Full disclosure, I have tried to complete Nanowrimo seven times. All seven times, I have failed. But each year, almost without fail, I still sign up again.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Nanowrimo (short for National Novel Writing Month), it is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. Each November, thousands of people sign up for this challenge and many of these people complete it. There are thousands more, like me, who never make it to the finish line.
Now, some might call us failures and there is some truth to that, but failing isn’t the worst thing that can happen at the end of Nanowrimo. The worst outcome is that we never choose to write again after failing at this very difficult challenge. Here are some things to think about as you get back up on your feet as a writer.
Look at Why You Failed – And Be Kind to Yourself
Each time I’ve failed, there have been different contributing factors. Sometimes I get into a great routine, but then let it go once we hit Thanksgiving. Other times, I’ve started with a pretty bad idea that couldn’t really stand up to being a novel. One time, someone close to me died midway through and the project just didn’t seem meaningful anymore.
Ask yourself what got in your way. Were they things that were in your control or not? If they were things that were out of your control, do your best to let them go. It’s hard for us to take everything that life throws at us, while still writing a novel. Give yourself some grace that you are human and things happen, especially in a pandemic.
Look at What You Learned
It might feel like you made an effort and you’ve got nothing to show for it. But, your time is never wasted is you’ve learned something from the experience.
Maybe you didn’t get your project finished, but did you establish a writing routine? You might have found out your project doesn’t work as a novel and would be better as a play or poetry collection (found that one out the hard way). Maybe you learned a time of day that is good for you to write or you found a plot hole in your story You might have just found that your lifestyle can’t sustain that much writing everyday and you need to write over a longer period of time.
Take a look at your project and see what lessons you can learn. Then, when you’re ready, take what you’ve learned and either finish this project or start a different one!
You Didn’t Do Nothing – Now Use It!
Remember, no matter how hard it is to fail, you chose to do something in November. Maybe you didn’t get accomplished as much as you wanted, but you didn’t do nothing. We’re in
Now, take whatever you have, 1,000 word or 49,000 words, and use them! If you got 10,000 words in and realized your characters had no characters (done that one too!) see if some of your story is salvageable. If you found a plot hole you just couldn’t get past, maybe your characters would fit a different adventure.
You did something this month, now keep trying to use it! You might need a break for a little while, but come back to all the hard work you put in around the new year and see if you can make something out of it.
Finally, You Are Not Alone
Last but not least, cut yourself some slack. There is a huge community of people who are also recovering from their work this November. If you’re looking for others to bond over this experience with, there are communities all across the internet where you can bond with others. Check out the Nanowrimo website, Reddit forums, or almost any corner of the internet to find someone else who is in your boat. There are even awesome Youtubers to help inspire you who have documented their journeys. Some succeed, others are still working!
Remember, no matter what you accomplished this year, don’t be too hard on yourself. Picking up the pen or the keyboard is half battle. Keep up that Nanowrimo spirit, although maybe not the word count, and don’t give up on those writing dreams.
Featured Image via Lindenwood University