My #NaNoWriMo #Fail and Why That’s OK.

A bookshop in Lyme Regis

This year I have failed to complete NaNoWriMo and I’m fine with it because I recognise why. This month would have been my fifth, non-consecutive Nano, and whilst having a good idea, and lots of pre-writing, I couldn’t complete it. The reason I couldn’t is because I have realised I’m way past caring about quantity.

Nanowrimo gives you a number of great skills which every new writer should be challenged to complete:

  • quantity
  • finishing
  • dropping the inner editor
  • discipline

If you really want to write for a living/career, you’ll need all of the above with the addition of planning and quality. Nanowrimo doesn’t deliver those two. The format doesn’t care a jot about it. Which is good, because it’s really hard to learn the other aspects if one focuses on quality, or plans without the labour of writing.

Quantity is the main goal. Without it you’ll just be trying to run a marathon by taking zero steps.

Finishing is the second goal. Most writers start with incredible enthusiasm, then lose motivation and direction and abandon the idea. Writing is hard; writing without finishing is simply playing. Not good.

Dropping the inner editor is the third goal. How can you amass quantity and finish if you’re continually going back over your working rereading? In Nano-land the editor is unnecessary until you’ve finished; and completing Nano really works to shut down that part of your brain.

Finally: discipline is the stealth strength of Nano. To write a novel isn’t particularly difficult; it’s easy to produce one body of work in our lifetime. Being a writer however, means completing this feat of stamina time and time again. Nano teaches you to get up early, use your lunch break wisely, and turn off the TV (and social life) in the evenings. If you’re serious about writing you will need to start treating it like a job.

The problem with the final strength of discipline is the Nano work-ethic stops in December.

This is one of the main things which frustrated me. After four times of successfully competing Nano, each month in December, I stopped writing and got my life back to normal. In that sense completing Nano to become a writer is more like asking a fish to take a massive gulp of air instead of learning to grow a pair of legs and walk on the land forever.

Congratulations: you’ve written a (big) story. You still aren’t a writer.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Hey, I didn’t quit writing after Nano!’ Then great, you’re one of the very few people who I would say has a true writer-ethic. This blog post isn’t for you: it’s for all the December quitters—which includes myself.


Sucking on a lemon

Day 5 of (possibly) 90 and I’m sat hunched over a steaming laptop with my fingers bleeding into the keyboard.

No word count this time, no strict deadline, no peer pressure (other than self inflicted) and no prize at the end of it – unless you count a reasonably readable novel as ‘a prize’.

bugger – i said it again… its not a ‘book’, its a fictional document. Thats what it is. Books are works of literary genius, printed, bound, barcoded and on sale in Waterstones. Mine? Mine is not that. Its practice, its a place to play and experiment and discover if, given enough time, one 36 yr old monkey in a room can eventually bash out a reasonable tune on a qwerty xylophone with a rubber mallet.

If ‘genius’ looks like a car crash, then I might be in with a chance.

Whats been happening for 5 days? Well a lot of timelining, figuring out characters, ripping thoughts apart and wondering how to glue them back together again. The biggest u-turn taken, compared to the previous efforts, is the attempt at writing in the first person. Maybe it was reading Catcher in the Rye, maybe it was reading ‘Money’, maybe it was an attempt at forcing me to be more descriptive instead of crushing a bag of pringles over my screen and telling people its ‘dialogue’.

So yeah, I’ve planned enough to get me going – and its been a strangely enjoyable process.

Not one I’m used to at all.

Nanowrimo day 12: 20k



So far so good hey? in a couple of days time i’ll have hit the halfway mark and Wooo! start enjoying the slippery slope to success all the way to the finish post 🙂 go me – yay!

My plot has gone from nothing to a full structure to throw it out the window and my protagonist rambling across Nigeria in an ice-cream van… christ knows where this is heading, but I’m loving the ride.

’99 with a flake you say? Coming right up.

Nano: day 2 – 4160 words

So far so good. Better than last year where I started half heartedly 1 month and 4 days late. 

I find keeping up with the word count easy because my typing speed is pretty good. I’m sure a lot of less dexterous people fall at that hurdle. Being able to type fairly close to the speed of a spoken sentence really helps the process. Its literally like – ‘think & type’. 

Ok, now I know there’s a lot more to writing than blistering speed and relentless forward thinking – having a plan is a good place to start. I have one roughly drawn out, in the style of storyboards but with words instead of drawings. Tho I’ve already started to go off course, I need to make sure I stick to it. I still kick myself that I let last years effort wander about. 

Soo.. day 2 and I’m doing good. Only 46k to go…. it should be a piece of cake.