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Why Failing at NaNoWriMo is Okay #Writing

Why Failing at NaNoWriMo is Okay.

NaNoWriMo 2019, Author Shelley Wilson

Hello, I’m Shelley, and I’m a big fat failure!

I’m not upset by this statement, and in fact, I find it quite liberating to admit my failures, especially when they’re writing-related. I recently met two lovely A-Level English students, and I felt thoroughly inspired as I listened to their projects and plans. As we chatted about writing, Manga, and the pressure of school exams, they shared their fears about not finishing projects (a book), and I found myself telling them about my current big failure – NaNoWriMo!

It was my seventh year taking part in National Novel Writing Month, and at the end of October I was all fired up and ready to thrash out 50,000 words before midnight on the 30th November. However, I crashed at just over 16,000. A few years ago, I would have been devastated by the lack of a winner certificate, but I’m now able to realise that failure to meet this deadline is never an actual failure.

Let me show you what I mean.

  • ‘I only managed to write 16,000 words this year.’
  • ‘Yay, I managed to write 16,000 words!’

It’s all about your mindset.

I’ve watched my writer friends share their ever-increasing word count on social media, and then proudly display their winner banners, and I’m so pleased for them – I know how hard it is to commit to writing 50,000 words in such a short period. When I logged my final word count of 16,258 I was relieved that it was all over – on the plus side I’ve now got 16,258 words under my belt, and that’s a pretty good failure rate.

Why did I fail?

I know exactly why I couldn’t hit the 50k this year:

  • Lack of planning/plotting – my outline was a dodgy A4 sheet of paper instead of my usual fully developed bios and synopsis.
  • Too many distractions – my business is taking off, and I couldn’t afford to turn away paying clients or avoid networking events.
  • My heart wasn’t in it this year, and if I’m honest, neither was my head!

When I was chatting with the English students, I told them to chill, relax, and use their writing as a ‘downtime’ in between studying. I have always found writing my paranormal fiction to be the best escape from all the adult crap I have to deal with, and the ability to zone out for an hour and distract myself with werewolves, dragons, and vampires is so important to me.

The kids were a delight to chat with and to explain that not meeting deadlines and struggling to motivate myself were a good thing reinforced my beliefs that there is no such thing as failure. I might not have a winner banner to display or a certificate to show off, but I’ve got a few chapters that I didn’t have at the start of NaNo, so all is well in my writing world.

If you’re feeling despondent about not hitting the 50,000 word count, then I’d urge you to alter your mindset. What did you manage to write? How many words did you log? Well done, that’s more than you had in October!

I’m sure I’ll sign up for NaNoWriMo next year as I’m always up for a challenge, but if I don’t hit that deadline again, I’m not going to let it worry me.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

I’d love to hear from other writers who didn’t hit the target – does it bother you, or are you perfectly happy to take part no matter the outcome?

19 thoughts on “Why Failing at NaNoWriMo is Okay #Writing”

  1. I finished my project, but it came up short, so then I messed around with edits on a former project to finish out the month. I’m not a very experienced writer, so now I’m wondering if fast drafting is the right way for me to go. I mean, if I write a crappy first draft and have to spend twice as much time editing it, should I write slower and more carefully the first time? Hm . . . I’m still pondering this.

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    1. That makes so much sense, Priscilla. I like the discipline of NaNo (when I’m organised!) but rushing your first draft is never the best way to start out. I think this year was more about understanding my outlining process. Without taking time and care over this part I set myself up to fail.

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  2. I signed up and wrote not one word lol! But I am definitely of that growth mindset, that the words aren’t written YET!!!!
    It’ll happen. Sometimes life has it’s own plans for us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t hit the target either Shelley, I didn’t even sign up. I am a failure again this year . Again though I have worked hard on my book of poetry yet I am no where near to publishing it. I am scared to take the next step, there I have said it. All around me I see people talking about their books and I am scared. Perhaps I am a fraud but I just keep writing my stories and my poems. As for you my talented friend as my dad always said, and I agree, ” it is quality not quantity that counts ” 💜💜💜

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    1. Aww bless you, Willow. Thank you for your lovely words. It might be interesting for you to hear that I feel like a fraud every time I submit a manuscript. I think ‘this is it! This is the day they’ll realise I’m not a writer’ I think every author feels it at some point – even Stephen King said it! If you’re happy to write your stories and poems then carry on, but don’t fear the next step because you’ll be in good company xx ❤️

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