A blog is an autobiography written as you're reading it.

Fail Hard

Looking back on January and forward to more writing

January was going to be perfect. NaNoWriMo and All Right had gone so well. I told myself that it was different this time: that I’d get writing and stay writing. But from the start, obstacles started to pile up.

We drove home on New Year’s Day, and right off the bat I was a day behind. I wrote a few days, and then my brother-in-law and his wife were in town, and I missed another few days. My wife and I decided to buy a house, and I spent free time wrangling contracts and mortgages and only writing my signature. Then, we packed up and went to Birmingham, Alabama for a work conference.

My manuscript went from “a few days behind” to “yikes” to “wow, it’s the end of the month and I still have only five thousand words.” I missed far more days than I wrote: 21 misses, and only 9 days with writing. Some of those weren’t even on Fullblood: I spent my writing time working on anything but Fullblood because I knew how behind I was.

I thought the time away at the end of the month would be a peaceful week to finish up a novel, and Fulllblood seemed like a good candidate when the month began. I thought I could do a JanNoWriMo to follow up NaNoWriMo, and I was even thinking about the novel after that one, possibly another NaNoWriMo in 2019.

Well, January didn’t go so hot, and now I’m left with (still) no manuscript, (still) no finalized plot, and (still) no strong sense of the story I want to tell. Fullblood has been on this rodeo before: it’s my third try coming up with a complete manuscript for the book.

Aside from not having the free time I expected, I made poor use of the time I did have to write. Look, Fulllblood’s plot needs more time in the oven, and every time I sat down to draft, I felt like I was leaving huge swatches unknown. It kept me from getting in my character’s head, and it didn’t help that main characters were floating around nebulously during the drafting process. I even changed my point-of-view character the day before I started January.

I should have scrapped the drafting from Day 1, because it was clear that I needed to do some more planning. Fullblood is an old story, and layers and revisions hang around it like spent chrysalises. I needed more time to clear away the cobwebs and come up with a new, cohesive plot that could bear the weight of daily, sustained drafting. I didn’t have that.

Other projects are a bane, in a way. When I sat down to write, Fullblood felt like a chore, and anything else that I could produce seemed like a better use of my time. I drafted out a few personal essays that I hope to use in the future, and even dinged around on some poetry. My Russian Seven Sisters story is still dormant and in the idea phase, but it zipped around in my brain when I was supposed to be thinking about Fullblood.

When I wrote All Right in November, it was the only thing on my mind. I knew I had a good plot, I had a good start on a manuscript, and for thirty days it was all I thought about. Every minute went towards the day’s deadline and at the end of the month, I had a finished novel. I ate and breathed the book for thirty days.

Fullblood wasn’t so fortunate. Plenty of non-writing things were around to distract me, and plenty of other writing projects were around, to boot. Now, when I look forward at the next few months, Fullblood is one option among many.

(I could pick up All Right again. The first draft is rough, and I’d love another crack at the story. It definitely needs the editing — it’s just a question of when. But that would leave Fullblood hanging, abandoned for the third or fourth time)

No matter how much I hate it, I think writing might have to be shunted to the side for a few months. After March, we’ll be moved into our new house, and we can settle into a good rhythm again. I could use the time to develop Fullblood — more slowly — and tackle a manuscript in April or May.

It doesn’t matter: if writing is happening, the months won’t be wasted time. Who knows, maybe a slower, more iterative approach to the story will help me to slowly immerse myself in Fullblood and come to love it the way I love All Right. Maybe a few other writing projects here and there will spark my creativity on the roadblocks in Fullblood’s stubborn plot. Maybe waiting a few months for life to settle down is a realistic option, if not the most romantic one.

It’s never easy to admit failure, and I feel like I’ve failed hard with Fullblood and the whole month of January. But, I’m a writer, and writers write. I’m going to jump into Fullblood with renewed vigor on February 1st: not so I can write 50,000 words in a month, but so that I can lay the foundation to finally get the whole story down on paper.