My NaNoWriMo Novel Burned Down & I Cried

My NaNoWriMo Novel Burned Down and I Cried

When I sent Clara’s Return to Sherman Writing Services in October, I thought it was fantastic timing. Not only could I take a couple of weeks off to regroup and refresh, but I could also take part in NaNoWriMo. I’ve only ever completed NaNo once and that was when I wrote Clara. So, I wanted to have another go at it and I wanted to finish the next installment of the Lands of Sun and Stone Series.

The only problem was, I had already written some of it. The biggest rule in National Novel Writing Month is to start with a clean page. If you begin with a partially written manuscript, no matter the size of it, then that’s cheating. That’s having an unfair advantage over those coming to it with a blank screen.

So, I chucked what I wrote into the bin (metaphorically speaking: I rarely delete anything and instead keep everything I write in special folders) and started fresh.

writing NaNoWriMoBut I had a problem. I liked what I first wrote. I felt like it was pretty solid, but what I was writing now felt rushed, “thin”, and all-round crappy. I felt like what I had written before had more depth and meaning.

The frustration followed me through the days. No matter what I did (even cheating a little by dropping in already written portions) didn’t work. It still was bad. I started to avoid it and not work on it.

Now, I’m a big believer of Hemingway’s one-liner, “The first draft of anything is shit.” It’s my motto. In fact, I might even have it carved onto my gravestone. I thought, perhaps, that was what was happening. Perhaps I was romancing what I had already written, so I went back to re-read it with “detached” eyes.

No. It was definitely better. It was yards and miles better.


I work alone, out of my home office, and only see my writing buddies once a week. Therefore, I couldn’t look over to my nearest coworker and ask for help. I have asked the cat for help but all I got was a disgruntled glare in return.

Being on my own, I’ve learned to ask pointed questions to discover the source of problems. The first was, “How is this better?”

It was fuller. It contained more backstory and more thoughts from the characters. There were hints of foreshadowing and showed more characterization. The other draft…didn’t. The other draft was a snow plow going at full speed and hoping not to hit anything important.

Second question: “Why is this better?”

It didn’t take long to discover. It was better because I felt free to take my time with it. There was no deadline or word count or ticking clock hanging over my laptop. I felt free to write a little, do something else, and come back to it. I felt free to make tea and pet the kitty and stare into space. I felt free to create.

I love NaNoWriMo. For people who have trouble finishing stuff, then it’s fantastic for them. For people who adore deadlines, it’s perfect for them. But not every project fits the NaNoWriMo format. I realized, quite suddenly, that the next installment pf the Lands of Sun and Sun Series did not fit at all.

I brutally deleted everything new I had written. It went up in the flames of my computer’s recycling bin. I yanked out what I originally wrote, dusted it off, and placed them in all the places they needed to be, with a few differences.

In the end, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo. Part of it was that I didn’t want to finish it while using already-written material but also because Sherman Writing Services sent me the edits to Clara’s Return. (I can’t edit one project and write another. And I’ve tried!) I did cry a little.

To all of you who didn’t finish a novel this month, that’s okay! Feel free to finish in your time and at your own pace. I know I’m going to have to.


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