I'm a NaNo Loser

And proud of it. Sort of.

Of course I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope to have a completed manuscript by now. That's why I tried NaNo in the first place.

Still, I'm proud of the fact that I gave NaNo a try. Even if I wasn't a "Winner."

There are many people who enter NaNo every year. They "win" and emerge with a 50,000 word manuscript. So, why didn't I win NaNo? Well, here are my top reasons that NaNo didn't work for me.

COMPETITION I don't like competition. Honestly, I can count on one hand how many contests I've entered in hopes of winning a MS crit with an agent. And for whatever reason NaNo felt like a competition to me. I know it's not. But it felt that way.

WORK I don't mean that writing is work. What I mean is that I don't want writing to feel like a job. Elana Johnson wrote a great blog post about that. And I couldn't agree more. Writing is enjoyable for me. It's something that I LOVE doing. And I want to keep it that way. I never want to feel like writing is a job because there's no quicker way to suck the joy out of something than to think of it as work.

RACE MENTALITY Recently my husband ran a marathon. Due to some really incredible circumstances he barely made it to the race on time (that's a story for another day). As he ran across the starting mats he could see all the other runners way ahead of him. He had to remind himself not to worry about catching up, but to pace himself and run the race how he'd trained for it. The same is true for NaNo. Although I started off strong, life quickly got in the way and my word count fell behind. Before long I had the race mentality. I HAD to catch up! But I'm not like those other writers, so I would never finish 50,000 words in 9 days like one of my crit partners (Ahem, yeah, I'm talking about you MINDY!). But really, that's OKAY.

INTERNAL EDITOR I just couldn't turn it off. To tell the truth though, I don't like shutting her out. Thankfully my internal editor isn't one who tells me my writing sucks. She stands quietly by encouraging me to write better and showing me ways to improve. Many people would give their writing hand to have a gift like that. And I do consider it a gift. Since I couldn't turn off my internal editor, I felt like I couldn't go back and review the story. The urge to edit would be just too strong. Like a frickin drug. And because I couldn't review, I had a hard time connecting to the story. It became difficult to see where I'd been and where the story was going.

WORD COUNT I've had many writer friends who LIVE by word count goals. Not me. Granted, I do tend to have a goal range, but it's a RANGE not a set minimum of words. My first Middle-Grade manuscript I wrote in 6 days with a word count range of 20-30,000 words. When the manuscript was complete at 24,000 I was happy with that. Of course it has now gone through a HUGE revision and I'm up to 40,000 words - and counting. If I had to choose one primary reason why I failed at NaNo - word count goal would be it. Not because I can't write 50K words (my YA was 91K) but because I felt like I couldn't edit (= delete) any words. So the times that I couldn't turn off my internal editor and I allowed myself to edit, I had to do it in RED so all my words would be there, plus the new ones that I wanted to use instead. It kind of became a huge jarbled mess after a while.

DAILY WRITING This goes with the mentality of thinking that writing is a job. I'll be honest with you. I don't write daily. < GASP > I write when my muse visits. Sometimes that IS every day. Sometimes that every day is multiple times a day - even waking me up at 2 am to race to my laptop in my freezing cold dining room and write a scene that's screaming to have it's place on a page. Other times, I might not write for days. For one, I have a life. For another, I'm not going to force something out if I'm really not feeling it. Especially if it just means meeting a word count goal.

So there you have it. NaNo didn't work for me. But it did teach me something very, very valuable. I don't need a dedicated month to write a manuscript.

I'm glad though to have a red-marked, horribly written, sloppy start to a really great Gothic MG. And I'm really excited to finish it. On my terms. :)

What about you? What was your experience with NaNo?


Nicole Zoltack said…
Nano isn't for everyone and struggling to write 50k when that isn't going to work for you is only going to make you miserable and that's not the point of Nano. So I'm happy that you're proud to be a Nano non-winner.

Personally, I reached 50k. I'm one of those that wins Nano a lot. When I write Nano, my stories need a lot more editing than when I write at my normal pace. I'm sure the words you typed won't need as heavy of an edit. So there's good things about writing fast (finish draft faster) versus writing slow (needs less edits).

Just do whatever works best for you. :)
I totally lost NANO, and for the most part I am okay with that. I have a wee one and didn't get much of anything done except hold that little baby, and I mean ANYTHING. House included.

I actually wrote almost 70,000 words last november and it was great. The story was one I had plotted out before and so the story went really fast.

This year my creativity is being sucked away by my young one and it doesnt matter. Hormones perhaps? I know part is this is my last baby and i wont get another chance for a month of xnuggles ever again.
KarenG said…
I had planned on doing it but life got in the way, so you got farther than me. I didn't even start!
Rezden said…
Lost also. It did uncover an unfortunate truth about work for me though. Seems as if my job is crushing my soul and creativity. So in a way, it was great to participate if just to learn this. :)
Meredith said…
It sounds like you made the right choice for you to keep the internal editor on and to make sure you didn't turn writing into a job. I can't write daily either, and I definitely can't turn off my internal editor, and I'm ok with that!
NiaRaie said…
I whole heartedly agree about the inner editor thing! A few days ago NaNo even inspired me to blog about why IE is good for me. NaNo CAN make your novel feel like work a lot of the time but kudos for even attempting it. :D
Anonymous said…
I did complete 50,000 words. Of garbage. :) I have a skeleton draft that is not finished. Over the next month I hope to complete the skeleton draft then work on a rough draft. :) Congrats on giving it a try. NaNo is SO not for everyone.
Anne said…
You still managed a lot of words an you should be proud! I was thinking about signing up on the 30th. ;)
Jessica Hill said…
I didn't participate in NaNo. Every year I plan to, and then it just doesn't work out. However, like you, I not sure if it would work for me. I've tried doing the Book in a Month before, and that didn't work, so I'm not sure if NaNo would be different.

The two big reasons for me are ones that you also mentioned: WORK and INTERNAL EDITOR. I don't want my writing to feel like work; I have enough of that between my day job and school. And personally, I LOVE my internal editor. Like you, I don't want to shut her out.

You should be proud of yourself for trying, and it looks like you still got a lot of words out, so that's certainly an accomplishment!
MarkoManager said…
Very nice posts, i follow your blog...
Amie Kaufman said…
Okay, firstly, I want to hear the marathon story one day please!

I "won" NaNo, but I've never liked using that word much. I wrote the first draft of a book I've had in my head for a while, which came in at 38K. I'm really happy with the result--it will take a lot of editing, sure, but I know it's a better first draft than my last one was, so I know I'm learning, and learned during this writing process too.

The next 12K I made up (and I guess this means I didn't "win" NaNo, since it wasn't one book) with writing exercises. I wrote the starts of several different stories, each with a completely different setting, character and voice. I had a blast and was truly doing it for fun.

I think that's what NaNo has to come down to. If you're having fun, do it. If it's not for you, don't! I think it's awesome that you tried it out--I think it would have been a terrible idea to force yourself through, really for no reason at all. Looking forward to hearing more about the gothic MG, though, very interested!

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