So I Failed at NaNo and Other Updates

Hi, friends. Here I am again. It’s been a wild six months. Here’s a brief summary.

  • Cole moved to his crib.
  • He hit his 4 month sleep regression and now we all sleep poorly.
  • I decided to start NaNo.
  • I made great headway on NaNo.
  • I lost my way in my novel.
  • I got a possibly life-changing medical diagnosis.
  • I gave up on NaNo.

Read on to find out what I learned from NaNo failure, see cute Cole pictures, and my appeal to guest bloggers: I need your help.


Toward the middle of October, I decided to make my current novel into a NaNo push. I don’t really know why I chose this particular year to do my first NaNoWriMo ever. I’m just not a voluminous writer. I never have been. And now I have a 5-month-old. And I work at my job from home. I don’t have a nanny. I don’t have a sitter. I don’t have daycare. I work at my office one day a week, on Fridays. What in the sweet figgity fark was I thinking?

Life isn’t easy and it doesn’t get easier the longer it goes on. I had my idea for my book, and was about 10,000 words in at the beginning of November, and I took the plunge. Because sometimes, that’s just what you do when you have a crazy goal. 50,000 words in 30 days. 1,667 words a day. Here’s what I learned.


We voted! (Actually, I did. He slept.)

I Can Write Thousands of Words Per Day

And you know what? They were/are good words. It’s possible. I can write more than one fully developed scene in a day. I can write exposition. I can write dialogue. I can create character moments. I can do this. And what an incredible gift NaNo is, for that reason.

There Are Times When I SHOULDN’T Write Thousands of Words Per Day

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had 30,000 words under my belt. I was lagging behind, but I was busy. Cole had just started the dread 4-month sleep regression, which meant my new-mom brag of “He’s sleeping through the night!” and thinking I was some sort of baby schedule genius went right down the drain, along with my ability to focus and any vague plans of dieting before the holidays. Because screw all that. I needed sleep, yo. No more late-night writing sessions for me.

There Are Times to Slam On the Brakes

A lot of writers are comfortable with drafting and then deleting tens of thousands of words between their first drafts and final manuscripts. I’m not one of them because I hate wasting my time. And about 40,000 words into my novel (30,000 in to NaNo), I felt my antagonist going off the rails. He’s a cop, and he’s done a bad bad thing, and he’s been trying to cover it up using threats and intimidation for years, until my protagonist accidentally stumbles into the picture.

But the problem was, I started writing him without a clear picture of who he was, what motivated hum beyond the desire to stay out of prison, and much of the actions I’ve planned for him to take don’t really make any sense. He also started as a romantic interest for my protagonist, and that got weird, quickly. My fondness for Nora Roberts novels made me write him too nice. And that felt wrong. But I was adding words at breakneck speed, and I didn’t have time to contemplate the wrongness.

Until one day I hit a block. I couldn’t write anymore because my characters’ motivations stopped making sense. I paused to regroup, cool off and do some character sketching. I made more sense of my antag, and my momentum picked up again. But I lost precious time.


There Are Times When My Hands Shake, So That’s a Thing Now

I quit NaNo officially on Monday, November 28, the day I went to the doctor.

So, picture this. You’re wearing a nice coat. It’s made of thin corduroy, and sits almost weightless on your shoulders. It’s got pockets everywhere. On the sleeves, on the shoulders, on the back, on the lapels, on the waist, on the hips.

And in each pocket is a cell phone.

And each and every single one of those phones is buzzing. Constantly.

How does that sound? Weird? Good. Some of you out there might recognize this mental image. I didn’t, so I went to a neurologist. I was pretty sure the tingling had something to do with throwing my back out after I delivered Cole back in June. Or it had to do with my Chiari I malformation (Chiari I is a birth defect in which the bottom of the brain protrudes into the spinal cord, causing headaches and dizziness and all kinds of problems), and I’d finally wound up with a syrinx (a Chiari-associated fluid cyst on my spine) and would need surgery.


I mean, partially wrong. I DO have a syrinx. It was an eventuality, really. I was and am at peace with the fact that I will need to have surgery for that eventually. It was the other diagnosis that caught me by surprise: multiple sclerosis.

I’m only 29.

Of course, that doesn’t matter. Young people get MS all the time. But not me. I run. I lift weights. I eat whatever the hell I want. I drink whole milk. I do kettlebells AND yoga, for fuck’s sake.

And none of that will stop the slow march of your body when it decides to take up arms against itself.

Today, I’ll start steroid infusions. It starts to feel real today. Today is the day I begin to fight to keep my body, to keep stasis, to stay where I am. I want to run more marathons. I want to lift more weights. I want to do these things so I can be present and able for my son and my husband and my family.

I have every intention of being a fun mom, not a sick mom. I have every intention of finishing my first novel, keeping my writing career on track, and continuing on with life as it’s always been.

God, I hope steroids don’t make me fat. Or angry. I’m only on them for five days.

Guest Posters

Guys, I need your help. I’m carrying a lot of weight right now, and this is basically an open invitation to submit guest posts for The Procrastiwriter. I’ll review your work, and let you know within a few days if I can post your stuff on the site. If you were considering sending me something, consider this your invitation. I need help.

Cole Update

He’s nearly six months old, super cute, and rolls over, holds his head up, and babbles a blue streak. He’s eating pureed solid foods, is super ticklish, and is a fun little person. He adores us and we adore him. He’s also learning how to put himself to sleep in his crib, and it’s slow going. We’re all exhausted.


Until next time, friends.


  • catuskes

    Shanan you got this! My thoughts are with you. The important thing is you’re not letting it slow you down. I love the pics of Cole, keep them coming. I’ll be pitching an idea for a guest post real soon.

    • Shanan

      Thank you! I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  • Valah V. Steffen-Wittwer

    My first onset of MS was in the summer of 2004. I was 23. The neurologist who gave me the news said that it was incurable and I would be in a wheelchair in 5 years, drooling on myself and completely nonfunctional in 10. So for 10 years I ran from my diagnosis, no meds, nothing. And after 10 years I was still ok, a few hiccups and some physical function loss, but ok. Things did get a bit worse physically at that point, so I got a firm diagnosis (10 years ago it took 2 MRIs at nearly $2,000 each, and I was not going to pay another $2000 for the doctor to “confirm” what she already knew, so no actual diagnosis). I am on meds now, and doing just fine. Getting better, actually, and getting my PhD. I go hiking, and running, and swimming, and all the physical things “normal” people do. I tell you this to show you that MS is manageable and it can be lived through.
    You will get through this, it is not life-ending or even massively life-altering in many cases. It is scary as $#!@, and every new onset might be a different set of symptoms just to keep this disease interesting, but you will get along and raise your baby You will be there for his school, and graduation, and all the other wonderful moments that go into raising a child and seeing him become an adult. Stay active, stay calm (as a new mother can), take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you will be ok.

  • Musick Fisher

    To help ameliorate some of my very serious back and knee pain, I joined my local swimming pool and participated in weekly water aerobic exercises. This was great – the best thing since sliced bread. I had even begun occasionally walking without my cane. I loved this!!

    Please join bestseller writers group

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