in me being alone in the house for the first time in twenty years. Son moved out, dog is gone, and wife is staying out of town. There were a few nights I didn’t really sleep. And I still don’t sleep well those nights of the week I am alone. I’m not saying this to say, “Look at how awesome I am… I fought through this!” Because I didn’t. I was dragged through it kicking and screaming the whole way.

Writing is a solitary life. None of y’all are getting up with me to get out to the coffee shop at 6 am to start writing every morning. And I know there is nobody in the house at 11 pm on those nights when I am going over my notes. But it was the extended NaNoWriMo community as a whole that lit a fire under my ass and got me writing again. It was that drive that put me into a pair of days topping over 5000 words each to drive my word count over the top.

A while back there was a blog on the NaNoWriMo site about a participant that had been writing in an active war zone while in the marines. She knew it would be impossible to verify the word count by the end of the month, but she was determined to hit the 50,000 words. Her C.O. and unit made it possible for her story to get verified just before midnight on the last day.

While I couldn’t join in with my cabin on word wars due to writing schedules and writing styles (I go for longer jaunts than most of them do), I wasn’t doing direct interaction with them. But I knew they were there. I knew my goal would count against their group word count if I didn’t hit 50,000. They were part of my unit. As were the local NaNoWriMos that I knew I’d be connecting with in a couple of months.

Would it make a difference if I didn’t hit my 50k for the month? Not really. Everyone has to suffer a loss, and those rarely correspond to our schedules. It would have been perfectly fine for me to drop the project and just process it. Nobody would have judged me for not crossing the finish line.

Is all of those last thirteen days of writing good fiction? Probably not. There is likely a lot of crap in there that will be edited out. And that’s assuming that it’s a story worth keeping. At least one of those stories had a dog appear in it, even though I had told myself at the beginning there wouldn’t be – that I needed to write about something else besides animals.

weve-all-got-jobs-to-doAs I stated in previous blogs (and am totally adopting as a mantra), “We all have a job to do.” Scott Wilson (the actor who played Hershel on The Walking Dead) is coming to Comicon here in Wisconsin in February. I think I need that signed on a photo.

For the rest of you, assuming you came here due to hitting your own wall, I give you this. You are not alone. Ours is a solitary job, but that never means you’re alone. If nothing else, going out to a write-in and talking with other writers might stoke the fires. Or could be the validation you need to let this one go. And if you’re in Wisconsin, let me know. I will put my write-in on hold if you want to talk through the crap that tumbled down on you.

If you feel like you need to make it over that finish line, I will sling you over my back like it’s Private Friggin’ Ryan and drag you there kicking and screaming. (Figuratively, that is. I have spinal injuries after all.) If not, I will listen and let you work through not making it. It’s your call but…

You are not alone.


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