On Quitting and When It’s Good for the Soul

Last Saturday night, with just under a week of November left, I decided to quit NaNoWriMo this year. This means that I won’t be finishing up And the Devil Will Drag You Under, and that for the first time in sixteen years of participating, I won’t “win” NaNoWriMo (meaning, I won’t reach that 50,000 word goal).

This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I did it after much soul searching and pondering. After all, after participating for sixteen years, it feels like a matter of honor to cross the finish line and reach that word count goal. I’d like to see that little purple bar in my profile on the NaNoWriMo website, but it’s not going to happen this year. And as a Municipal Liaison, it sort of behooves me to do my best to participate for the entire month, and quitting it feels like a dereliction of duty.

So why would I do such a thing?

Mainly, I just wasn’t into the novel. While I think that And the Devil Will Drag You Under has some interesting elements to it, on the whole I wasn’t enjoying it. Working on it had become a chore, and no fun at all; and by Saturday, when the word count goal was supposedly 41,675, I had only reached 13,962. And every moment that I was working on Devil, I was actually fantasizing about other works in progress that I want to work on. Padma, for example. And the five short stories that I’m working on to get ready to market. But no, I couldn’t work on those while NaNoWriMo was going on, which meant that I was beginning to resent Devil, and NaNoWriMo itself. I didn’t want to go into that psychic space. I’m not burned out on NaNoWriMo, but I could feel myself getting there. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get all the way there.

So over the past sixteen years, I’ve written fourteen novels for NaNoWriMo (years 2012 and 2013 were two parts of the same novel). In my opinion, that’s nothing to sneeze at or scoff. Some of them are good and deserve further work and development. Some of them are bad and don’t. Padma (2016) is a good one. #M For Murder (2015) probably isn’t. Fred Again (2005) has a lot of potential, but also needs a lot of work. And while Code Monkey (2009) was a lot of fun to write, its issues are daunting.

So the plan now is to choose two novels out of those fourteen, and develop them to a point where I feel really good about them. I want two novels that I can pitch to editors and agents at WorldCon next August.

I’m not sure what all this means for NaNoWriMo 2018, honestly. Will I participate again? Am I burned out on the whole thing after all? It’s certainly possible (likely, in fact) that when November 2018 rolls around I’ll have another idea that I want to develop, and I’ll sign up again. But it’s also possible that I won’t. Details are unclear.

But whether or not I choose to go forward with NaNoWriMo in the future, a few things are clear: First, I have a few novels with potential that I can develop further. Second, I’ve learned a lot about writing and the writing process (especially my own). And third, I’ve made a lot of great friends, even if I only see some of them in November.

So yeah. Quitting NaNoWriMo was a good idea this year. It’s good for my writing. It’s good for my soul.

And to all those who are continuing forward: Good luck!

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

One thought on “On Quitting and When It’s Good for the Soul”

  1. “I’m not sure what all this means for NaNoWriMo 2018, honestly. Will I participate again? Am I burned out on the whole thing after all? It’s certainly possible (likely, in fact) that when November 2018 rolls around I’ll have another idea that I want to develop, and I’ll sign up again. But it’s also possible that I won’t. Details are unclear.”

    I hear that. I’ve been pretty burned out on NaNo for years now–I don’t even care about going to the meetups or posting to forums any more. I was seriously considering quitting this year except for not wanting to break my streak either. I have also had whopping “I don’t care about writing” in the era of Trump, I haven’t written a journal entry since January officially. (And as for my novel idea I mentioned at writing group, upon rereading that book, I quickly lost my taste for the idea. I’m not in the mood to write about a poor little rich girl doing philanthropy right now, and one of her love interests is really a giant damn turd.)

    So I ended up just writing down/trying to recreate all the lost journal entries I would have done this year were I not obsessively reading Trump news every night. This has actually gone really well, I’m all caught up, and hopefully will hit 50k tonight. I think I’ll even be able to do Holidailies this year. It’s helped to get me back in writing groove big time. Added bonus: pulling this off while taking a class that has a lot of homework/writing at times.

    So while the last few years I’ve been circling the drain about NaNo burnout myself, at least I got some writing done, is how I’m thinking of it. It’s a little late now for this idea, but I think if you’re having a problem like you were this year, try switching to writing or working on something else rather than plugging away at what you’re hating. You’re not like me in that you only have 1 “novel” idea a year, you usually have other things you could do. Really, the goal is to get writing done, so get it done however you can. They have “NaNo Rebels” for a reason 😛

Leave a Reply