How to (NOT) Fail at NaNoWriMo in 4 Days

How to Fail at NaNoWriMo in 4 Days

That’s right, I failed at NaNoWriMo.  In four days.  World record?  Probably not, but still pathetic.

How did I do it?  Simple!  I just let myself get blocked.

You don’t have to follow my example, though.  Here are four ways to NOT fail at NaNoWriMo!

How to (NOT) Fail at NaNoWriMo in 4 Days

You start out November with aspirations.  You’re going to write 2,000 words per day, and you’re never going to miss a day!  You’ll end up overreaching the 50,000 word count goal.  Your brilliant novel will be joyously snatched up in a publisher bidding war!

Or maybe you’re just intending to create a habit of writing every day.  You still believe that 2,000 words per day is completely achievable.  You’ll never miss a day, either, because you know that if you do, you’re sunk.

By Day 4, you may be rethinking your sanity.

I went into NaNoWriMo this year with the best intentions.  This isn’t the first year I’ve participated, but it is the first time in several years.  I followed all the steps: I got my account set up.  I used a story that had been brewing in my mind and developed the characters a bit more.  I gave Dan Wells’ 7 Point Story Structure a try and wrote up some scene cards off of that.  But when it got to November 1, I stalled.

It would be easy to blame it on being out of town for half of the first day.  That wouldn’t explain why I wrote nothing for the next two days, though.  What I realized when it came down to it was that I just didn’t have enough worldbuilding and research done to get anywhere with my story.

So how far did I get into the novel I planned to write?  Less than 200 words.

I managed to fail at NaNoWriMo in 4 days.  But I’m turning it around!  Here are four things you can do if you feel like you’re failing NaNoWriMo:

1) Don’t get stuck in your original story

I kept trying to flog a dying horse.  It wasn’t working.  It wasn’t until a friend suggested I write what I know that I got out of my rut.  If you have a preferred genre, it can be hard to get out of your box.  For me, fantasy is my weakness.  Actually, dragons are really my weakness.  Give me a good dragon book and I’ll disappear for the day it will take me to read it, if you’ll let me.  I desperately wanted to write a dragon story, and I have what could be a good plot.  It just wasn’t developed as much as I thought, and I needed to move on.

2) Get out of your box

When I finally let my dragon story go (until next year!), I felt SO free!  It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  You’re not beholden to the first story you come up with.  You’re not stuck in one genre, either.

[ctt title=”You\’re not beholden to the first story you come up with for #NaNoWriMo, or your usual genre. via @SpareTheRoom” tweet=”You’re not beholden to the first story you come up with for #NaNoWriMo, or your usual genre. via @SpareTheRoom” coverup=”E54WI”]

My new story is based on my own real-life events.  I have never written in this type of genre before, so it’s stretching me a little bit.  Even so, it’s a great experience.  Trying a different genre or writing style will give you a chance to try a different voice and different characters.  Don’t be afraid to climb out of your box!

3) It’s never too late

With something so large and looming as 50,000 words, and a 30-day deadline, NaNoWriMo can swamp you.  If you get even a day behind, it can feel overwhelming.  But here’s the thing: who cares?  So you don’t win NaNoWriMo this year.  That’s okay.  Or, if you’ve already written part of your old story, just count that towards your word count and make up that word count in December.  The main idea of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing consistently.  If you let yourself get bogged down by the idea that you’re too far behind, you’ll never pull ahead.  Plus, if you find a story that invigorates you, you’ll probably realize you can write SO much more, at a much faster pace!  You can get back to where you need to be – just don’t give up!

4) Once you find your groove, ride it out

If you hit your stride and find that your story is flowing easily, the best thing you can do is to keep it going.  1,667 words sounds impossible until you find that groove and dig in.  The next thing you know, you realize you just upped your word count by over 2,500.  That feeling is intoxicating, and it’s a great motivator for the next writing session!  If your characters are talking to you and getting themselves into interesting situations, see where they take you.  It’s a lot easier to catch up and get ahead of your word count goals when it feels easy!


If you think you’re going to fail at NaNoWriMo, take a step back and evaluate why you’re falling behind.  If you need to change your story or your characters or anything else, try these four methods to get out of that hole.  You can do this, and you don’t have to fail at NaNoWriMo!

Have you ever felt like you’ve failed at writing?  What have you done to get over that hurdle?

Scintilla Studio