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Why I Didn’t Finish NaNoWriMo

December 1, 2013 by Kiersi

Yep. That’s right. I didn’t. You may remember something like this happening:

– I started a fantasy novel at the beginning of the month. I got about 6,000 words into it.

– Then, for some reason, I scrapped it and started a completely different book. A New Adult, contemporary romance novel. I wrote the first 31,000 words in four or five days.

– And then life happened. I had a ton of contract work that had piled up; I met someone (this is a big part of it, I’m sure); I started a part-time job; Thanksgiving; concerts; exercise; and then I lost my way.

Because I was pantsing this novel (see: no outline, no plan, just writing). Because I had no idea where I was headed when I started besides a final image, a last consequence, and without a road map, I went off-track and tripped in some mud. I’ve been slogging, slowly but surely, trying to re-formulate a plan of attack.

And I was stressing myself out, wondering: How am I going to get this done by the end of the month? I don’t even know where I’m going, not to mention how to get there.

Not that I regret not outlining this book. It’s allowed me some great privileges I wouldn’t otherwise have had. It allowed my heroes to go wherever they pleased, to do whatever felt right, to try out new things and push my limits and challenge me in ways heroes of mine never have before.

Oh, and then somehow, the book had magical realism.

With all of those things stacked on top of each other, well–I had to make a choice. And I decided it wasn’t worth stressing over. I decided that NaNo had started me on a quest I wouldn’t have otherwise started, that it had done its job and I could finish the job on my own, when time permitted, when life evened out for a few seconds and I could play a little catch-up. So I set a new end date for myself in January, which is perfectly feasible for the last 50,000 words of this novel.

So, this is why I didn’t finish National Novel Writing Month. I decided that a great book doesn’t have to write itself in a month; I decided it was worth focusing on the important changes happening in my life and waiting for the right story to reveal itself to me.

A huge round of applause to all my friends who did!


  1. unsquare says:

    Hey, well, I’m all for magical realism. I’ve always thought that whole win/lose proposition of NaNoWriMo was the only really silly part; participants should only take winning as seriously as necessary to keep themselves writing, but should let it go before “not winning” turns into an excuse to give yourself a hard time. Personally, I count writing more than one day in a row as a win. πŸ™‚

    • Kiersi says:

      Yes! Exactly! You nailed how I feel about Nano, too. It’s an incentive to sit down and write, and as long as it serves that purpose, I’m good with it.

  2. Maybe you didn’t win NaNo, but it sounds like you won something better. You have a book you’re excited about and you got to have a life for the past month. Nothing wrong at all with that. πŸ™‚

  3. Kiersi, I’m in the same boat. I outlined my novel but when I started writing I realized that something wasn’t working. I sat on it for a couple of days and it hit me; right story, wrong protagonist! But through the process of trying to write it I stumbled upon another, almost forgotten, character of mine. He was saying, “Hey! This is my story. Write me!” So glad I found him! So kudos to you for doing what feels right, no matter if you won NaNoWriMo or not. You’re on your way to a story that feels true, and that’s all that matters.

    • Kiersi says:

      Whoa! That’s really cool–how you discovered that was the character you were meant to write about! Funny how that happens. Thank you, Quanie! I hope so.

  4. rfeiertag says:

    Ditto here. I just want to read what you’ve written someday, no matter what incentive got you to write.


  5. I’m seeing some of these confessional posts floating around today. I think the biggest takeaway is that if Nano inspired you to write, then it’s a win in its own way. Maybe you would have spent months on the fantasy story that wouldn’t end up going anywhere, and the other story, well 30k words is nothing to sneeze at! (weird cliche alert). I almost gave up Nano this year to finish editing a different story once I got it back from CPs and the agent. But for me I wanted to finish, so I set my priorities and made it happen. So it might be a hot mess with no ending yet, but I’ll have something to work on in January when my editing is finished with my other project.

    You’ve got to know what works for you! I hope you end up finishing your contemporary romance. Writing is a journey, and a hard-earned one. πŸ™‚

    • Kiersi says:

      Yeah, I doubt I’m the only one feeling this way after Nano! It sounds like you’ve got your priorities in order, though, which is key. I think that was my problem–my priorities just shuffled partway through the month. Thanks for the well wishes! Good on you for getting done what you needed to get done πŸ™‚

  6. Can we start a new group for those who flop in November? It appears there’s a few of us. Glad life is good! My story for NaNO is so similar!

  7. A great book certainly doesn’t have to be written in a month. I think NaNo is a great thing because it gets people writing and motivated and it certainly works for some people. Me, I write too slowly and have the horrible habit of editing as I go. I can’t fathom writing that many words in a few days like you did. So – pat yourself on the back! Success!

  8. Writerlious says:

    OMG–who cares?! You have over 31,000 of a first draft. Congratulate yourself, sister. πŸ™‚

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