How to Win With NaNoWriMo Even When You Don’t “Win” NaNoWriMo

I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo. Not in the predefined sense of fifty thousand words over the course of a month. Not even close.

I was on track for quite a while, then between getting books submitted for awards, completely changing which shift I worked at my day job, some drama around Thanksgiving, and a heck of a cold, the “rest of my life” kept butting in.

However, I don’t think I “lost” either.

  1. I wrote over 19,000 words on that one story in November – which is three times the length of any single story that I’ve written to date.
  2. That story isn’t “done”. Not by a long shot. I know where it’s going, and it’s only about halfway through the tale.
  3. I also know it’s going to get longer. I’ve written enough to know that my second drafts are always longer than my first drafts. Initial feedback from my writing group was that I rushed through things, so I expect that trend to hold.
  4. I learned quite clearly what works for me and what doesn’t, and what conditions sabotage the crap out of me writing fiction.

I’ve long held that NaNoWriMo is useful in only limited ways. It’s not (for most people) a sustainable way to write a novel. To quote why I didn’t do NaNoWriMo in 2010:

I don’t have anything against the project; it definitely serves to get a lot of people past the hump of not writing. For me, turning out a novel in 30 days would leave me with a lot of words and exhausted burnout. That’s not a goal that would be useful for me; I couldn’t keep up that pace.

That’s still true. However, I had a very different problem this time around. I had the problem of second-guessing myself early on in the novel-writing process. I’d write a few thousand words, and just think of all the possible problems ahead of me, and just…stop.

And this time I haven’t. I had the impulse, yes, but before “real life” interjected itself I’d already pushed myself past that point and moved onward. So even though I haven’t “won” NaNoWriMo, it served exactly the purpose I wanted it to.

So those of you who are like me, who started but didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, don’t waste your time considering why you “failed”. Think instead about how you learned to succeed… and how you’ll use those skills next month.

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