Failing NaNoWriMo

The title is pessimistic and depressing, but I swear I’m okay. No, really. I felt like I should write down my experience with NaNoWriMo though (yet another means of procrastinating to write on my novel?). I started this month jubilant and green as every other chum that starts off on a pilgrimage of epic proportions, like Tolkien’s hobbitses running through hill and dell of green fields to begin their adventures; like every Disney character who ever wanted to go exploring the real world outside his or her menial existence (though internally, I was experiencing something more akin to what Rapunzel went through in Tangled when leaving her tower);


like Anakin Skywalker, bright-eyed and doughy cheeked, starting his Jedi training with Obi-Wan….and we all know how that ended.

Oh, Anakin, you’ve….changed

My excitement and awareness that something magical was about to happen was a real thing, and I still feel it, in a different way albeit, more removed, awe-inspiring way at the power of this culture and community and this crazy tradition that was born from it.

The slackening off started to happen right around the end of the first week, when I started—well, there’s no nice way to put it—slacking. Now, while my grandmother is sick (and commencing full-on writing sessions in the hospital during visits with her wouldn’t go over very well, even with an excuse like NaNoWriMo), I have done my fair share of dilly-dallying, hem-hawing, pussy-footing and all other manner of avoiding what needed to be done, because I just didn’t FEEL it. A lame excuse, by the way, NaNos; the point of this event is to power through all that passivity and/or terror to move forward, to roundhouse kick down that wall of writer’s block.


Just make sure you’re wearing steel-toed boots, because, let’s face it, you’re not Chuck Norris and you may sprain a little piggy. My point here is, the second I stopped writing EVERY night, getting my 1,666 words in, was the second I stopped driving myself to push forward. No matter how much you tell yourself ‘I can always catch up later’, or ‘I can write double—nay! triple the required word count in one sitting’, you run the risk of losing momentum. That’s why there is a daily word count tracker; you’re supposed to be running to the finish line all month, not speed-walking and then planning to catch up with a heart-attack inducing sprint at the last.

So, now that I’ve admitted my failure (to reach 50k), I want to quote my best friend, who told me that I didn’t really fail NaNoWriMo, because I have written more this month than I have ever, in my life, been able to produce in a month (usually no more than 16 pages). I proved to myself that I can park my ass and throw out 34,247 words in less than 30 days, and that is pretty damn amazing to me. She went on to point out that this month was made for me, because it gets me to do exactly what I am unable to do because of distractions, insecurity, overthinking, back-editing: WRITE.

It’s something so simple, yet so few people can understand what this event represents for writers. My sister asked me “Why is it every time I ask you to do something, you say you have to write?” I went into the old explanation of what writing means to me, that I want this to be my career, and for it to be that way, I HAVE TO DO IT. And seeing as how I can’t do it in the day when I’m working, I have to do it at some point—and that some point happens to be whenever I have time off. I have major problems with focus (beginning to think I might have a strain of ADD, as these parenthetical asides may have already indicated) and procrastination though. So while I could have won NaNoWriMo 2 times over had I used every moment of free time to write (even with write-free visits the hospital), the impetus is what sometimes gets a little dull. NaNoWriMo helps me keep it sharp. And now I know what to expect for my second year, and I plan to open the door a little wider to fully let that impetus-sharpening motivation in.

So, to conclude these ruminations, I would like to, despite my failure, congratulate the incorporeal entity that is NaNoWriMo. You have acquired a follower for life. This is a remarkable community that fulfills a critical need for writers. Thank you for seeing me through my failure, and I hope you will be able to validate my future successes.

If you also “failed” NaNoWriMo, what have you taken away from it?

8 thoughts on “Failing NaNoWriMo”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I failed my first Nanowrimo with a little less than 9,000 words. The sad thing is that I was already a published author at the time. However, I think the important things about Nano are to finish the month with more words than you had at the beginning and to do something with what you wrote. I eventually finished that first novel, and I encourage you to do the same. Anyway, congrats on 34,000 words. Over a thousand words a day is pretty awesome, and my best to you and your family during your grandmother’s sickness.

    1. Thank you for reading and your kind wishes, Harry. I like your point about NaNo; I do want to eventually get to 50k a month, but I am embracing my success right now in getting as many as I did.

      People just write at different paces (or I should say get around to writing at different paces), and sometimes, an even like NaNo isn’t going to be enough of a kick in the pants. So don’t feel too bed about not winning NaNo as a published author. Obviously you’re doing something right, eh? 🙂


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