Friday Speak Out!: I Lost, But I'm Still a Winner, Guest Post by Sioux Roslawski

Friday, December 20, 2013
NaNoWriMo rolled around once again, an annual torture-fest. Fifty-thousand words in one short month.

Last year I made it to the finish line. I ended up with 50,000 words. A novel. A hot-mess of a novel, and story had not come to a conclusion.

Because I was the kid who defied her mother and always played tackle (not touch) football...Because I was the teenager who refused to wear anything except overalls...Because I was the woman who never even owned a lipstick until she was in her late forties...I've become known as a rebellious spirit. And so doing NaNoWriMo 2013 as a “NaNo Rebel” made perfect sense.

I could have started a new manuscript, but why? I was already invested in the story from last year, and had worked on it during the rest of the next year, adding (a paltry) 10,000 words to it. But still, it was not finished. So, I decided to do NaNo 2013, but I was going to work on filling in the holes (holes the size of the Grand Canyon) of my 2012 NaNo. Once November began, I was officially a rebel yet again...

Now that November is almost over (as I write this), I have resigned myself to being a loser. I was not even close to tapping out 50,000 words; I wrote more like 20,000. Still, I have not gotten to the end, but I think I know how it's going to end. Still there are huge plot holes (holes as big as my butt). And yet as I cheer on my friends who have succeeded, leaving me behind in the dust, I still feel like I was victorious, and here's why:

I have gotten closer to the end...not there yet, but I've got more than a glimmer of how I will close out this tale.

I've “discovered” the connecting thread. When I first began this story, it was fairly two-dimensional. However, after going to my annual writing retreat in Conception, Missouri (where wonderful ideas are conceived, I like to think) and after doing a “mock” pitch at a writer's guild meeting, I realized I didn't really have—at the core of the story—a plot line that would make non-writers care. (This project of mine is about writers.) Now, I have a thread that I'm weaving in, here and there, to what I wrote a year ago.

I didn't “cheat.” I didn't avoid contractions (“do not” is better than “don't” to some NaNo-ers—double the word count), and I didn't write the names of 5,000 people who became zombies (one NaNo writer did that). What I did was simply work on my story.

Now, the goal is to finish my manuscript, so I can start revising in February. There's another writing retreat in the works and a conference, both this upcoming Spring.

And this time when I make a pitch, I want to be ready to hurl a true winner to an editor...

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher in St. Louis and freelances in her spare time. Her stories have appeared in seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books (an 8th has made it to the final stage; Sioux's fingers are crossed) and more musings can be found at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



BECKY said...

Sioux, you are definitely a winner! Writing 20,000 words in one month, and especially when it continues on with the 50,000 you already wrote...I would say THAT is a wonderful accomplishment. I never tried NANO, because I'm a "write when I feel like it" person, and I intensely dislike the pressure of writing a strict amount of words per day. Congrats again. You're definitely nearing your finish line.

Unknown said...

I love how you rebel! At this stage in my own writing life, so-called rules about how to write something - or take part in NaNoWriMo - are merely suggestions that provide a structure. Do some remodeling and you never know what you might find!

Margo Dill said...

This is exactly what we all need to do! See the glass half full. Writing is much too hard to see the glass half-empty. Happy holidays!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Becky--Thanks. Yes, I lack the "write-every-day" work ethic as well, but I'm trying to do better. The thing I like most about NaNo is you are forced to turn off the internal editor as you frantically tap out 1,667 words every day.

Kathleen--You and I must be in the same writing stage. You're right. Remodeling uncovers incredible things.

Margo--You are right. We get enough negative stuff as writers and it's way too hard if we keep tallying up the minuses.

I plan on sleeping in on at least a couple of mornings. You have a great holiday as well...

Unknown said...

Sounds to me like you kicked some major writing booty! Cheering you on. You know, with any kind of writing challenge, even the self-imposed kind, I have to remind myself the point is to just write.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Julie--That is the same thing I kept first and foremost in my mind during NaNo 2013. Just this morning I was working on my 2012 NaNo, and am still a ways from finishing it. But in November, I DID write and did some write-ins and made some progress.

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--I think the most important thing is that you've made an incredible amount of progress on your novel in a year and didn't have to list a zillion names of zombies in order to do it! I fear my latest project is in the "hot mess" stage right now and am trying to gather the courage to pick it back up:(
Keep up the good work!

Sioux Roslawski said...


That is--officially--one of the stages of the revision process.

Hot Mess.

My story is right now--I fear--a bunch of unconnected hot messes. I'm trying to weave them together, but it's not easy going.

Drink some wine or eat some chocolate after your project has sat for a while, and then pick it up. You might find there are more redeeming qualities than you previously thought. (Or you might just end up with wine puddles or chocolate smears on your keyboard...)

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