Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fail Again. Fail Better.

A part of me has been putting off this blog post because I didn't want to admit failure. Silly, maybe, but true! As writers, we experience failure all the time, whether in the form of rejections or something as small as a few lines of dialogue not working out. It's never fun, but ofttimes necessary to our growth.

My Camp NaNovel didn't end up working out, I'm sorry to say. I started off poorly, my persnickety ways catching up to me faster than you can say 'did I just end that sentence in a preposition?'. Then I managed to catch up finally after a few days, but I could tell the passion just wasn't there anymore. The idea I loved, and the characters I thought had potential, but the way I was writing it just wasn't right. Part of the problem was a lack of an outline, which this particular story sorely needed in advance. And I couldn't seem to shut off my inner editor either, he's a nasty one, he is.

So I stopped. I didn't want to call it giving up, but that's what it was. I was embarrassed. I had made such a big deal out of participating! Now what was I going to do? Aside from cleaning the egg off my face . . .

Egg pictured here. Not actual size.

Well, I started thinking. Whenever something doesn't work out, I like to figure out why that is. I came to the conclusion that, at the moment, I'm suffering from a touch of writer's ADD. I lose interest quickly. Now I know I can write a full-length novel because I've done it. I have the discipline; I write every day. But lately, my style has been evolving, changing (whether for better or worse), and I've been trying to pretend otherwise to no success.

My mother has been telling me for years to try my hand at short stories, but I always sniffed at the idea. I'm a novelist, consarnit! My creativity cannot be contained in mere short stories, I said! I was wrong.

So I'm writing a short story right now, taking advantage of an older idea I loved but didn't think could fit the larger format of a novel. I'm rather enjoying it, too! I'm still a touch on the verbose side of things, but I can always cut later as necessity dictates. It's a learning process, as most things in life are.

My point with all this is that if I had never failed Camp NaNo, I might never have even considered writing a short story. That failure forced me to look inward, identify some of my own shortcomings, and figure out a way to work with them, rather than struggle in vain against them. And who knows? This failure might end up resulting in a different kind of success. For us artists, even when we lose, sometimes we win.

As the author and playwright Samuel Beckett said, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."


  1. Woo! Good luck. And Camp NaNo is dumb anyway.

  2. I think it's a good idea to vary novels with short stories. It gets some of those smaller ideas out of your head and on to paper, PLUS published short stories are valuable writing credits. Good luck!

  3. @CNHolmberg - Thanks! I'm a huge advocate for NaNoWriMo but I'm not sure it's suited to my individual writing style/habits anymore, alas!

    @Katie - Ooh, very good points! It can be frustrating having so many ideas constantly coming to you, and you're right, short stories can be the perfect outlet for some of them. And thank you for the well wishes! ^^

  4. I love that you posted this because I myself haven't even tried to write about how camp nano did not turn out right for me. And it amazes me how similar we are in our next writing adventure. I was talking with one of my friends and he suggested I write a short story instead haha. So that's what I've been doing the past weekend. But I wish you well and maybe we'll get 'em next time ;)

  5. @Tina - It's definitely hard to admit defeat, but sometimes better to move on to greener pastures. I'm glad to hear you're going to be trying your hand at a short story, too! Let me know how yours turns out! =)