Well, my NaNoWriMo novel, a murder mystery set in Iceland, tentatively titled Princess, topped out at a whopping 9,000 words. A far cry from the 50,000 the challenge calls for. In fact, I didn’t actually get to the murder section of the murder story.
But that’s okay.
And if you are in a similar boat, perhaps you got 12,000, or 30,000 or even just 1,000, it’s okay. December 1st’s untimely, yet entirely punctual arrival doesn’t herald the end to your writing endeavors. November is one month out of twelve. And it’s nice to “win” the official challenge, but that doesn’t mean you lost if you didn’t win NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean you suck as a writer or are so lacking in creativity you don’t have enough ideas.
Win or lose, NaNoWriMo isn’t really about writing a bestselling novel in thirty days. (Though it certainly happens.) NaNoWriMo is two things: A personal challenge, and a lesson you teach yourself.
NaNoWriMo’s website tells you that it doesn’t actually end with November. December and January are referred to as editing months for the people who won. But I’ll go one step further and say lessons from your failed novel-in-a-month are relevant no matter the month. So, I’ve outlined a few of the lessons I learned myself below. Perhaps they can be applied to you as well. If not, perhaps they’ll help you find your own lessons:
My story wasn’t thought out well enough.
Granted, my stories are never thought out well. I like to call my first drafts “zeroth drafts” because they’re not really true drafts. My lack of/refusal to plan ahead leads me to changing my mind about all sorts of things- I’ve changed my endings multiple times, and then had to go back and retcon the first half. But when you’re trying to bang out a story in 30 days, a little planning goes a long way.
My characters weren’t developed enough
I had trouble writing my characters this time around. I didn’t ever really have a grasp for their voice or personalities, so it was hard to figure out exactly what they’d do at each step. This lead to a lot of dead ends where I’d have to pause short of my daily goal because I needed to figure out exactly how a character was going to respond to a question.
I was too picky.
I’m always picky. I kind of edit as I write, and sometimes spend several minutes at a time trying to get one sentence just right. NaNoWriMo requires letting go a bit, and trusting yourself and/or your editors to iron out the kinks once you’re all done. Perhaps I can stand to be a bit less picky with how I write, and let the weak sentences I can’t figure out hang around until it’s time to re-draft. That may really be a reason why it takes me so long to write anything.