3 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo – and Why It’s OK

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I am a failure.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo–again. And again–I failed to make 50,000 words.

But I have good reasons.

World Building. I did massive work this month on world building. Since I’m writing a science fiction novel, I needed to invent technology, figure out where to locate installations, design the installations to meet the needs of my sff characters and the needs of the story, create scientifically accurate details throughout, along with the usual backstory.

I used Google Earth to investigate Mt. Rainier and the surrounding area, worked on backstory and characterization, and dug into the details of scenes. Many scenes that are still to be written have been written about; that is, I’ve written notes about who, what, when, where, why and with what emotion. When I do sit down to write the scene, it should go quickly.

November is Hard. I’ve never understood the decision to make November the NaNoWriMo month; it’s one of the busiest months for me. Arkansas has a major reading conference, besides the Thanksgiving holiday. All together there were 7-8 days I simply could not write because I was busy all day with other activities. For me, burning the midnight oil does no good, but at that hour, all I can write is crap. Still, I wrote steadily on the days that I could and made progress.

Writing Style. Fashion swings wildly. Many editors believe that writing should take a long, long time. The fad in the Indie world these days is very rapid writing. In the end–I write as fast as I can and still turn out something that pleases me. I must please myself, not an editor or a contest like NaNoWriMo or anyone else. I can only write as fast as I can write.

My Speed is OK

BlueOKIt’s really OK that I didn’t write 50,000 words this month.

  • I had a great time at the Arkansas Reading Association conference.
  • I had a great time with my family.
  • I wrote about 32,500 words, which is 32,500 words more than I started the month with. More than that, I know my characters better and know that it was a very good month of work.

That’s all I can say.

8 Comments
  • Sue Heavenrich
    December 1, 2014

    I agree with you, Darcy- 32,500 words on a sheaf of pages is way further than you were at the beginning of the month. And world-building takes a lot of work. I disagree, though, when you say you’re a failure. Because failure doesn’t look like words on a page. Failure would look more like watching TV and eating bon-bons whilst whinging about how hard it is to write. And that’s definitely not you!

  • Cathy Pelham
    December 1, 2014

    Darcy- love all of your posts, they inspire and inform beautifully. This one came at a particularly opportune time. I failed NaNoWriMo with 35,847 words. I’ve tried to follow advice on just getting it down, don’t worry about quality, etc. Each time I started a scene, it was with the intent to get the plot down. But I write character-driven stories, and I love the characters in my Nano novel. I could not treat them shabbily. I found that even with a very detailed plan for each scene, when I started to write, the characters would turn corners I never saw coming. I decided not to shortchange that process and miss out on the great storytelling of which I appear to be only the conduit. Thanks for your upbeat message. You write, I’ll read.

  • Linda Andersen
    December 1, 2014

    Darcy,
    Work worthy of applause! You set your own goals and met them. Wonderful news!

  • Tony McFadden
    December 4, 2014

    Nano has always been, for me, more about putting in the time and creating the habit. It’s great if you hit 50,000 words, but that’s artificial.

    It’s fantastic is you manage to write more days in November than you normally do, because that’s real.

    I’ve heard so many first time Nano-ers claim that they didn’t realise how much time they could find when they were “forced” to. Many didn’t make the count (and many did) but all of them we more pleased by how they found ways to adjust their time management, permanently in many cases.

    And that’s the real win.

  • Darcy Pattison
    December 5, 2014

    Cathy:
    Glad this resonated with you! At 35,000+ words, you’re a winner in my book!
    Darcy

  • Darcy Pattison
    December 5, 2014

    Tony:
    Well said. And I am writing steadily, so it’s all OK.
    Darcy

  • Matt Black
    December 5, 2014

    Hi Darcy and fans,

    I’m new here, but I comment a lot, so… here goes:

    I didn’t sign up for NaNo this year. I won last year (my first year) but the project was pretty awful and it still sits exactly where it did a year ago. this year, I just took some inspiration from everyone writing so much. I got a little over 20K words in and I didn’t start until the 12th. I feel like that’s a win. I could have done more, but I was visiting In-Laws for the holiday and my wife didn’t let me be anti-social and write. Oh well.

    Anyway, I am working on a novel that should probably have some pretty involved world-building, but I never really fleshed out all of the world-building before hand. I’m just sort of trying to make it work as I go. It’s working out fairly well for a first draft, but I was wondering if you had any advice (or links to good advice) on world-building?

    Anyway, 32,500 is excellent anyway. Well done! And thanks for the post!

  • Darcy Pattison
    December 7, 2014

    The sff folks have lots of world-building tips. http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

    Welcome, Matt:
    I think the hardest part is thinking about the implications of decisions you make. For example, if you put a city on the edge of a cliff, what stories would parents tell their kids? Would they have stories about kids falling off the cliffs? It’s things like that which really make a world come alive.

    Darcy