Why I Failed at NaNoWriMo

I was excited to try NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I’ve published Book 1 and 2 of my Crossroads trilogy, Survival of the Fittest and The Quest for Home. I had general ideas on Book 3–Against All Odds–that would wrap the trilogy up but not a story. I was eager to try the NaNo approach–throw everything on the page and rethink it all in December.

Here were my specific pre-NaNoWriMo goals:

  • Finish my outline by the end of October
  • Add about five pages a day to the draft which would conceptually meet the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words

But it didn’t work:

  • It took my until November 8th to finish the draft–which put me about 12,000 words behind the curve.
  • When I transferred the draft from a spreadsheet to Word, it came out to 64,000ish words. I didn’t want another 50,000 words–that would be too long for a final book.

I added about 27,000 words to the original count which I’ll log in because I plan to try again next year. But next year, I’ll make a few changes:

  • I should have counted the drafting I did November 1-8 as ‘writing’. I don’t think there’s any rule prohibiting that.
  • I’m going to draft out the final two books of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy next year. I’ll need about 160,000 words for both of those, maybe 100,000 for the draft, which should work fine for a NaNoWriMo approach.

How’d you do?

#nanowrimo #amwriting


More on NaNoWriMo

I’ll be busy in November for #NaNoWriMo

No to NaNoWriMo

4 Ways to Pre-plan Your NaNoWriMo Story

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

96 thoughts on “Why I Failed at NaNoWriMo

  1. I made it over 50K words (still not finished) but it’s going to take lots of editing and rewriting. But I look at things this way. Any number of words written is a win. You may not have had 50K new words but I don’t think you failed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like the others have said, this is such a great effort Jacqui. Though you might have felt short at NaNoWriMo, you didn’t fall short as a writer and managed to write enough words for your next book. For me, it’s hard to follow rules when it comes to writing especially time frames. I feel my best writing is done when I am not pressed for time or don’t have a deadline to meet. No pressure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I failed this year because I can’t focus on writing anymore while caring for a 90 years old mother. It’s like caring for a stubborn toddler… I get too tired and sometimes without mental energy, sometimes without the physical one. I got about 18,500 words only.

    My honest musings are here, mixing NaNo and other literary issues (because yes, November has still been rich for me): https://solpicador.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/what-is-the-elusive-literary-success/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I gave myself a goal to finish my first draft, Jacqui, and I accomplished it – about 27k words. I think we have to use NaNo in whatever way supports our writing in whatever stage it’s in. Sometimes cranking out 50k words just doesn’t make sense and there’s no point in forcing it. I’m glad you played, though, and hope it helped you to write more than you might have otherwise. I think that’s the point and what defines a win. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you did really good! Awesome you put so much work into your story. You should just have counted in the draft to NaNo as well. 👍😁

    I counted in all I wrote, managed to reach the 50.000, but then it backfired on me. Isn’t my way of writing, too fast and without much thinking. Too much pressure involved just to reach a certain amount of words in a fixed time frame. But interesting to realize I’m able to vomit words like that. Can be handy to use that as a tool.
    Now, however, I have to pick myself up from the non-writing state I landed in due to this NaNo experiment. There is so much more work ahead of me with the story than I would have had if I had written the way I normally do. So in one way I was a winner, but what was the price?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. In my eyes, Jacqui, you achieved an impressive word count as you stuck rigidly to your rules; so well done for taking a massive step forward on what counts – Book 3. I’m no longer a ‘purist’ after a few NaNo successes. Nowadays, my draft outlines are always part of the attempt; I copy my outline and write over it. Even notes and comments to myself become part of my ‘splurge’ draft novel. I admit: ‘I cheat’.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This was my first attempt, too, Jacqui. I had no outline only an idea when I jumped in. I didn’t like writing just to write, those parts will need a lot of editing and I have to blend the story since it has three different things going on. I’m glad I tried it though and do have the very raw first draft. It did show me I’m capable of writing more than I do. No idea if I will do it again, but, always good to workout those writing muscles:)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I only did NaNo once, and I didn’t get anywhere near the 50,000 words in the time. However, I did eventually finish the novel and now, many drafts later, it’s published. Even if you don’t manage the full NaNo word count, it’s not a failure if it takes you closer to a completed novel. And it’s all practice!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think 27k isn’t a failure, especially if you’re satisfied with the word count as a total. You achieved your writing goal for that project, so that’s a win. I didn’t participate, but with social media out of the pic for these last few months, I got a lot of my writing on track, so, it’s a win all around. Hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I don’t consider that a fail. I consider that a major win. Congratulations. You wrote what you needed to and how you needed to. So what if the ‘rules’ didn’t suit your writerly needs. You did what suited your needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well done, and it sounds like you did exactly the right thing for your novel – adding extra words for the sake of it would be crazy.
    You can definitely count the outlining as words – lots of people do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Jacqui – as the others say … I definitely don’t think you failed … writing is as much mulling over the words as it is putting the concept together – it seems like you’ve set your own stall out from which you can clarify so much. I admire you … and next year you’ll succeed more easily. Congratulations is all I can say – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Hilary! Just wanted to mention (and maybe it doesn’t matter at all) that your gravatar doesn’t work. The web address isn’t http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/. You could go into your gravatar and fix it but I don’t know how many people find you through it. I do only because it’s easy to visit after you comment on a post that way.

      OK, I really made that confusing…


      • Nope – I realise I need to look at things and will do over the Christmas period – when I hope I can take time out to look at these sort of niggly things!! thanks for letting me know though … Cheers H

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I count all the preliminary words: planning, character profiles, outlining, discussions on writer forums about writing, even editing if I’ve finished the main mss. There’s no rule against doing this. All’s fair in the storytelling game, as long as the story comes forth into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think you are looking at it the wrong way. I don’t think you “failed”. You achieved 27,000 words!! Would you have done that in the same time anyway? Regardless, it sounds like you have a first draft!! Woo Hoo.

    Liked by 3 people

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