So You Didn’t Win #NaNoWriMo

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With end of November last week, many people in the writing community struggled with finishing their 50K word goal for NaNoWriMo.


If you were one of them, don’t worry. First, take a deep breath. It’s not the end of world. Really, 50K in one month is intense. I should know, I did it. Last year after it was all over, I wrote a blog on how to survive NaNoWriMo.

However, this year I did not participate in NaNoWriMo. The reason why is because I had a WIP I’d started back in April that was unfinished. I managed to type THE END around mid November, but it still took me over 6 months to complete 86,000 words. In comparison, my NaNoWriMo project from last year took me under 2 months to write 80,000 words.

So, why was there such a gap between the two? Does it mean one is better than the other? Right now, yes, but that is because I’ve had a year to edit and clean up the first one. Does it mean that I should scrap the newer one and just focus on querying my older manuscript? I really hope not, after all the pain this newer manuscript caused.


In reality, I don’t know what this means. All I know is that my 2016 first draft didn’t flow as well as my 2015 first draft. It actually took me until about 60K words to realize the real plot in the 2016 story. And sometimes, that is all right.

Sometimes it takes a while for a story to simmer. That doesn’t mean the story is horrible. J.K. Rowling started Harry Potter in 1990. It wasn’t published until 1997. Lin-Manuel Miranda took 7 years to write Hamilton.

More recently, NYT Bestselling author Susan Dennard blogged about her two year process to write a sequel she hoped to have done in 5 months.

On the flipside, that also doesn’t mean manuscripts written fast are careless or not as complex. NYT Bestselling author, Sarah J Maas, originally wrote A Court of Mist and Fury in 5 weeks!

When I compare my two recent manuscripts and the experiences I had writing them, here is what I realized.

  1. November 2015, I didn’t have a full time job, instead I worked around 25-30 hours a week and studied for my teaching exam. Thus, I had more time to write.
  2. November 2015, I wasn’t as stressed as 2016. A lot of outside forces have weighed on me this past year and it’s making it harder for me to write.
  3. During November 2015, I’d shelved my other work. In 2016, I kept going back to edit my 2015 NaNo project. I think I finally have it where it needs to be, but that’s taken all year.
  4. I fully understand my MC from my 2015 story. Though she has a different culture than me, her actions and attitude are similar. My MC in my 2016 story has gone through experiences that I can’t even fathom so trying to get her emotional state is harder for me.
  5. The plot in my 2016 story is more complex with a lot more hidden forces driving it. Again, I didn’t know the plot until 60K words into it.
  6. In 2016 I’m a better writer. Every day I’m a better writer. That means while I just created stories in the past, now I’m thinking of new techniques I learned, more about showing versus telling, and getting everything right. Yes, I know that a first draft is supposed to be a mess, but I still think of the little things I can do in it right now to make up time later in edits.
  7. My 2016 story has a more complex world on top of a more complex plot. The backstories I needed to develop took time out of my writing schedule.

Yes, number 8 is the big one. And yes, a year between isn’t completely different, but my life tends to be in flux, so I consider it different. I will never write another story like my 2015 NaNo project, and I’ll never write a story like my 2016 MS. Even if by some miracle I get to write sequels, they’ll still be different.

So, if you didn’t complete NaNoWriMo, don’t worry. Don’t get discouraged. Your story will be great, no matter how long it takes. So, just keep writing. There is no time limit on anything. If you haven’t noticed, publishing is a slow business and it will be waiting for that amazing manuscript you’re plugging away at.

just keep swimming

Related Posts:
Establishing a Writing Routine by Alison Potoma
Just Keep Swimming! by Jen Malone

One comment

  1. I loved this post, Dana. I just participate in my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote my first long manuscript in September, a YA historical fiction. In November, I wrote a MG fantasy. Even only 2 months apart and my experience with both rough drafts was so incredibly different…it definitely went more smoothly in November, maybe because of my September practice? Either way it feels miraculous given I’d never written a story longer than 500 words until September 2016. . . loved hearing about your experience.

    Liked by 2 people

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