The Upside of a Failure: Things I Learned From Failing NaNoWriMo

08:00 Cilla P 10 Comments

Last month, I made a decision on a whim to do NaNoWriMo. At the beginning, I wrote up an introduction to my WIP, and was pumped to work on my writing. I was on fire for about the first week, then... I stopped. Still, even though I flinch a little as I look back on the 10,000 words I've written in November, I feel that I've learned some things from the experience.

Lesson 1: I'm a Planner

For NaNo, one of my goals was to continue writing my long-suffering WIP. I wanted to make my way past the introduction stage, which I know well, into the main action. Since I've only decided to do NaNo in the last week of October, and not having touched my WIP since July, I didn't have time to work on my world-building or even think through my plot. I thought, "I'll just figure it out as I go." That method works wonderfully for some writers, but apparently not for me. I don't need to know every detail of my plot, but I do need to know my world and my characters inside out.

Similarly, I learned that concrete goals are good for me, but only when they are achievable. 50k is much too much for me, and by the second week, the thought of it makes me more panicked than motivated. Having a schedule and a daily writing goal, on the other hand, helped keep me on track.

Lesson 2: My Main Character's Motivation was Too Flimsy

Going off my last point, I figured something out about one of my main characters: her motivation wasn't strong enough for the kind of plot I had in mind for her. I had to go back to the drawing board and really figure her out. I still don't know if I have, but it is one of my goals for the next stage of my writing.

Lesson 3: Writing Can be Lonely 

I've participated in the fanfiction community for a long time now. With that medium of writing, and when you're lucky, there's always feedback every time you complete and put out a segment of your story. I got too used to that, and found myself feeling isolated as I work on my WIP. I think the solution to this is either persevering by relying on internal motivations, or finding myself some writing buddies to help push me forward. I had neither of these during November.

Lesson 4: I Need to Believe in My Story More

When the adrenaline of NaNo faded and other commitments began to zap my energy, that little voice of doubt began to pop up. Why should I bother investing my time and energy in this story? Everything I write is terrible! What's the point? This and the daunting task of writing so many words didn't make for a good combination. I don't think it would ever go away even if I manage to write an amazing story, but I think I need to learn how to better deal with self-doubt when it creeps up on me while under pressure.

Lesson 5: I Write Best at Night

I've tried writing at different times of day during November, and I've discovered that after dinner is when I tend to be most productive with my writing. By that stage, I'm done with the day so I don't feel guilty about any other responsibilities, and I'm just the right amount of tired to keep myself from overthinking what I'm writing.

So, knowing all of these, perhaps my failure to complete NaNo is not such a failure. The key, for me, would be to implement all of the above as I move forward with my WIP. Hopefully, by the end of next year, it will be a full-fledged first draft! 💪

Do any of the above sound familiar to you?
If you've participated in NaNo, what have you taken learned from it?
If you're a writer, tell me about your latest project!


  1. NaNoWriMo is hard! I've completed the challenge a couple of times, but I usually fail. Ha ha. Good for you for figuring out where you went wrong so you can do better next time.

    1. It seriously is! Well done on completing it a couple of times - that's pretty awesome!

  2. I'm really glad that you learned a lot from your NaNo experience. That's really half the battle. I agree that self-doubt can be a big deterrent. It helped me a lot to have those daily goals, though---I haven't finished my book yet, even though I was almost done at the end of NaNo. I need to give myself the goals again!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. I've been trying to set myself some daily goals! I'm hoping it works better if I can get into the habit of devoting some time every day to my writing. Good luck with your book, Nicole! :D

  3. I tried to do NaNo last year and had mild success; this year I decided at the last minute to reattempt it...and failed once again.

    It's hard for me to write everyday on a novel and meet a specific target. I think the pressure of having to meet a specific # got to me a bit. So this year, I tried just writing as much as I could in one sitting and returning to it when it struck me.

    It's weird, I work on my blog everyday but because I doesn't feel like a chore, I don't find it stressful or something I worry about. I just save my draft and return to it if I get a block.

    The one bright side of NaNo this year was that I finished outlines for last year's and this year's stories--and that included working out some major plot kinks I had been stuck on :)

    1. I love when I can get into a flow in one sitting and just smash it out, but my problem with that is I often find excuses to not start, so that's where the target helps. Though I'm sure that doesn't work as a motivation if it feels like a chore!

      Go you for finishing the outlines! :D That's a great achievement - I'm still struggling to finish mine for this WIP. Good luck with the stories in the future!

  4. I definitely relate to this post. I always decide to do Nano on a whim with little to no planning before hand. I always end up writing LOTS on the first day... and then deleting everything I've written because I don't like it. (Which isn't a good method haha 10/10 don't recommend.) I'm definitely more of a planner as well!
    I wish you the best of luck on writing your WIP <3

    1. *highfives* I had the urge to delete everything I wrote too haha. I didn't, but I have a feeling it would go through a massive rewrite when I've worked out my outline. Thanks, Faith! <3

  5. I failed Nano, too! I to be honest, I haven't looked into it since I stopped updating my WIP mid November... *shudder* I may pick it up again though. I went into Nano with no planning and outlining at all which I think was a very bad idea!

    1. I hope you will pick it up again one day! I agree - I think 50k is way too much to tackle without some sort of plan. 😂


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