What I learned by not winning NaNoWriMo

I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month–a challenge to authors to write 50,000 words in one month). It’s not for everyone, but I find it a great motivator. Congrats to everyone who participated, and especially to those who finished!

This is my third year doing NaNo, and my first year not winning. The manuscript I decided to write this year was for a middle grade project. I finished it last week, and I’m excited with how it turned out, but I was still about 13,000 words short (that’s the problem with doing MG for NaNo–they’re usually under 50,000 words).

At first I was determined to finish anyway. I pulled out another project and tried to force my way through it, but there were still too many gaps in my research, and I was hating every minute of it. Writing, which is usually my sanctuary, became torture. I continued getting more frustrated and discouraged, until I finally realized no one was making me do this. Not completing NaNo wasn’t going to ruin my life or my career or have any negative effect on me except what I was inflicting on myself.

I wrote a rough draft this month, just as I’d planned, and I also finished a final round of edits for my agent on one manuscript and a first round of edits for my editor on another. That’s not including the progress I made on my WWI novel (yeah, I counted those words as part of my 37,000). That’s a pretty busy month, and it doesn’t account for all the non-writing things I had going on. Why was I beating myself up over 13,000 words?

I think most writers are goal-oriented, which is a good thing in a career that requires a lot of self-motivation. But we can get bogged down in goals, especially if we lose sight of the reasons behind them, and even more especially if we have perfectionist tendencies. For me, at least, this was a good lesson in focusing on my own _real_ goals, not the goals someone else imposes on me, or arbitrary goals I set for myself.

Once I realized that, I was able to start enjoying writing again, though I didn’t give in to the temptation to turn my life upside down to try to hit 50,000 words. This year, I’ll wear my regular, “not a winner” NaNoWriMo t-shirt with pride. 🙂

2 thoughts on “What I learned by not winning NaNoWriMo

  1. Anastasia B. December 1, 2015 / 11:54 pm

    As a young aspiring author this is great to read, i often find that i push myself too much to achieve a goal rather than enjoy writing.
    Thanks for the insight! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. eabwheeler December 2, 2015 / 12:05 am

    Absolutely! Sometimes you do have to slog through things, but overall you should be enjoying it–otherwise it would be an awful lot of blood, sweat, and tears for something you don’t love. Good luck with your writing!


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