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All Things Writerly: It’s Okay to Fail

Posted on Nov 29, 2013 by in Features | 1 comment

So I finished my book for National Novel Writing Month.  My fourth successful year participating in NaNoWriMo, in a row, and I’ve come to accept something that I’ve always heard, but never really understood.  Until now.

It’s okay to fail.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Didn’t you just say you completed it?  You finished your book!  How is that a failure?”  You are correct.  I did say that.  And I did finish it.  But is it really a book?  Is it really something that I’m proud of, something I want to share, something that I ever want to publish?  Absolutely not.  To be completely honest, it’s complete and utter crap.  It doesn’t flow.  It doesn’t make the necessary connections.  And two of the five main characters are simply nothing more than over-glorified plot devices who walk and talk, getting the story from point A to point B.  So why am I admitting this?  And why did I finish it?

The answer to both of those questions is simple: To get more material.  Practice makes perfect, which is true to a certain extent, but not because of the ideas about honing your craft and all that jazz.  You can go to school and learn from the masters how to write well.  Writing well involves making a story flow, following all of the basic rules to a successful narrative, and maybe breaking a few of those rules in your third, fourth, or even forty-ninth draft.  But that’s not the point of NaNoWriMo.  The point (or, at least, what I’ve decided is the point for me personally) is that you are simply sitting down, ignoring all of the rules and just doing the one thing that makes writing fun: Writing with complete reckless abandon.

Did my story go anywhere in the end?  Not really.  Is it something that I’m going to give a second glance years from now and try to salvage into a real-life novel?  Probably not.  But I accomplished a few great things with this year’s adventure:

* I left my comfort zone.

* I created a couple of really cool characters.

* I got a lot of really bad writing out of my system.

* I have dozens of potential new short stories.

* I opened myself up to a new genre as a writer.

* I finished, even though I knew it took on a life of its own.

* I failed gracefully.

So, all in all, this year’s novel may have been a failure, but in writing, there really isn’t such thing as flat-out failing.  Unless you don’t write anything down.  Then you’ve definitely failed.  So don’t do that.  That would be bad.

1 Comment

  1. I skipped NaNo this year, but I'd done it three times prior, and finally made it all the way to the finish line last year.

    The story was a mess. Just… Ugh.

    I closed the file (after sending in a copy to get my word count verified on the site) and didn't look back. But the last couple weeks, I've been remembering certain bits and pieces. Thinking about how I ended it (if I remember it correctly), and some things I wrote that kind of stick out as not completely terrible. I still haven't opened the file back up, but I might actually be looking forward to getting around to it now.

    It's better to have written something. Anything. Maybe it is all truly terrible. But it's possible something is in there that has some value. If nothing else, I felt like I accomplished something by the end of it (and I wear the t-shirt proudly).

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