(Didn’t lose? Check out “so you won NaNoWriMo: what next?”) Hey, you’re not alone. I lost, and I’ve even won in the past (which somehow makes it worse…). But before you spiral into self-hatred, let’s have a heart-to-heart.
November isn’t the end. Here are my tips on where to go from here.
learn about your method
Maybe you lost NaNoWriMo because this method doesn’t work for you. The more you write, the more you’ll understand about how you write best. Maybe you noticed that this past month, you worked best in the morning. Maybe you found that you were happiest and most productive when you could focus on making the first 150 words perfect — before you were okay to move on with the story. Maybe you figured out that writing in groups was hugely motivational. Maybe you learned to shut your cat out of the office while you work (I’m looking at you, Catffrey Chaucer).
Whatever things contributed to your loss this month, learn about them and figure out how to avoid them. This is a great time to learn from your mistakes!
use November as a baseline
So, 50,000 words in a month didn’t work for you. What did? I was able to consistently write 750 words a day (using my very favorite website), but writing 1,667 was pushing it for me this month. I can use that knowledge of my own abilities to set goals that are more reasonable for me. Knowing that I’m capable, I can make it my goal to write at least 750 words each day, and I’ll still be able to write a novel faster than most.
If you could only consistently write 100 words a day, that’s 100 words you should keep writing. Every. Single. Day. No matter what went down last month, you did something. Use that as a launching point and try to improve from here on out.
don’t beat yourself up… but don’t make excuses
Look, no one can hate you for not writing a novel in a month. That’s ridiculous. Whether you had a reasonable excuse or you just ran out of steam, no one gets to judge you on why you didn’t manage to complete this ridiculous and gigantic task you set for yourself.
But don’t start feeling sorry for yourself. The goals you set for yourself last month may have been too high, but that doesn’t by any means suggest that you should stop setting goals. It’s easy to come out of NaNoWriMo with the singular intent to lie on the floor for the next eleven months, not writing. But don’t let your loss stop you from writing entirely.
NaNoWriMo is a tool that you can and should use to teach yourself what you’re capable of. But just like any class in which you are taught something, if you don’t apply it, you will very quickly forget it. (Who was the 23rd president again?) Don’t forget the lesson you learned last month. And don’t let one loss stop you from competing again.
don’t stop writing
This is by far the most important part. Even if you hate what you wrote this month and never want to look at it again, even though you didn’t cross that coveted finish line, your achievement is still valuable, because you learned that you can write incredible amounts and be unfailingly creative no matter what. Days when you’re tired, or uninspired? You still wrote. And you wrote a lot. You got up early before classes or work. You stayed up late at night to finish a chapter. You wrote on lunch breaks, on bus rides, during meals, with friends, alone, with the fire of motivation behind you, with the wall of writer’s block in front of you.
And that isn’t limited to November.
You’re a writer, no matter how November panned out. Now keep writing.