NaNoWriMo Wrap Up: I Won’t Be Doing This Again

burnout-90345_1280It’s Dec. 1. National Novel Writing Month ended yesterday, and I completed 50,000 words in the allotted time frame.  My word processor count said I’d written 50,236 words, though the NaNo validator on the site only validated me at 50,210. ( If you decide to register and validate your word count on the NaNo site, be sure to go over a little, because there’s a discrepancy. I’m not sure if ~30 words is typical or atypical of the discrepancy.)

Here are my take aways from the experience:

  • I need variety. The word count didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I needed to write 1,667 each day on that specific project. When they do job satisfaction surveys, autonomy always correlates to job satisfaction. People who have the opportunity to pick and choose what they work on within their day tend to be happier at their jobs. NaNoWriMo allows for NO autonomy. You’re working on that book and if you get the hankering to work on something else, you really can’t do that until you meet the word count quota for the day. That’s a very oppressive writing environment for me, and I hated it. I dreaded working on my story toward the end because of that daily grind.
  • Outlining/story planning are important. I got stuck at one point, and generally, if I get stuck while writing, I quit working on the project and write a different project. Usually, after a few days, I’ll have worked out what I need to do to move forward on the original project. You can’t do that in NaNo, or you fall too far behind. So, at one point, I had to just stop writing story content and write a complete synopsis for the story. This helped me somewhat get back on track.
  • You get junk you can’t use if you push through to meet your word count. I wrote  stuff I know I’m not going to use.  The stuff I can’t use isn’t complete junk. However,  I went down the wrong path in the storytelling because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. That’s when I sat down and wrote my synopsis (because I could tell what was happening wasn’t working). But, I’ve got about 5k of stuff that doesn’t really fit into the new plan. (And yes, that 5k is included in my NaNo total, because I wrote it, and NaNo is about the writing. Editing comes later. Plus, I  might be able to use some nuggets of it later, even though most of it will have to be scrapped.)
  • You’re not done, generally. Yes, you can declare yourself a “winner” at 50k, but the story usually isn’t over. I know mine isn’t. So, it’s a fairly hollow victory, especially if you’ve got a lot to revise and a lot more to write.
  • You do have more to work with. Even though I wouldn’t do it again, I am glad I have more content to work with. Getting my synopsis done helped a lot.
  • You feel burned out after NaNo. I participate in a bunch of online groups of writers and many of them participated in NaNo. Most of the people who completed it said they felt burned out after the process. They needed a break from writing. I don’t think that’s a good place to be, especially if your 50k hasn’t even finished your novel. This feeling of, “I’m so done” was persistent for me throughout Nano. There were days when I had time to write more, but I just said, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be doing this. Even right now, I’ve decided I’m not going to be write anything in December. I’m going to edit and revise two other novels, and format some books for CreateSpace.
  • I’d rather feel fresher. Ultimately, I’d rather go slower, alternating between a couple of projects and the occasional blog posts and write two books over the course of 3 months than to try to hunker down and plow through one even if I’m stuck. I’d feel fresher, more content and happier about the work by tackling it on the days when I’m excited about it. And for me, that is unlikely to be every single day for a 30 day period. There are days I’ll write 3,500 words on a project, nothing on it the next day and 2,500 words on it the day after. That’s so much more effective, for me, than trying to push out 1,667 words on what should have been a zero day.  I don’t have problems finishing novels, so NaNo isn’t going to push me to just get my novel done.  I think it’s best to leave NaNo to people who enjoy it or need the pressure to spur them forward. I won’t be doing it again.

I’ve been chronicling my NaNo experience by week. Each Sunday, I posted the word counts for the week, but here’s a wrap up. It lists the NaNo  word counts for the entire month.   This is just my word count for NaNo. I had a couple of blog posts and other items I wrote during the month, so my  November word total was just a little bit higher than the NaNo project at 55,298. If you’ll notice my Nov. 30 was just enough to push me over for NaNo.  I had time to write more, but I was so done with NaNo at that point that I just quit.

Nov. 1 – 2,158
Nov. 2 – 2,007
Nov. 3 – 819
Nov. 4 – 2,339
Nov. 5  – 1,828
Nov. 6 – 1,368
Nov. 7  – 2,556
Nov. 8 – 1,878
Nov. 9 – 1,900
Nov. 10 – 1,690
Nov. 11 – 2,178
Nov. 12 – 1,965
Nov. 13 – 1,249
Nov. 14 – 1,885
Nov. 15 – 1,184
Nov. 16 – 616
Nov. 17 – 1,866
Nov. 18 – 1,920
Nov. 19 – 124
Nov. 20 – 0
Nov. 21 – 2,661
Nov. 22 – 2714
Nov. 23 – 1703
Nov. 24 – 2
Nov. 25 – 2588
Nov. 26 – 825
Nov. 27 – 3089
Nov. 28 – 1808
Nov. 29 – 2164
Nov. 30 – 1152
Total – 50,236

So, that’s my NaNo wrap up. Did anyone out there do NaNo? How’d you do? Do you feel burned out or energized?

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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6 Responses to NaNoWriMo Wrap Up: I Won’t Be Doing This Again

  1. Well done for finishing the challenge, and thank you for your thoughts about the process. I have enjoyed reading the blog posts, especially the start up post at the beginning of the month. The word count and the deadline give me the incentive I need to kick start a new project, I’m not very good with self-imposed deadlines. The potential to stymie creativity is a valid point, however much I might enjoy the experience of NaNoWriMo, there is always that crash at the end, the relief that it’s over.
    One thing you have given me to think about is the total word count for the day covering all the different aspects of writing. That could be a useful tip.
    Once again, thanks for an interesting selection of posts.

  2. Dale says:

    Congratulations on finishing. At least now you can say been there, done that, got the t-shirt. You did get a t-shirt, didn’t you?
    Yeah, when I did Nano I wrote poems when I got stuck. The poems had to do with the story so I left them in there at the end of that November. They’re out now though, lol. Oh and I did get the t-shirt. 😀 😀

  3. I don’t blame you. I don’t like the enforced regimen etc either. Great way for someone to get traction though. Kinda like doing fitness bootcamp at 4:30 in the morning till you get to the point where you know you can go on your own time and stick with it. 🙂

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Good point, Felipe. I think NaNo is probably good for the person who procrastinates or hasn’t figured out a way to carve out the time for themselves. It can help that person light a fire underfoot, sort of like a bootcamp. For me, it just didn’t work. I have a pretty decent word count ethic, so it probably wasn’t something I needed to attempt.

  4. I’m glad you survived the madness, RJ, but I’m also glad I didn’t jump into it myself. I was tempted, but I realized I have too much going on personally to have taken part. Forcing the creative muse to generate a product is tough on a writer’s psyche and soul. I’ve heard some writers declare they’ve set goals to pound out X number of words per day. That’s fine, if it works for them. Some may need that kind of incentive to get it done. But I view it as akin to word porn; it may look good on the surface, but is it really that enjoyable? I know some environments, such as daytime dramas and even situation comedies, don’t allow for a writer’s creativity to take its time. But, for most scribes, these deadlines are impractical. We need the mental space to work on our stories.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      I think the key is to know yourself well and to really think about what the month is asking. I knew I could meet the word count in general, but I didn’t really anticipate the unpleasantness of working on the exact same story every day, even when I wasn’t feeling it. I started out in journalism, and one of the basic reasons was the variety of writing it offered. It required daily writing, but generally on a different subject. Even if you wrote follow up stories, it wasn’t the exact same story every single day. That’s not my forte.

      Like you said, forcing creativity doesn’t work. The key is to figure out how to be productive daily in ways that don’t stymie creativity. For some people, that means splitting their time between writing and editing. For others, it’s rotating projects daily. For others it’s full steam ahead on one things until it’s finished and then switching to a new thing. Once a person finds their creative workflow, they’re golden. I think finding it is the hardest part for a lot of people. I, for one, like deadlines. But I don’t like sameness, so NaNo didn’t work for me.

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