About That Life Thing

Since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve been running a few tweets each day in my stream to help drum up some awareness and interest in A Round of Words in 80 Days.  My tagline for the challenge is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life, which I felt was pretty accurate as a description since that’s one of the number one criticisms leveled at NaNo.

Apparently this offends some people who did NaNo and still managed to have a life.  They simply organized it around the writing.

To them I raise a toast and say congratulations on your accomplishment.  It is truly an impressive feat.  I say that with all sincerity.

Please know that I have no intention of offending anyone with my tagline.  There is not a sub-tagline there that implies that all people who do NaNo can’t possibly have a life.  But it is a fact of life that the majority of people who start NaNo fail at it because they do.  Also know that saying that you simply organized your life around the writing is offensive to the rest of us, as it implies that we don’t.

Here’s the thing, you superpeople:  I’m betting that most of you don’t work multiple jobs.  You’re probably not married.  You probably don’t have kids.  You probably don’t work 60 hour work weeks.  The rest of us who really feel like NaNo discriminates against those of us with a life do have one or all of these things.  There are certain segments of life that cannot be organized or rearranged.  That doesn’t mean that we are in any way lazy or incapable of being organized.

Read my blog for a week.  I routinely get astonished comments from readers about my freak organizational and juggling skills for everything that I do.  Yet your offended comment offends me.  Because I am a busy woman and I DO make writing a priority every single day.  I just do not have the leisure to produce at the rate that NaNo mandates.  Because all those non-negotiable, non-organizable aspects of life gets in the way.

THAT is why I started A Round of Words in 80 Days.  For everybody who is like me, for whom NaNo is not a challenge that fits our lifestyle, who wants a challenge at which we can succeed and feel good about ourselves rather than lock ourselves into an endless loop of self-flagellation and failure because that goal isn’t reasonable.

NaNo very clearly professes that it expects you to check out of life and ignore things for a month to put the book first.  That is totally fine, but it doesn’t work for a lot of people.  I’m not the first to say so, and I won’t be the last.  If it works for you and you can participate at that level without blowing off some or all of your personal responsibilities, that’s fantastic.  But know that you’re in the minority.

For the rest of you, the first Round of Words begins January 3rd.  Join us!

25 thoughts on “About That Life Thing

  1. While I know there are people who juggle job, home, family, favors, and even handle crises that arise AND STILL win NaNo (glaring at you, Lauralynn), NaNo just isn’t for everyone. It’s not all about how much time you have or how you manage it, either. There are plenty of people for whom working at that pace just makes no sense. They come out with a lot of crap that isn’t valuable to them. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just how it is. Why does everything have to be value judged based on what works for one person? Why do people feel like the internet has to be tailored so that they can’t possibly FIND a way to be offended? I don’t know.

    I think ROW80 was a great idea for building a community of writers, and helping members of that community strengthen their abilities to set and achieve goals, and it seems obvious to me that the idea was to be as inclusive as possible with a longer timespan and without the rigid word count rules that make NaNo what it is, but are simply not possible for all writers.

    We’re all at different levels, have different lives, want different things, and are in altogether different places. Can’t we just get along? Geez.

  2. I tried NaNoMo for the first time this year and while I have the responsiblities of family, home, and working ranch, NaNoMo has left me burned out and sleep deprived. I liked the idea of the challenge, but not the time table. Like another writer friend mentioned it seems to be the contest for singles and teenagers. I was luck to make it to 46K words, but that was with blowing off most things. Not looking forward to cleaning the house now.

    The point is I agree with both Susan and Kait, and I like the idea of ROW80. It seems more reasonable and less sleep deprived for those of us who fear our spouses and family might call family services for neglecting them.

    1. I tried NaNo again this year and managed excellent word count for about a week–and it meant blowing off 90% of my responsibilities. I spent the rest of the month catching up. SO NOT WORTH IT.

      1. The only thing that made it worth the effort was Smashwords NaNoWriMo promotional that let people post their manuscripts up. It brought in a lot more sales and sample downloads for my published work then I got in the last couple months, plus more exposure to my work.

      2. Sorry if this is a repeat comment. My Internet is giving me grief today and I think it ate my last comment. Briefly…

        I wouldn’t have done NaNoMo at all if it hadn’t been for the promotional at Smashwords. They were allowing people to post their manuscripts in a special catalog. This gave me the exposure I wanted and boosted my sales, so I was pleased with that aspect. But I won’t be doing it again. Like you say, “SO NOT WORTH IT.”

  3. As someone who has won NaNo the last two years…I’ve had enough. For starters, it’s in one of the worst possible months. This year my husband said, “You’re not doing that again are you? You stayed stressed out the whole month of November last year.” Every day I would go home from work thinking “Oh, no, I have to write at least 1667 words!” This is not the way we should feel about our writing. And when I looked at the forums and saw that some people had over 100,000 words halfway through the month, I thought “What? Do these people do nothing else?”

    Kait, I think you’ve done a wonderful thing for writers that have so much more to do than write. I wish writing was all I had to do, but that’s not the reality. I love this more relaxed challenge. Because it’s still a challenge…just not an unreasonable one. Yay for ROW80!

  4. I did NaNo for the first time last year, came close but no cigar. Last Nov. my hubby lost his job and my parents came to visit for Thanksgiving and I had 4 kids home on a month-long track break from school. I was happy with my 42K but most of it’s crap I still haven’t got around to editing despite trying 3 times over the last year.

    This year I did NaNo just to see if I could do it, and I did, surprising myself with over 51K. This year no one was on track break, no one came to visit, hubby remained secure in his job, but I did have a death in the family. I avoided the NaNo forums and joined a NaNo group on FB, made some amazing friends. BUT, now that I’ve done it, finished NaNo, with a story I am still excited about and actually looking forward to editing, I think I’m over the whole hype of NaNo.

    I got more accomplished, did better writing, during Joely’s MayNaNo for Coyote Con. More like your 80 Days Kait. I don’t think the January session is going to work for me, we’ll see, and I may join later in the year because I do like the idea.

  5. Oh, people need to get thicker skins, especially if they’re writers. I can’t believe they would take offense at your tagline. Maybe instead of griping about it, they should consider that there is no one single plan that fits all writers, and acknowledge that NaNo is not for everyone.

    You know me–I work full-time and have been in school the last four years almost full-time. I have three kids–all of whom are of age as of this year but two of which still live at home and require attention. I have a husband whom I don’t want divorcing me. I have a new granddaughter (OMG, she’s adorable!). I have friends who like to see me.

    Even with all this, I’ve managed to complete three full-length novels and a 22,000 word novella, not to mention almost half of a fourth novel, in the last four years. Throwing NaNo constrictions in on top–with its you-must-make-this-the-most-important-thing-in-your-life criteria–would have ensured an astonishing increase in the griping amongst family members having to pick up my slack in the househould even more than they’ve had to in the last four years. Not to mention the fact that I think, while a great motivator (much like a pitchfork in the ass), cramming a novel into a month probably isn’t producing the best writing one can produce.

    I’m not a writer who slaps words onto a page willy-nilly and then goes back and edits them all into beautiful prose. There’s nothing wrong with those who do, but my own philosophy has always been why do it twice when you can do it right the first time? So I carefully craft my sentences in my first draft. My CP/editor has a very easy job editing my work as a result.

    I like your way better–this Round of Words in 80 Days. It’s not demanding I abandon my family for a month. It’s not demanding that all I do is the actual writing–I’m currently slogging through planning my next novel using Susan Bischoff’s blueprint. (I’m actually liking it a lot–it’s making me think about the feasibility of some of my plot twists.)–and I don’t have to worry about that being finished before I start the 80 Days challenge. 80 days is more reasonable for a challenge–30 days for a novel from thin air? My hat’s off to those who can do it. I’m not one of them. Even my most simple novels that didn’t require a megaton of research like my upcoming one took me three months of more.

    Anyway, enough babbling. I’m looking forward to this. And I’m glad I’m not the only one that finds NaNo a bad match for my writing habits and life obligations & wants.

    1. Amen sister! Multidrafting is so inefficient for me. If what I spewed out is crap, it needs to be fully rewritten to fix it, and then I haven’t saved any time at all by doing a crap draft.

  6. I did NaNo this year and won. I’m married with children, but I’m a SAHM. Finding time to write was not a problem. Finding the motivation to write was another issue. 🙂 Even with having time to write, NaNo left me burnt out. On the other hand, I was burnt out on editing before I started NaNo.

    For me, the time crunch and outside accountability was extremely helpful. Over the past year, I’d accomplished very little writing. Now I have a rough draft and actually feel like a writer again. With ROW80, I have another opportunity to get that outside accountability. A slower paced, different rules, but something I think will work for me.

    I’m a goal oriented person, but I’m prone to set unrealistic goals for myself. And though I set deadlines for myself, my mind determines they’re not fixed.

    Now that I know ROW80 starts Jan 8, it gives me a firm deadline for editing my current WIP. I put it off for NaNo, it’s time to stop procrastinating.

    Anyway, it’s too bad people take offense instead of just looking at it as another opportunity. It’s getting to the point that if someone uses anything other than articles, pronouns, and conjunctions folks will get offended. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

  7. People seem to feel they are entitled to lash out at everyone who disagrees with them. Especially on the web, since it’s all annonymous. It’s dumb.

    Me? I’ve done NaNo (with the exception of this year) since ’05, and have had incredibly varied success. I’ve won, I’ve come close, and I’ve barely gotten 10K. And this was all while being married, or divorced, or starting a new relationship. My NaNo experiences have been all over the place. But you know what? I still love it. I love the challenge, I love the thrill of being on top of the word count, I love the community that springs up around it.

    And yet I have a non-NaNo life. And sometimes that life means I can’t participate, like this year.

    The one thing that – for me – NaNo does not do, and has never done, is to get me into a habit of writing daily. Because it’s a month long crazy push, I always feel I am entitled to a break on December 1st. And that turns into a lazy week, which then destroys any writing routine I’d had going in November. That, for me, is the biggest reason I don’t want to do NaNo again until I have a writing routine ALREAY SET. And something longer-term, something that lets me set my own goals, something (hey! Imagine that!) like ROW80 is much more suited to my life at the moment.

    1. I am a big big believer in writing every single day. I have issues with page fright when I don’t. And, too, since I have limited free time on any given day, making sure that I nibble away at that word count a little bit every day means that I’m still making steady progress, tortoise-style. That doesn’t work for everyone. I know some writers who write daily during the week and save weekends for family time. Or some who don’t write during the week and do a huge push on the weekends. Everybody’s different, and that’s why I was trying to create as much of an inclusive writing challenge as I could.

  8. I saw one of those tweets go by yesterday and it never occurred to me that the ROW80 tag could be taken that way. I’m willing to bet that if anyone offended followed the link, they probably would’ve had a better understanding of your intent.

    It’s a tag. It’s supposed to be short, sweet and enticing enough to make you want to know more. By that standard you succeeded.

    Imagine, even if it did fit in a tweet, you wrote this: The challenge that realizes you have a life, which totally doesn’t include you guys that rocked NaNo with no impact on your personal life, I don’t know how you did it, but I and a bunch of others couldn’t make the two work so I came up with this challenge for the rest of us lesser beings.

    That’s ludiculous. And would probably manage to offend somebody else.

    I’ll never do NaNo again for tons of reasons, but I know people that do it year after year and love it. It works for them and not me. No big, just the way it is.

    How about if you say NaNo was cake, I say great and we have cake. If I say NaNo almost killed me because I’ve got things to do and I’m going to try something else, you say great and we have cake. Seems like everyone wins that way.

  9. *Sigh*

    I love NaNo, I finish it every year but this year was hard. I’ve five small kids, I was sick for half of November, my youngest was teething and I ended up hating my manuscript AND now I’m burned out. I’m glad I finished but it became a painful chore. Fair play to anyone who fits writing around their life but sometimes people need a bit more time and flexibility because life has a way of throwing up obstacles.

  10. I agree. I gave NaNo a try this year for the first time for the motivation. I agree it did that for me. It made me stop procrastinating about writing. What I also found is that it made me the ignore the most important thing in my life, which is my family. I have a 4yr old and he simply cannot understand why I was crabby with him, if I paid attention to what he was doing at all.

    I found out one more important thing about NaNo: that I enjoy writing much more on my time and on my schedule. If that makes me less of a writer to others, so be it. I’m sticking to the old adage: It’s quality, not quantity.

    Thanks for this post, Kait. I feel so much better, as I gave up pretty much after the first week. I continued to write, just decided not to abide by word count restrictions.

  11. I’m signing up for ROW80. Thank you for putting it together! It will be my first writing challenge. I considered NaNo, but being a working mom, it sounded like at the end of November, my kid and animals would be starving, there would be laundry up to the ceiling, not a clean dish in the house, mold in all the toilets, days where I’d fall asleep on the keyboard at work, a husband checking into divorce paperwork, ticked off family members, and maybe even a few morning where I’d be so tired, I’d oversleep and have to forego a shower. No thanks. Not at this point in my life! However…ROW80 sounds a little more manageable. Accountability and a little ‘kick in the pants’ to get at least a minimal word count in each day. Word count? Yikes. Gotta go work on a project that I’m trying to finish this month…

  12. I don’t understand NaNo at all. Do people really spend all year researching and prepping to start a mad-dash writing spree in November? My projects start and end when they start and end, not on an arbitrary schedule. I set my daily word count so I can be as productive as possible without risking burn out. The day job and the family only leave a couple hours of free time each evening for writing…and reading…and everything else I’d like to do with my life.

    Why does anyone think NaNo is a good idea? Writing is like anything else in life. If you’re serious about it, you make it a healthy part of your ongoing lifestyle. Just like diet and exercise. And watching cartoons.

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