If you don’t allow yourself the possibility of writing something very, very bad, it would be hard to write something very good. — Steven Galloway

I’ve won NaNoWriMo most of the years I’ve sat down to do the madness. I love much of what I’ve written in these Novembers; in fact, I recently uncovered a Regency Romance that was probably one of the easiest wins I’ve ever accomplished. Unfortunately, the traditional Regency market was dying at that point and while it had some nibbles, it never really had a chance. That’s now being revised and I’m planning to publish it in August of 2016.

There are, however…other manuscripts that have emerged from this November madness. We do not speak of them at my house. There’s the one that began with fifteen pages of exposition that no matter how hard I tried, my mind couldn’t find a way to cut all that information because it didn’t fit anywhere else. (It didn’t fit anywhere else because the structure of the story was fundamentally flawed.) There’s the one that had more characters than War and Peace — and was perhaps one-third the length. Or the one that when my husband perused the manuscript in December (he’s my Alpha reader), he noted that there seemed to be three separate books there, none of which had a coherent plot.

These were very, very bad books. Copies are also tucked away in a box at the back of the closet because every once in a while I feel compelled to pull them out and see if maybe I’ve learned enough skills to somehow salvage these wrecks. Every time, they go back in the box and back into the closet.

I did learn things from them, though. I learned I need to be ruthless in cutting large blocks of solid text because I tend to run to info dumps. I learned I can handle a scene with more than two characters, but if I have more than four, I have to start asking if all these voices are really necessary. Also, you don’t name everyone who walks onto the stage. I learned that while I don’t necessarily have to my book fully plotted out before I start, I really, really, really need to know where the story ends up and one big point in the middle because then I can write toward those.

I learned these things because I failed. That’s how you learn what doesn’t work — and how you learn what can work that you didn’t think was possible. This year’s NaNo project is currently a hot mess, but I’m beginning to see the form. I know that the 10,000 words at the beginning will need to be cut because that’s not where the story starts, but that it will be replaced with the on-going subplot for the series that I really haven’t written into the draft at all up to this point. The woman who’ll be the heroine for Book Three makes only a walk-on, just enough to make folks aware of her existenace, but not have her interfere with what’s going on. And I see how the love story begins, grows, and comes to fruition. I learned all of that because there are manuscripts in the back of the closet I usually forget exist. Except when there are lessons I need to remember that I’ve learned.