Writing

NaNoWriMo 2016: I failed, and that’s okay.

Failure is such a strong word, but that is what I did. At the beginning of the month, I was so ready for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I had been looking forward to it all year. I fell behind on the first day, but I told myself that I would catch up, and so I kept writing. Until I didn’t.

This was my third year as a NaNoWriMo participant, and the first year I lost. Instead of 50,000 words, I wrote a whopping 5,123.

I’m kind of okay with this. I need to stop putting myself under so much pressure for things that should be fun. But three factors had a hand in my result (or lack thereof):

I placed too much stock in motivation, and not enough in determination. Sure, I was motivated to write my novel, but that doesn’t take you far if you don’t have the same amount – or more – of determination. For the past two years, I had that motivation. This year, I let too many things get in the way of my writing.

I chose an emotionally overwhelming topic. Usually, the novels I write are fantasy or adventure. This year, I had chosen to write a creative nonfiction piece that focused on a beloved relative that passed some years ago. I plan to finish the novel eventually, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it this month.

I focused too much on the environment around me. This past month has felt like a new tragedy was happening every day, and I let that feeling overwhelm my writing. To heal, I turned to books already written.

But there are lessons I have learned. First, I now know the importance of sticking to a writing schedule, no matter what. Second, I need to put my own mental and emotional health first. I chose a topic that I wasn’t ready to take on for 1,667 words every day for a month.

And the most important lesson of all? Writing a novel doesn’t just have to happen in November. I can now continue this novel at my own pace, when I can emotionally handle it.

Community is another lesson worth reflecting on. The first two years I won, I surrounded myself with a group of people doing the challenge too. Two years ago, I searched out the NaNoWriMo forums and hashtags and participated in them almost every day. Last year, I gathered the courage to go out and participate in local meet-ups. This year…I didn’t open the NaNo Twitter hashtag, I didn’t seek out friends when I stopped writing, and I stopped logging into the website. If I had remained involved, even at the very least on social media, I most likely would have written more.

There were many good things writing-related that happened this month. I have almost finished a poem I’ve been working on for months, I submitted a few pieces to a new press, and I made a list of presses I want to submit to next year. On top of that, most of the material I actually wrote was for my last class of grad school.

This month went by so fast, and I wish I could rewind the last thirty days to start this challenge over. But at least I now have the basic structure for this novel, and I also have last year’s novel I can work on, as well. This is not the end of the world.

This year’s NaNoWriMo was not without the good bits. I have more time to research and plan. I now have 5,000 words to build from, and I’ve finally started a project that’s been on my mind for over a year. That’s something to celebrate in itself.

Though I did not win the challenge, I walk away from this month with the start of a new novel, and the start of a new writing journey.

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13 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2016: I failed, and that’s okay.

  1. That is a good way of looking at the challenge. Gather the positives and look for ways to improve yourself. Not just for next year, but for any writing projects you tackle.

    Even though I didn’t participate in NaNo, I feel like I learned a lot from the goal I set for myself. And what I learned, I will apply to future works.

    Congrats, Amanda, on the work you put in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I first started I wasn’t involved in the community, it’s important as it helps you with the encouragement to keep going. Even when I’m not doing NaNo I would write 5 to 7k and then forget it until months later. It’s okay. I’m glad you still could walk away from it with something.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How can it be a failure if you learned three important things?
    NaNo doesn’t have to be a November thing. I’ve done it in May and July to name other months. My old writing club did a Winter NaNo between the February and March meetings. What else is there to do in the depths of winter?
    Now that you know some of the obstacles in your way, you can take steps to avoid them. Every word counts, progress is progress and all other cliches apply.
    Take care and write on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! If someone wanted to, they could do 12 NaNos in a year! I can definitely take what I learned and bring the knowledge next time. Can’t wait to try again!

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  4. You have a great attitude! I set off to rebel, but ended up with 50k words, 90% of which I will get rid of starting in January. Like you, I wrote out of my contort zone–though not intentionally. My satirical poetry turned out to be much more emotionally draining than I anticipated, and I fell behind several times. I’m ok with all the stuff I wrote that I won’t necessarily use though, because I needed to sort through it to get to the stuff I really needed to write.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the process!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this. I struggled this year too, and ended the month just short of 40k – not terrible, but not as good as last year, and I found it much more difficult to get there this time around. You’re right about the pressure – NaNo should be fun, rather than turning into something else to beat ourselves up about! Thanks for posting 🙂 X

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  6. I’ve failed at NaNos before, and aside from the difficulty of the subject matter, I think I’ve experienced all of the problems you identified. For me, the number one predictor of outcome seems to be “Am I feeling a win on November 1?”

    If I’m not, then motivation, determination, and just plain spending enough time putting words in a document — none of those things happen with enough regularity.

    This year, was particularly hard for me in some ways, especially being overwhelmed by the election. I rebounded after a week, but the joy wasn’t there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The election had such a big hand in my lack of motivation. I wish I could say that I fought through it, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t feeling the win this year, even when I started. But that’s okay, I now have something I can move forward with. Sounds like we both do!

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