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How I Failed NaNoWriMo (and November Isn’t Even Over Yet)

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For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month. Which is insane and incredibly impressive to pull off. The real idea here is to challenge yourself in your writing while interacting with a supportive community. It’s kind of a really cool thing, and this year I was determined to actually participate.

And I did. For a week.

I’ve written on here many a time about how “one day I’d like to write a book.” But I never have. I have an endless number of pages of started and never finished books, though. And apparently now I have another one to add to that collection.

So, why didn’t NaNoWriMo work for me?

Moving past the debilitating fear that overcomes me at just the thought of another human being reading my fiction, let’s get to the part where I’m really, really bad at writing on a schedule. The way I write stories (or pieces of books) is that I get inspired, write it down, and then ignore it until I’m inspired again. That is not the way to actually finish a book.

Writing a book is hard. It’s really, unbelievably, incredibly hard. And I should know because I’ve never managed to finish writing one.

I am easily distracted. I was really good about writing my daily word count for the first week of November, and then one day I was like “oooh Cupcake Wars is on Netflix” and then I was like “I want to make cupcakes” and then I was like “I ate too many cupcakes and now I need a nap.” No writing got done that day.

And once I stopped, I couldn’t manage to start up again.

So let’s just say that, as of November 20th, I’ve given up on NaNoWriMo for 2014. Maybe I’ll try again next year. Maybe I just have to accept the fact that I don’t write well under this kind of pressure and figure out the way that works best for me. But one thing that I won’t give up on is the idea that, one day, someday, I am going to write a book. Even if I never show it to another human being. I’m going to finish one. I will.

To all those brave enough to be participating in NaNoWriMo, I applaud your efforts. Seriously, keep up the amazing work. And please, learn from my mistakes and stay away from Netflix.

And for those of you dying to learn what the book I started was about, I guess maybe I’ll force myself to share a little of the 5,789 words that I actually did manage to complete. It’s untitled for now (and possibly forever if I never actually finish it). But it does have a lot of random references to ’90s movies and Harry Potter. So if you like our blog, you’ll probably at least be semi-amused by this. It’s hard for me to express to you what a big deal it is for me to even been sharing this little piece of something I wrote. So. Be kind. Or don’t. But at least read it.

Here’s an expert from a random spot in the middle of my very unfinished and unedited book:

I walked into my freshman dorm room on my first day of college, nervously watching as all the other students had their parents help them move in. My mom had put me on a train from Albany. All I had were a couple of suitcases. Good thing that all the moving I did in my life had taught me how to live lightly.

I walked into my room and was overwhelmed by the color pink. And then a girl who was basically pink personified, ran over and hugged me. Not used to being touched by strangers, I stood there stiffly until she let go.

“Oh my gosh! You must be Marley! I’m Ashley! How cool is that? Marley and Ashley…our names totally sort of rhyme!” Ashley was tall, model skinny, with long shiny perfectly straight brown hair. She was gorgeous in an obvious way, all legs and perky attitude. And she was wearing a pink tank top and the tiniest little shorts I have ever seen in my life. I glanced down at my ripped jeans, worn out black converses, and black V-neck t-shirt. My dirty blonde hair was pulled into a messy, curly bun on top of my head, and I wore no makeup. I was also about 6 inches shorter than her. Yeah. Ashley and I were basically complete opposites.

Too stunned to inform her that, no, our names do not in fact “totally, sort of rhyme,” I stared at her silently. She looked back at me expectantly. Oh, right, this is the part where normal people are supposed to respond.

“Um, yeah. Hi,” I said, brilliantly. “Nice to meet you.”

“My parents already moved me in and left, so I can help you,” she said, practically bouncing up and down. “Where is your parents’ car? I can help you get the rest of your stuff.”

This was a very sweet offer, but all I could say was, “Actually, this is all my stuff. I came down by myself.”

She looked at me curiously, and with a hint of pity. I couldn’t have that. I do not stand for being pitied.

“I’m just a minimalist, you know?” I wasn’t by choice, I just didn’t have the money for stuff. Plus, the more stuff you have, the harder it is to move quickly. As my mom always said, “Things aren’t important. People and the memories you make with them are important.” I think that was just her way of making me feel better about never buying me an EZ-Bake oven or a My Size Barbie.

“Oh. Okay,” Ashley said. “Well, do you want to, like, come meet our neighbors with me or something?”

“Sure, I guess. I can unpack later.” I wasn’t exactly the type of person to go out of my way to introduce myself to people. Usually I only talk to people if they talk to me first. But I was determined to make an effort here, to try to make friends.

I was not off to a great start.

It was clear to me, as I followed Ashley from room to room, that people loved her. She had this easy way of communicating with every person she met, acting like they were lifelong best friends who just hadn’t seen each other in a while. We would knock on our neighbors’ doors, she would introduce herself and me, and then they would start talking about where they are from, what classes they are taking, when the first party of the year would be. Everyone was polite and nice to me, but you could tell that they were more interested in Ashley. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful. She was kind of…mesmerizing.

By the time we got to the last door on our hall, we had been joined by a couple girls from another room. There was Morgan, a pretty red head who immediately took a liking to Ashley. And Morgan’s roommate Lia, a gorgeous African American girl who was just as tall as Ashley. The three of them looked like models next to me. Is this what people look like in college? Or is it just that all attractive people tend to gravitate toward and befriend other equally attractive people?

I felt uncomfortable, but I was trying to be a part of the group. For once in my life, I was working really hard to fit in.

Morgan knocked on the last door, and after a bit of shuffling around, a shaggy, brown haired head popped out.

“Hello?” he said, looking a little overwhelmed by the four of us standing there.

“Hey!” Ashley responded. “I’m Ashley and this is Morgan and Lia and Marley. We’re your neighbors!”

The guy looked at each of us as Ashley pointed, nodding his head in the universal boy silent “what’s up?” manner.

He opened the door a little wider to let us in. And what I saw in that room changed my life. That sounds dramatic, but it’s actually kind of true.

I vaguely noted another guy in the room, hanging up posters around the walls. It was the posters that really caught my attention, though. They were around the entire room. It didn’t look like the guys had separated their room right down the middle like every other dorm we had been to that day. They appeared to have agreed to a cohesive design scheme. And that scheme? It was apparently “Children’s sports movies from the ‘90s.” They had posters from all three of The Mighty Ducks movies, from The Sandlot, The Little Giants, The Big Green, Angels in the Outfield. Those movies were my favorite as a kid, and I could not believe that there were other people in the world who loved them as much as I did.

“Um, Marley?” I turned around to see the five other people in the room staring at me. I realized then that I had been walking around the room, looking at each of the posters in turn. The boy who had opened the door was looking at me curiously.

I smiled at him, suddenly feeling weirdly confident. Like I knew that our mutual appreciation of the Disney Channel Original Movie Brink! was going to bond us for life (which sounds preposterous, but is actually exactly what happened).

“What, no Rookie of the Year?” I asked teasingly.

He immediately smiled back and walked closer to me. “We haven’t been able to find that one yet!”

“I’m disappointed in you, Rulenfurter,” I responded, referencing a running joke throughout that movie where one of the characters constantly mispronounces the last name of the main character, Henry Rowengartner.

The guy grinned at me, clearly getting the reference. “Yeah, well, we want a pitcher, not an underwear snitcher,” stealing another line from the silly movie about a 12 year old boy that gets drafted to pitch for the Chicago Cubs.

“I’m Brandon,” he said, sticking his hand out for me to shake.

“Marley.”

We stood there grinning stupidly at each other for a couple seconds when I heard Morgan say, “Um, what just happened? What are they talking about?”

Brandon’s roommate groaned, patted Morgan on the head like she was a little kid, and said “You’re killing me, Smalls.” Not only could Brandon quote Rookie of the Year on demand, but his roommate casually threw out The Sandlot references? Who were these guys?

“I’m Simon,” Brandon’s roommate said to me. I got a good look at the two of them. They both had brown hair, but that’s basically where the physical similarities ended. Brandon’s hair was longer, messier. He was a couple inches shorter than Simon, with a stockier build and bright green eyes. Simon’s hair was cut close to his head. His ears stuck out a little in a way that would look goofy on anyone else, but looked adorable on him. He was taller and skinnier than Brandon and had a friendly smile. I immediately liked them.

“Okay, well, we’re going to get dinner,” Ashley said to us, looking at me curiously. Simon turned that bright smile on to her, and I saw her stand up straighter. Both Brandon and Simon were attractive guys, for sure, but Simon was more striking. Ashley put her hand on his arm, clearly trying to flirt.

“Would you like to come with us?” she asked, leaning toward him.

I glanced at Brandon, and watched him really notice the three beautiful girls I had walked in with. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so confident anymore. Sure, these guys would joke around and quote silly movies with a girl like me, but they would never look at me like they were looking at the other girls.

“Yes, we’ll come with,” Simon responded. Ashley looped her arm in his and practically dragged him out of the small room. Lia grabbed Brandon’s hand and led him out, taller than him by a few inches. Morgan and I followed behind.

“Um,” I said quietly. Morgan glanced over at me. I hadn’t actually spoken directly to her yet. “I think I’m going to skip dinner. I still have to unpack. Tell the others where I went, okay?”

She just shrugged at me and said “Okay, bye,” and caught up to Lia and Brandon. I watched them for a couple seconds, then walked back to my room. Who was I kidding? I would never fit in with girls like that. And no guy would ever look at me the way Brandon and Simon looked at Ashley, Lia, and Morgan.

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Author: Lori

Lori is a writer living and working in New Jersey. Her greatest literary influences are Dr. Seuss, JK Rowling, and Harriet the Spy.

2 thoughts on “How I Failed NaNoWriMo (and November Isn’t Even Over Yet)

  1. Sounds like an interesting story! I hope you finish it 🙂

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