I didn’t get to the 50,000-word mark at the end of November, and you know what? I feel no guilt at all, no sense of failure, no feeling of inadequacy.

And if you also started NaNoWriMo this year and didn’t get to the finish line, I would like to take this opportunity, by the power vested in me by no one in particular, to absolve you of all guilt, sense of failure, and feelings of inadequacy.

I might feel this way because though I didn’t get to the end of a 50,000 word rough draft of The Book of True Names, I got a start on it, and that’s huge.

This is a book that’s been percolating in my head, has existed as handwritten notes in a composition book, for, quite literally, years. Not a single word of actual story was written. I did some serious worldbuilding, I wrote a few outlines, I jotted down ideas for scenes, and I went through some of my own exercises for the creation of characters, making lists of groups and so on.

All that’s great. I have a feeling I will use the vast majority of it.

But I had not actually started writing the book itself. It wasn’t a story, but a collection of ideas pointed more or less in the direction of a story.

Until November, that is. Now it’s actually a work in progress. It is actually progressing. I am actually writing.

I think I might leave my 2017 writing goals for a bit later this month. This past, not terribly happy year, feels like the right time for a revisit of my old New Years Resolutions posts in another effort to change myself for the better in the coming year—and there are some essential changes that need to be made on my part, friends.

Writing is a huge part of that. I love what I do. I am an editor. But I don’t want to be one thing. I want to be an author/editor, and I am. But for the past couple years, really, the author part has taken too far a backseat to the editor part. I’m not going to slow down on the editing, but I will speed up on the writing—no, wait . . .

I actually really have started speeding up on the writing.

I’ve found it again—a voice absent for a period of time now so long that looking back on it freaks me out—and I mean: Freaks. Me. Out.

But now I’m writing again, and damn it, I’m going to keep going in 2017. A novel will be finished, so will short stories, more poetry, and of course, our little Tuesday get togethers. After all, if I can be religious about this blog, every Tuesday for this many years, surely I can establish a new Phil-only religion around writing The Book of True Names, of writing short stories, of continuing to write poetry, and . . . what else?

We’ll see!

Oh, and by the way, if you have finished your 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo, think about sending it to me for a review and advice on where to take it from there.


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. JakeAStrife says:

    Hi Phil,

    For the first year since I heard about NaNoWriMo (and it’s been a few), I didn’t even make an attempt to write 50,000 words. This comes from the fact I failed every time I did try. By all means, I’m capable of writing 50k in a month, and a full 90k novel for that matter, when it comes to November, I can never do it for some reason. This year, I’ve already completed four such 90K word novels and did somewhat heavy edits on another four. Those accomplishments allowed me to forget about NaNoWriMo w/o any guilt. Because usually, I feel pretty darn guilty about my failure every year.

    All that being said, I congratulate you on your progress on your new book. As I’ve learned over the years, world building and outlining is no easy task in itself. Every book has its own world and building involved. Especially fantasy books. I get most of my practice from planning Dungeons & Dragons campaigns for my friends. (Yep, I’m the one who always gets stuck as DM… but I enjoy it).

    I, too, want to be more than just one thing. I used to be an artist. I have over 4,000 drawings scanned into my computer that I’ve done since the year 2000. I even went to college for art over writing, at first. But writing took priority, and then of course since I can’t afford to pay an editor over $1,000 per book I’ve written, I’ve had to give up art and edit my own work time and time again. All of this without much to show for it. I’ve self-published two novels on Amazon and suck at marketing and social media, so sales are dismal.

    So, it seems I went on and on and written almost a whole novel’s worth of text right here (haha). My point ultimately being, I want to thank you for your inspiring blog. I look forward to it every week. And again, congrats on your success in working on your new book! Keep on keeping on and write, man, write! Because that’s what you love to do!

  2. Pingback: Writing Links in the 3s and 6…12/12/16 – Where Genres Collide

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