So you failed NaNoWriMo. Now what?

Ah, November — a month in which tens of thousands of writers around the world vow to write, suffer, and celebrate together as we attempt to pen 50,000 words in 30 days. You look at the minimum of 1,667 words per day needed to get the job done and think, “That’s it? P’shaw! This will be easy!”

The next thing you know it’s week three and you’re 8,000 words behind and wondering if you should double down or cut your losses. For some writers, the former is the only option.

This post is for the rest of us.

Whether you missed 50k by a long shot or tripped at the finish line, here are a few reasons not to beat yourself up about failing at NaNoWriMo.

All words are good words

Almost everyone who has ever won NaNoWriMo will tell you that the key to conquering 50k in 30 days is to write with reckless abandon. Don’t edit as you write. Every word counts. It doesn’t matter if you finish the month with a steaming pile of garbage because all first drafts are inherently shitty. What matters is your wrote something.

The same is true whether you won with 50k or just managed to squeak out a few hundred words. Every word you wrote during your NaNoWriMo attempt is a word you didn’t have before you started. You’ve started the thing, and that’s a victory in and of itself.


The gift of time

Raise your hand if on October 31st you were like, “Nah, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year”, and then, on November 1st, you signed up and dove in out of sheer FOMO. I’ve been there, my friends.

Some people thrive as pantsers — those fortunate writers who can somehow pull an entire novel off the top of their head without having to plan or outline beforehand (i.e. not me). But the pace of NaNoWriMo can challenge even the most seasoned of pantsers; there’s no time for writer’s block at this party. And if you’re a plotter like me, going into November without even a bullet list of an outline is a fool’s errand.

But there’s a silver lining in having set yourself up to fail: now you have 11 months to get your shit together. Whether you like the novel you’re working with now or need to come up with something better before next November, you have plenty of time to get ready for the next round. You can also use this time to figure out how and when you write best so you can set yourself up with a winning strategy next year, or block off your calendar in advance so everyone in your life knows to leave you the hell alone for those precious 30 days.

There’s always next year

Of all the years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, I’ve only won once. That was back in 2016. I thought for sure I was going to be able to pull it off again this year but, alas, no such luck. The first time I missed the mark I was pretty down on myself, especially as I watched other members of the writing community celebrating their hard won victories.

But here’s the cool thing about NaNoWriMo: it happens every year. You’re not going to win this thing every time you try. You should, however, enjoy the process and applaud yourself for trying in the first place.


Ultimately, whether you won NaNoWriMo or not, there’s only one thing we all need to remember: don’t stop writing!

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