Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Winning NaNoWriMo with fewer than 50K words

Fellow WriMos! How did you all do? Did you make it to 50K words?

You did? CONGRATULATIONS! I'm very proud of you. You can now stop reading. This post ain't for you.

Everyone else... you tried but didn't get there, huh? Yeah, me too. I reached a measly 5,751 words, and pretty much stopped work on the NaNo novel before week one was out. So I clearly didn't "win" NaNoWriMo this year. But did I lose? Hell, no. And neither did you.

You are a NaNoWriMo success if ANY of the following apply to you:
  • Did you write a single page, paragraph, sentence, or word simply because it was NaNo? Then that means you wrote fiction for no good reason at all except that it made you happy to do so. You're a NaNo success.
  • Do you like anything you wrote? Then you're definitely a NaNo success. Take your good stuff, dump the bad, and celebrate! Oh, and then keep writing, to create more good-and-bad (just edit the heck out of it later).
  • Did you try anything new just for fun? Did you test out a new genre or otherwise explore a new writing style? First person vs. third person P.O.V.? Present tense or past tense? Did you try a new word processing program or a new pen? You might not have done it if not for NaNo: you are a success.
  • Did you build even a single good writing habit? Getting up earlier to write, or squeezing writing into a lunch hour, or just making sure to carry a pencil and paper everywhere to capture inspiration when it strikes? Then you are a NaNo success: keep it up.
  • Did you learn anything about yourself and your writing? Did you learn that you need to write slower so that you don't burn out, or that you can write 200 more words per day than you prevously thought you could? Did you learn that you write much better when there's country music playing in the background than rock'n'roll? Then you're a NaNo success.
If you did any of these things, then you embraced the NaNo concept of exuberant imperfection and you are a NaNo success. It's just that simple. NaNo is about making time for writing, just-because. It's about trying new things and pushing yourself. If all you did this month was think more about writing, then you are on your way to prioritizing writing in your life in the way that will make you the happiest writer you can be. If you started out well and life got in the way... well, that happens. At least you tried. And maybe, just maybe, the next time you're bored out of your mind and there's nothing good on television... you'll go type up a little something. Writing happens one word at a time. And it all adds up.

I am a NaNo success because I have 20 pages that I might not have written otherwise... or that I might have taken longer to write. I am a NaNo success because the reason I stopped writing was because I wanted to think long and hard about why I write (and how I write), and in the end I figured out a few things about what's important to me. I am a NaNo success because I thought about writing a novel every day... even if what I ended up doing was edit a short story instead. I am a NaNo success because my 5,751 words make me happy.

Congrats, everyone. Well done. For reals.


  1. There are so many people out there who say they'd like to write a book but never get started. So yes, you are a success even if you barely got started, and 20 pages isn't barely in my book. Congratulations!

  2. I have 8000 words that don't totally stink. I'll call that a success too. It's all about making progress right? Great job to you too.

  3. I had a blast and learned a lot about my writing style and habits. I love my story and plan to continue writing until it's ready to submit. I have well over ten chapters!

    Thanks Carrie for cheering us on!

  4. You're so right. If you gained something from the whole process then that is what matters. It sounds like you gained new perspective. I hope you'll share more about what that is in a future post!

  5. There are many ways to win at NaNo, good lady, and you've just elucidated most of 'em. Good on you for cultivating the right attitude and celebrating any number of words written. Any time something pokes us out of our authorial boxes and gets us to try something new, artistically-speaking, we've already won, in a sense.

    Art is all about the striving, n'est-ce pas? Good on all you strivers!

  6. I wholeheartedly agree! I've got 15,000 words on a rewrite of my first novel. I decided I don't like those 15,000 words, but it was a grand experiment anyway. And it was fun!

    Here's to eleven months of self-inspired success until we get another NaNoWriMo next year! :D


  7. I have about 7,000 words. That I'm happy with.

  8. I agree. There's more than a high word count to take away from NaNo.

    Also, according to this post, since I tried a new POV, I'm a NaNo Win. That's a happy thought. :)

  9. I made it to 3000 words and am very proud of myself. It's a great start.

    Good for you too.

  10. Yeah, I didn't win, but not because I didn't try. It was because I didn't try... oh wait... hehe j/k

    I didn't know anything about the NaNo thing until just recently when I came back to blogging and met a bunch of you guys. So, next time it's here I'll do my best to participate :)

  11. Good for you, Carrie! And for everyone else who gave NaNo a shot. As for me, I quit before I began... November is traditionally the busiest month for me. Why, oh, why, can't NaNo be in July? But I digress...