NaNoWriMo Is A Bust For Me

It’s time for me to admit defeat. I’m not going to “win” NaNoWriMo this year. And I’m not going to get this novella done before the end of the month. There are several reasons why, the least of which are schedule and other time commitments. The real issue is that the novella is not going as I’d like it to, which tells me that I am not yet at the level of skill to write it the way I want.

I think I’ve discussed this before, but one thing that really sets apart a “professional” writer from everyone else is the ability to push through and get the job done, no matter how much they struggle. I may not that be quite at that point yet. But I think there is another characteristic of a “professional” and that is knowing when to set a story aside. As a short fiction writer, you can’t get too bogged down in any one story and the story that I was writing for NaNoWriMo, like a story I tried writing several years ago, is getting mired in mud. So it is time to move on.

There are other distractions competing for my attention as well. I’ve become fairly obsessed with my re-reading of The Lord of the Rings, and when I should be writing, I am reading and then feeling properly guilty about ignoring my writing.

So what’s next? I wrote a short (1,700 word) story a week or so ago and I’d like to get the second draft of that done, and perhaps expanded a bit. There are also at least two or three other stories, much shorter than what I was trying to do for NaNoWriMo that I am eager to work on, and my gut tells me I should work on the stories that are exciting to me, and not get frustrated by stories that aren’t working. I used to feel guilty about this, but then I recalled from my numerous reading of Isaac Asimov’s autobiographies, that even late in the 1940s when Asimov was a well established writer, he would, on occasion, start a story that he just couldn’t finish. After a few tries, he’d cast it aside and move onto something else.

So, bottom line for me: I’m setting this story aside and moving onto other things, without the artificial pressure of NaNoWriMo. But I am still rooting for all of my friends who are competing, and I hope to see you cross that finish line with 50,000 words.


  1. If it helps. Jamie, I’ve been doing NaNo since 05 I think and I’ve never won either. This is the first year when I’ve actually thought I might do it.

    Good on you for giving it a go though!

  2. Jamie, I so get it — I’m pretty close to quitting myself, too. I haven’t written in a week now. I may pick up after the Thanksgiving weekend just to see how close I can get, but my head’s not in it right now. We’ll see. Good luck with the short stories!

  3. Don’t be surprised if that novella creeps back into your head in a month or so. If you’re meant to finish a story, you’ll finish it.

    If not, I’m sure one could wallpaper the universe with all the pages of unfinished stories floating around in writer’s heads. Not every story is told, and as sad as that may sound, it’s just the way it is.

    I’d like to point out that Patrick Rothfuss spectacularly “failed” NaNoWriMo last year ( And he’s a #1 NY Times bestselling author. Not all authors work well at a freelance pace (which is a constant state of finish-or-not-eat panic), and many of those authors still produce beautiful work. Just not as much of it. Only you can decide what your balance is between quantity and quality.

    Plus, there’s always next year. 😀

  4. I’m sorry it’s not working out as planned. That’s always disappointing to me. I’m visiting family, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to win – I haven’t written in about a week now and am dreading the catching up.

    I do think though, that one of the points of NaNoWriMo is to get one in the habit of writing every day, and it seems like you’re already all over that. I think that means you’re already a winner.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.