Why I’ll Never Participate in NaNoWriMo Again

I have dreamed of successfully completing at least one NaNoWriMo competition since 2011, and this past year I finally realized that dream. I wrote 50,014 words of This Dread Road, Book Three of The Bennett Series, in November 2015.

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I was so proud of myself. Not only had I finally managed to complete a challenge, I did it in the same month my husband and I purchased a home and moved.

For several months after I finished, I was convinced that participating in NaNo was a great thing that everyone should do. After all, I’d never managed to write so much so quickly in my life. But now that I’m finished with revisions, I can look back and say with all manner of certainty that NaNoWrioMo, while well-intentioned, did me far more harm than good.

 

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For one thing, it ushered in a horrific period of burnout. I never stopped working on This Dread Road, but it took nearly six months for me to finish the second half of the book. I went through several weeks of just not caring about the story anymore. Working on it was painful and torturous. For a while, I worried I wouldn’t finish it in time. Or at all.

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Our trip to South Carolina in March forced me to rest and rejuvenate. I came home more excited about the story than ever, having seen places like Stella Maris Church (pictured above) that were connected to the story of This Dread Road. It took another month after our return, but I finally finished the draft. I was so happy to finish, and still eternally gratefully for NaNoWriMo. If I hadn’t written that 50,014 words last November, how much further behind schedule would I be?

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But when I started revisions a few weeks ago, I realized that those first 50,000 words were essentially useless. That section of the book was packed with filler words, unnecessary characters, and subplots I hadn’t taken the time to flesh out. I could almost map my exhaustion during the month of November just looking at that first half.

I had to rewrite the first twenty-seven chapters.

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I don’t wish that I hadn’t participated in NaNo last year–it was a fun experience, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and solidarity that I experienced all across the Internet. It was finals week, but without the stress of grades hanging over my head. I got a lot done. Had I not participated, I most likely wouldn’t have taken a break to redesign all three of the covers for The Bennett Series. I wouldn’t have been able to let my experience in Charleston influence my descriptions nearly as much.

Most importantly, I wouldn’t have learned a valuable lesson: what works for others does not necessarily work for me.


This Dread Road is currently in the editing stage and is tentatively scheduled for a December 2016 release. I will hopefully have a firm date for you soon! 

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5 thoughts on “Why I’ll Never Participate in NaNoWriMo Again

  1. That’s interesting. I’ve heard good and bad things about Nano, and my own experiences have been mixed. You plotted pretty extensively beforehand, too, didn’t you?

    • I did! Even though I ended up changing some details, I had most of it planned out from the beginning. It was still a struggle for me. I wouldn’t let myself fall behind, so I procrastinated through filler words instead of just not writing. Kind of a wash, I suppose! :/ Then again, I know people who have had really good results with NaNo. Perhaps it’s a personality thing.

      • It’s a lot of pressure, for sure. At least now you know. You may consider sidelining next time – not participating but cheering others on and feeding off the fun and community. I wrote a little the last time, but didn’t nearly make the 50k mark, but I expected that and didn’t try to push things. I still need to go back and edit, but it helped me get the story out of my head. I did some outlining, but I’m just getting familiar with structure and know I need to beef it up. You’ve done a fabulous job with your revisions, by the way. 🙂

  2. It’s a good lesson to learn, that everyone is different.

    It sounds reasonable, that when people hurry they tend to make more mistakes. However, my books that are always the biggest mess when I am done are the ones that take forever to write. I shudder and stall, and lose bits of voice when I drag. I can’t hang on to the thread of the story when not taking daily bites out of it. I used to think this made me a bit of a freak, but one of my writing friends told me about a book that I believe is called How to Write 5,000 Words an Hour–she said it sounded just how I operate! So I picked up the book to compare notes, and while I don’t write 5k an hour (my sprint rate is closer to 3600 an hour) the process was pretty much spot on. They even make a very good case for faster, more efficient writing, leading to a better first draft.

    I think the word efficient is the key here. If you wrote 5k words in an hour you’d only have to write an hour a day for 10 days and you’d hit the 50k NaNo goal. Which helps avoided the dreaded burn out.

    I hate NaNo, November isn’t a good month for me. I prefer the 3 Day Novel Contest in Sep 😉

  3. Pingback: May Reading Wrap-Up: My 4 and 5 Star Reads | Miscellany by O

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