Why I Keep Losing NaNoWriMo (And Why I Just Can’t Quit It)

Remember last October, when I made 31 posts about prepping for NaNoWriMo… and then promptly lost NaNoWriMo? I do. And you’d think I would’ve learned from that experience. But, no. This year, I got all jazzed up about it again, did some prepping for a new book idea, hammered out about 30,000 words, and then dropped the ball. So what is it about NaNoWriMo that just doesn’t work for me? Why do I do great for the first half of it, and then just… quit? Case in point:

NaNoWriMo 2018


NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNoWriMo 2016

I mean, look at 2016! I was doing amazing! It seems like there’s no way I could have lost, and yet I did. I’ll admit that 2017 was a bit more of a mess, because I started out writing one novel and then ended up jumping to another halfway through (because I was a NaNo rebel, and I didn’t care about breaking the rules, damnit). But this year I really thought I’d gotten my shit together. I’d done a little outlining, but not too much. I had a solid story idea with pretty well-defined plot beats. I was excited about what I was writing. So what went wrong?

The only conclusion I’ve been able to come to is so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. I mean, it really isn’t rocket science. And that conclusion is this: I’m not a fast-drafter.

Seriously. That’s the long and short of it. I’m just really not a fast-drafter. I’m not the kind of person who can sit down at a computer and bang out 1,667 words a day, at least not without getting burnt out. The fastest I’ve ever written 50,000 words is three months, and that draft was a hot mess. And I really, really don’t like to write hot-mess first drafts, because that means more editing and revising later. So, with that being the case, it’s no wonder I’ve lost every single NaNoWriMo I’ve ever attempted.

But why did I think I could be a fast-drafter? Where did this unmerited confidence come from? I guess I’d just been working under the assumption that, since other people had done it, so could I. Because, I mean, writing works exactly the same for everybody, right? (That was heavy, heavy sarcasm.) This is actually a problem I’ve run into a lot lately. I keep thinking that, because something works for other writers, it has to work for me, too. And if it doesn’t work for me, then I’m the problem. Since NaNoWriMo works so well for other people, the fact that it doesn’t work for me means that I’m doing something wrong. But, no. That’s not the case at all. And, you know what? I’m sure that some of you have had the same problem. Some of you may have also lost NaNoWriMo one too many times, and you’ve probably wondered if you were at fault. But I’m here today to say that it’s not your fault. You may just not be a fast-drafter, and that’s okay.

So does that mean I’m never, ever going to participate in NaNoWriMo again? No, I’ll probably do it again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I’ll also probably participate in every single Camp NaNoWriMo, too.

“Why would you do that?” you’re probably asking. “If NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for you, what’s the point in doing it?” And that’s a valid question. But, I mean, despite the fact that I’ve never won NaNoWriMo, that doesn’t mean I’ve ever really failed, either. Because, as I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter saying: Whether you get 10 words written, or 50,000 words written, you’ve still written something. And I think that’s a really good point. This year, I wrote about 30,000 words of a brand new project, which is awesome. Last year, I wrote a whole lot of words for two projects. And the year before that… I mean, look at that progress! Just look at it!

So, yeah, I may never hit 50,000 words in a month. I may not be a fast-drafter. But, at the end of the day, NaNoWriMo gets me writing. It gets me writing every day, and it gets me excited to write every day. I may have to start molding it to my own individual writing needs, so that I don’t burn myself out anymore, but as a whole I think NaNoWriMo is a great resource that can help a lot of writers get started on the projects buzzing around in their heads. And, even better, it can help to connect those writers to a community. That, to me, seems like the biggest victory of all.

What about you? Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? What’s your experience with it been like? Make sure to let me know in the comments down below!

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