02 December 2012

Winning and Losing... And Why I Wouldn't Change a Thing

Well, November (aka the month of way too many crazy goals) is finally over, so now it's time to look back and see how I did...

1. NaNoWriMo (write a 50,000-word novel entirely within the month of November): I did it!! Well, at least, I wrote more than 50,000 words in November. In fact, if you count the blog posts, the fun, little short story / picture book draft and everything, I wrote WAY more than 50,000 words in November. But for my goal, I'm only counting the words I wrote for my actual NaNoWriMo project - a YA novel that I'm really excited about.

And even if you only count those words, I still wrote more than 50,000 words within the month of November. In fact, I wrote 50,250 words between November 1st and the evening of November 30th. So I won!!!

But according to the official NaNoWriMo website, I lost.

As you know, I write my rough drafts by hand. Now, there's no way I'm ever going to sit and count up my written words to get a word count on the handwritten pages... and NaNoWriMo doesn't let you declare yourself a winner unless you paste your document into the word count verifier anyway... So in order to get the official word count on the pages I write, I have to type it all up. And it took me until twenty-two minutes after midnight to finish typing the pages I wrote on Friday. So my official NaNoWriMo word count says that I'm 461 words shy of the 50,000 word goal.

I could be kicking myself for not typing faster or for any number of distractions that kept me from getting those last few pages typed up on time, but if I had it all to do over again, I would still choose to "lose" NaNoWriMo. Because instead of frantically typing on Friday night, my family and I took a plate of cookies to a friend who was having a really rough day and needed a reminder that she's awesome. And then I watched a movie with my kids for our regular family movie night. And by the time I got to start typing the pages at 10:30pm, my fingers weren't fast enough. The trade was worth it to me.

2. PiBoIdMo (Come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days): I won! By November 30th, I had not only 30 picture book ideas, but I've already written a (very) rough draft for one of them... AND I managed to come up with 2 1/2 new ideas for YA novels as well!!

And since I didn't have to type anything up or upload to a word verifier for this challenge, I'm a clear winner... no doubt about it. I can even display the awesome PiBoIdMo winner button here on my blog:
Unfortunately, I don't think this win actually "counts" either, because in order to be eligible for the prizes associated with the challenge, you had to comment on the registration post, declaring your intention to participate. And I was certain that I had done so. Positive, in fact. But I just scrolled through the list of comments on that registration post, and I don't see my comment anywhere.
Still, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm glad I participated in this challenge again this year. Actually, it wasn't even until I clicked on the post to declare my "win" that I even realized that there were prizes associated with the challenge. So I still got more than what I signed up for (or forgot to actually sign up for) - a notebook full of ideas for future manuscripts!! And that's worth it to me!
Update: I realized this morning that I had been searching the wrong post to verify my registration for PiBoIdMo. Turns out, I did sign up like I thought I did. So I'm not crazy. And this win totally counts!
3. Finish revising at least one of my two middle grade novels: I gave myself permission to move this goal to the new year. January will be a good month for revising and polishing, because December will be for finishing (my NaNoWriMo novel may be 50,000 words, but it isn't yet complete) and recuperating.
So this goal was all but forgotten in the chaos that filled my November. And usually, I'd be kicking myself over the fact that I didn't even attempt to work on it. (I didn't even OPEN either of the middle grade documents for the entire month of November!) But once again, if I'm being honest (and I wouldn't lie to you!!), I have to admit that, if I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing here either. Because as much as I like these middle grade manuscripts, I couldn't work myself up to excitement over either of them this past month, and I've learned from experience that when I try to work on the project that I don't want to work on, I generally end up making it worse, not better. But don't worry, I'm not casting these projects aside. I will be coming back to them soon!
4. Keep moving forward with querying my finished projects: I've entered my YA novel, KISSING FROGS into Pitch Wars, and I won't hear the results of the contest until December 12th, but I've decided to be optimistically delusional about my chances. And you know, the power of positive thinking is really working. I've decided it's best not to send out any more queries until I find out the results of this contest 10 days from now, because if I get picked by one of the awesome mentors and she suggests changes that make my amazing story into something phenomenal, I would want that version to be the one I send out. - And if I don't get to be one of the lucky ones in this contest, I've learned valuable "what to do when I'm waiting to hear back" skills in the process, so I'm still calling myself a winner.
5. Check in weekly with updates: Although I didn't manage to check in weekly, I did update my status on these goals fairly regularly, so (after this post) I'm checking this goal off as complete as well.
6. Maintain at least a small shred of sanity: I spent yesterday reading for fun, and then a friend and I took our children out to see the Christmas lights display at the botanical gardens... and I think I've restored my sanity fully! (At least, as fully as can be expected. I'm me, after all.)
7. Participate in the Spectral read-along: Finished!
8. Weekly Crock Pot Gourmet blog posts: My fourth recipe post was a little bit late this week. Instead of posting on Thursday, as originally planned, it didn't go live until today. Because on Thursday (and Friday), I didn't want to break from writing my NaNoWriMo manuscript to post the recipe. And on Saturday, I gave myself a mental health day, so that I could finish the week with goal #6 in the plus column. But I've had good response to the recipes so far, and so I think I'll continue this blog feature for now.
November was crazy, and I wouldn't want to do this to myself every month, but even if I had it all to do over again, I think I would. Because I learned a lot about myself in attempting to complete these challenges.
I discovered that I really write better when I'm not stressing and focusing on the elusive publishing contract that might be out there waiting for me. When I write the stories I want to write and focus on the ideas that excite me, not only is writing a pleasure, but my writing is oodles better than when I try to write for what's popular. If (when) I find the right agent to represent me... If (when) I find a publisher that wants to buy my book, it's much more likely to happen because I've been writing the stories that excite me. Because those are the stories that I can make come alive.
I discovered that my friends and family will cheer me on when I attempt crazy goals... and they'll pick me up and dust me off every time I stumble and fall on my way to the finish line. I'm not alone in my struggles, and I don't have to carry all of the weight on my own shoulders.
And I discovered that as good as it feels to check off long lists of items from my to do list, sometimes, the best choice is to throw the to do list away and spend a day with the people I love!

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