If you want to be a writer, you have to be comfortable with failure. Failure isn’t bad, though. It (hopefully) means you’re learning and growing. But more importantly, failure means you’re trying.
I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2007, and Camp NaNoWriMo since it began around 2010. The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For Camp NaNo, you can set your own goal. Out of the 11 years I’ve done NaNo, I’ve only succeeded twice. That’s an 18 percent success rate, which is preeeeeetty bad. For Camp NaNo, my success rate is in the same ballpark, even with being able to set my own goal.
And yet every April, July, and November, I throw my hat in the ring, not caring too much if I “win.” My goal is rarely to complete a project; it’s usually something along the lines of “get my butt back in gear” or “for goddess’s sake get SOMETHING, ANYTHING written.” My goal, in other words, is to fail better.
In 2017, I heard from several literary agents who enjoyed my short story collection but wanted to know if I had a novel. This did not surprise me (the novel part; I’m always surprised when someone likes my writing), but it did light a fire under my ass to finish revising the novel I’ve been working on since grad school. I’ve been through many, many drafts and while I know this absolutely not be the final draft, I’m hoping it’s maybe the third-to-last draft.
Even though the novel itself is cooperating beautifully (probably because of all the previous drafts), I’ve been struggling to stay on track with my (self-imposed) revision goals. I wanted to revise 13,000 words a month, but I have yet to hit that target. Like, at all. I really don’t want to be writing this novel for the next ten years, so enter Camp NaNoWriMo.
By and large, I’m content with steady progress, even if it’s always slower than I wish (I want it to be done RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT). Unfortunately, my progress has been less than steady. It’s come in fits and starts, and there are huge blank swathes of time on my progress tracker (a Google Docs spreadsheet). Since I know I’m unlikely to hit 50,000 words this month, and because this isn’t a shitty first draft, I set my goal at 25,000 words revised for the month, which equals 800-850 words a day. It’s higher than my normal word count goal but still doable in less than an hour, and will count for 2 months of revision to help me “catch up” to where I want to be.
Who knows? If this Camp goes well, perhaps I’ll stick to the 800 words a day goal and finish revising earlier than expected! (Hah. Yeah right.) But even if I don’t hit 25,000 words, I’ve already got more than 3,000, and it’s only day four. I’m already ahead of my progress for March. And so I write on, and hope to fail better.