So You Lost NaNo: What Now?

Sunday 1 December 2013 by

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Writing, Coffee, NovemberFirst off, don’t beat yourself up about it. ‘Winning’ NaNo isn’t an easy feat. Most people won’t even try to do something as crazy and exhausting and outside of their comfort zones. Well done you for giving it your best shot. And chances are, you still have more words than you would have written if you hadn’t decided to do it. That is definitely worth something.

But how do you move on from here? Chances are you’re feeling a bit disheartened after your ‘defeat’ and wondering if it’s even worth continuing. You might have decided that this writing lark isn’t for you, but if you’re still keen to continue, here are some suggestions for where to take things next:

1.     Evaluate why you didn’t succeed

Spend some time thinking about why you didn’t hit your target. Was it purely the pressure of squeezing in 1667 words a day? Did something in your work or home life knock you off schedule? Or was it your project? Before you dismiss it as your project (because it’s easy to think it’s a flaw in our ideas rather than our habits) think back to what had you excited about it. It’s quite normal to start hating a project when you’re halfway through, but if you can still get excited about the initial ideas or the characters, it’s worth continuing with. If not, then perhaps the project was your problem and you need to think of something new.

2.     Establish a new writing routine

The reason NaNo works so well for lots of people is it gives you a concrete deadline and daily word count. If you want to get your project finished in the next few months, you need to do the same. You probably have a good idea from you NaNo efforts how many words you can comfortably write, and how long it takes to write them. From this, decide on your own daily word counts. Don’t aim as high as 1667; 250-500 words a day is extremely manageable, and will top a 20,000 word project up to a 60,000 word novel in less than six months.

3.     Keep going!

Don’t let your ‘failure’ hold you back. You didn’t fail – you just didn’t succeed yet. At the end of the day, if you write the novel in a month, or two years, you’ve still done what most people only ever talk about! Keep writing every day and you’ll get there eventually. Think of your NaNo efforts as a good head start rather than a failure to finish.

4.     Don’t be afraid to try again

You may not have made it this time – I didn’t the first time I tried – but there’s no reason you can’t do better, or even win next year. Learn from your mistakes, keep writing, and sooner or later you might just get the itch. If you do, go for it! This will be the second NaNo I’ve won (at time of writing, I’m just 5000 words short – I refuse to get that close and give up, even if I’m writing until 23.59 on Saturday!) and each time I’ve done it, I’ve got more out of it. It’s definitely a challenge worth revisiting.

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