I Wrote a Novel in a Month But I’m Never Doing It Again

I Wrote a Novel in a Month But I’m Never Doing It AgainPhoto by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

Nanowrimo, AKA National Novel Writing Month, is an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. In just 30 days, writers attempt to complete a short novel. They may also succeed in creating a daily writing habit since you need to write about 1,666 words a day to win. Sounds like a great challenge, right? Especially for new writers who often need an external deadline to finish that elusive first draft.

So I signed up. And I deeply regret it.

I made three major mistakes

To me, Nanowrimo eemed like a miracle cure. Writing 50K words in just one month could be an incredible boost to my word count. I’m not a new writer. I’ve already finished many first drafts and I already developed a writing process and habit. Nanowrimo didn’t seem so difficult and I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete the challenge. I gave myself no other choice but to win.

2. Beginning a new project

When November 2020 came close, one of my works in progress was being read by my critique partner. I was in the middle of reading over the first draft of another story I had completed a few months before. Starting a new story, as per the Nanowrimo guidelines, was not what I should have done at that point.

Despite all, I began to plot a new story. I decided to make the story simple but ended up creating an entire fantasy world with multiple races, cultures, and religions, and a large main cast. Whoops. Still, I was determined to enjoy this story. Unfortunately, then came my third and biggest mistake.

3. Ignoring my mental health

I was going through a stressful period of my life and I needed a healthy outlet. This was not it.

My current writing habit allows breaks when I need a mental health day. Nanowrimo’s word count doesn’t allow for that, at least not in the way I approached the 50K challenge. I forced myself to write almost every day so I wouldn’t fall too behind, sometimes managing only a few hundred words. I’m proud of those hundred words, however, more proud than the first day where I wrote 6K without any mental resistance.

There were many days when I wrote just for the sake of Nanowrimo, not because I was excited to continue the story. I should’ve taken a break. As I said before, I was going through an extremely stressful period of my life, and I should have spent the time properly taking care of myself instead of fixating on an arbitrary word count. However, I was determined to win. Losing wasn’t an option for me, to my detriment.

I won but I failed

I won on Day 29. I spent the last few days writing like a madwoman. I was behind on my word count, but as I said before, failing wasn’t an option. I hit 50,000 words and my creativity was squeezed dry. I was so spent, I didn’t have the energy to celebrate.

So I put my novel aside. I didn’t take a break, I collapsed. My break didn’t come until I got diagnosed with COVID-19 and spent several days in bed, sleeping and guzzling tea. After I recovered, I was finally able to open up my laptop and continue writing almost a month after I won Nanowrimo.

Burnout after Nanowrimo is experienced by many, and I said before, I was dealing with personal issues that made the challenge a bad idea for me this year.

What I learned about writing

Many people try Nanowrimo and finish with less than 50K but they gain a writing habit or are pleased with whatever they wrote. That is good and healthy. That is the point of Nanowrimo.

I don’t think Nanowrimo is for competitive writers with an already established writing routine, at least in my personal experience. I like the 50,000 words I wrote, I just wish I enjoy writing them more.

Perhaps if this past November wasn’t such a difficult time, I would have enjoyed the challenge more and I wouldn’t have experienced such an intense burnout. Maybe. I still think my competitive nature would have worked to my detriment. Because I don’t want to write to complete a word count. I want to write because I love writing and because writing makes me happy.

I still recommend Nanowrimo to others. If you want to try the challenge, go for it! It may help propel you to finish a story or create a writing routine, both extremely vital things to writers. You might learn something else about yourself, as I have, something good, bad, or ugly. All of which can be beneficial for your writing journey.

As for me, I’ve learned what I could about myself and my writing during Nanowrimo and I will not be attempting the challenge again — at least, not in the near future. For now, I will stick to the writing routine I have, the one that allows me to take breaks when I need them. Most of all, it allows me to write with joy.

Go to Source