NaNoWriMo is over.

I failed.

Or did I?

I’ve written close on 27,000 words this month of a story of much greater substance of anything I’ve written before. Not only that, it’s considerably longer than anything I’ve ever written before. It’s still way unfinished – I’m still only about one and a half pages through the three page synopsis I wrote, but even so, my writing started well. As I began to waver, though, it got harder and harder to keep going, or even to simply start writing again, because I felt I was falling so far behind.

All up this month, I’ve written about 100,000 words: most of that went into NaNoWriMo, but a large quantity went into reports and assignments, IRC, instant messaging, social media, the magazine I edit and write for, even technical documentation. One thing I know is that I’m very capable of writing a good story, given time, but without it, I’m crippled. I compose much too slowly; I averaged about 30 words per minute while composing (which makes my word war performance over 10 minutes about 300 words, typically a bit below), but I can type at about 80 words per minute. I think fast enough, I tell the story fast enough in my head, so why can’t I compose fast enough?

There’s one reason that I can think of: I’m a perfectionist.

NaNoWriMo is all about writing prolifically and braindumping story as fast as possible. The unofficial motto, “Editing is for December”, reflects on the rawness of the content one must output; even reading some of the writing of my fellow NaNo’ers, it’s possible to see rough edges everywhere.

My writing isn’t so much like that. It has it’s fair share of rough edges, true, but there are considerably fewer, and the story feels more continuous and linear, because that’s just how I see a story. Sometimes, I can write by jumping all over the place, and, indeed, I have a 13,500 word story that is testament to my ability to write like that – but, of course, my inner editor jumps all over me repeatedly for doing it like that, and I see each section as a stripe of story, a small segment, true, but a linear, continuous one.

Mostly, though, I write in a straight line, and if my plot stalls, I’m utterly screwed for the five or ten minutes it takes me to get out of the plot hole I’ve dug for myself. In fact, much of my ‘writing’ time was lost to falling into plot holes, and thinking how to pull my main characters out of said holes, without resorting to deus ex machina or deleting and rewriting great tracts of story.

It’s no accident, too, that I’m editor-in-chief of a magazine. One of the things that makes me a good editor and typesetter is that I am a perfectionist, and I strive for the perfect story, the perfect look, and I find that aesthetic perfection incredibly soothing. Having to turn off my restraints and perfectionism is a challenge in itself, and one that I figured NaNoWriMo would help me do. And, in some ways, it did. I’ve discovered just how much raw content I can dump all at once if I have a good storyline that I’m telling, and if it’s a particularly energetic or frantic scene I’m writing, I find that I can concentrate for longer, and I want to go back to simply throwing content at my novel. Other times, I find I cannot even work out what the characters want to say. There’s a good reason for all the fight scenes.

Even writing this brief piece on my philosophy of NaNoWriMo, I’ve found my writing speed has varied wildly, from a slow, “what should I write next?” contemplation to a “can’t-type-fast-enough” manic style. Perhaps this is writer’s block.

So, what next?

Well, I want to finish this story. I want to get this story done, I want to close the book on Lyahn and Ana and their world. Perhaps I’ll publish it, too, for that is something many NaNo winners go on to do: publish their one-month baby, maybe tweaked by a few months’ more writing, a few months’ solid editing, perhaps chasing a bigger goal – 150,000 words? 250,000? 500,000? A million words in one book?

Although I don’t have a number I want to reach any more, 50,000 feels symbolic, and I certainly will celebrate when this story makes it there, even if it’s not finished yet. I want to finish this story, though: the first story that I’ve properly finished. One of my big faults is that I can hook a reader, get them attached to a story, and then I lose interest or enthusiasm. Sure, I’ll chuck a few thousand words at it every few months or so, but I’ve never finished a story over a thousand words long, and I’m not even sure I know how to write an ending. Perhaps we could start with endings.

So now, I’m off to write. Perhaps I shall give my main characters life again. Perhaps you may even see my book published in the not-too-distant future.

Who knows?