When NaNoWriMo Doesn’t Work Out

Hello and happy Wednesday!

Today is the fifteenth, making it officially halfway through the month of November. For those participating in NaNoWriMo, that’s a big milestone. It’s also typically where the most burn-out and exhaustion happens, so if you’re an author participating in National Novel Writing Month, I pray you receive a second burst of energy, inspiration, and joy in your novel. You’ve got this!

And if, like me, you’re an author not participating in NaNoWriMo this year but would have liked to, this can also be a difficult time. We’re solidly in the midst of other author’s growing wordcounts and posts about how much progress they’ve made in such a short amount of time. Although, it’s very exciting to cheer for everyone, it can feel a bit discouraging not to be making that same kind of progress.

I hoped, planned, and wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. However, with the timing of Cabin Girl‘s launch and wanting to take some creative rest afterward, to now the thick of buying a house and moving from our current apartment (and all the many, many details that entails of!), it just isn’t happening this year.

And that’s okay! It really is. Obviously God has other plans and it wasn’t meant to happen this year. I just need to align my expectations and plans with God’s…which is easier said than done sometimes.

I enjoy NaNoWriMo (and when I refer to it, I’m referring to National Novel Writing Month, not the website or organization in particular). I work best on tight deadlines that don’t leave me time to procrastinate, and I appreciate all of the community and accountability surrounding the event. Knowing I have to give a report of my wordcount, whether that’s to other people or a website, is motivating.

(Even this post is only on time because I mentioned it to my street team beforehand. When life is crazy, it’s tempting for me to skip things I needed or wanted to get done for my writing, but knowing that if I don’t get it done, I have to provide an answer to others gives me the drive I need to do it anyway.)

The last time that I did NaNoWriMo was in 2021, when I wrote Cabin Girl‘s sequel, Gills. That was a 65,000 word rough draft and it was completely drafted by the end of November. I loved that experience. It was super challenging, but the feeling of accomplishment that came from finishing made it all worth it. And I was pumped to do it again this year.

But obviously, that hasn’t happened. And maybe you’re in the same place. Maybe you have a project you’d like to devote solid hours to, finish quickly, and be able to announce to your community as finished. Maybe you were hoping or planning to do NaNoWriMo but life threw you a curveball and now you feel left out. Or maybe you just feel too exhausted to contemplate something like that, even if you want to.

I wanted to reach out today with a virtual hug. It’s okay that you’re not doing NaNoWriMo this year, or if you are and aren’t making the progress you want to, that’s okay too. It’s okay to prioritize other areas of your life when you need to. And it’s okay to take care of yourself properly. More than okay, it’s good.

NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity, a fantastic resource and motivator, and an encouraging source of community, there’s no denying it. But it’s not everything, and missing it one year doesn’t make you any less of an author. It’s only one month of the year. You as an author get to arrange your writing around your life, and if NaNoWriMo doesn’t fit in that mold some years…you guessed it. It’s okay!

Be An Author Your Way

Remember that no matter what, you are still an author, and still capable of accomplishing many great things. I know it can be discouraging to not be in the midst of our friends’ growing wordcounts and tight-knit writing groups, and if we’re not careful we can start to think we’re less because of it. But in truth, you are just on a different writing schedule right now, and that’s nothing to regret.

And you and I are not at all alone in having a schedule that rules out NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a tool, to be used as its helpful to us. Don’t feel guilty for not using a tool that isn’t serving you or your author journey right now. Being an author has its stages, and some require fast drafting, some require slow and steady work, and some require rest. Honor the stage that you’re on, and don’t feel bad about it.

Work On Your Own Time

Maybe November doesn’t work for you to write a novel in a month, but what’s stopping you from doing the same challenge another month that fits your schedule better? I’m greatly considering writing a novel in a month next spring, when life has settled a little more for me, and I am prepared to draft again. Why not consider the same thing? And if you want community and/or accountability while you do it, I guarantee that there are always others who would be interested in joining you.

Maybe that would mean doing writing sprints together, sharing wordcounts daily or weekly, brainstorming when you’re stuck, or just an agreement to check in with each other every so often to remind one another that you’re in this together. Or maybe you don’t aim for a full novel in a month. For some, that’s just not manageable any month of the year. So set a different goal that motivates you, and aim for that! The sky is the limit in how you decide to write.

And if you’re still trying to write this month, but not able to reach 50,000, take joy in what you are able to accomplish. Showing up and getting words down is an achievement at any point, no matter how quickly you write them or how many there are. You’re showing up for yourself and your writing, and taking steps to accomplish your goals – that should be celebrated. Hype yourself up! You’re doing an amazing job.

Not Writing Can Be Productive Too

And if you’re just not in a place to write at all right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make progress on your projects! Some of my most productive time is when I’m on ‘creative rest’ or not actively writing one of my books, but am still allowing my brain to work through details and ideas. If your life and schedule aren’t allowing you to draft right now, use this time to be prepared for when you can.

For example, as I’ve been packing boxes lately, I’ve been thinking through the plot of the story I want to write next. Brainstorming characters, thinking up better dialogue, mulling over plot holes and tricky aspects of the story that I need to fix… And this has been serving two benefits for me. For one, I’m prepping the story in my mind, and two, I’m getting more and more excited about this story. Both will help the story flow easier when I do get to sit down and write it.

So even if you’re not in a stage that allows you to draft right now, don’t feel discouraged. By just allowing your brain to work through your story while you’re going through the rest of your life, you’re preparing for when you do have time. And your story and mindset is going to be all the better for it. It’s said that “writers are always writing, even when they’re not,” and I think that’s very true!

So whether you’re not able to do NaNoWriMo this year, aren’t doing it out of choice but feel left out, or aren’t making the progress you want to this month, don’t stress about it. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you’re any less of a writer. Just do what you can, when you can, as God brings the chances into your schedule. Your journey is unique and wonderful, and I hope you’re able to find renewed joy in it.

What does your writing journey look like this month? What are you up to, and what is your next project? I’d love to hear from you, so let me know in the comments below!

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