How NaNoWriMo Can Change Your Writing For The Better, Even If You Don't Finish A Novel In 30 Days

Share
Ad failed to load

For some, November means the final stretch of fall, Thanksgiving, preparing for the holiday season, and rushing headlong into that end of the year stretch. For others, November mostly means one thing: NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is when writers, both published and unpublished, hunker down and attempt to produce a completed 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. The exercise is an attempt at helping people work past their writer's block, come to terms with their writing fears, and just get those words down. This rough manuscript then becomes first draft from which they can work, an effective way to finally complete that story they've held in their heads for so long.

Thanks in large part to some very high profile NaNo "winners" (you win NaNo when you hit the 50,000 word mark) including YA authors Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins and Marissa Meyer, National Novel Writing Month has become almost larger than life with thousands of writers across the world signing up in the hopes of taking that first step toward publishing glory. And there are countless articles chock full of NaNoWriMo tips and tricks and even ruminations on why NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. In the writing community, you're pretty much surrounded by all things NaNo throughout November... and everyone is determined to get to 50,000 words no matter what it takes.

But what happens if you don't reach that ever elusive 50k word goal by November 30? Is NaNo only really useful if you, well, actually finish your book? For some participants, that might be true. But finishing a novel, no matter what, has never been the main goal of participating in NaNo for me. And, in fact, I would argue that the month's exercise is valuable for far more than just hitting an arbitrary word mark. Now, don't get me wrong, it would be incredible to win NaNo and I am actually in awe of everyone who can put aside their distractions (particularly smack dab in the middle of the busiest time of the year) and see their ideas through to completion.

Ad failed to load

But I have not been that person in 2015 or in 2016, the two years I have attempted NaNoWriMo; I did not finish a novel either time.

There are a few reasons for this. I still sometimes struggle with the creative writing part of my brain, turning off the editor I have utilized for so many years as a journalist. I worry about my lack of experience with fiction, I get distracted, busy with the holiday rush, and I focus too much on making things perfect even though I know it's a draft no one will ever read but me. Perhaps you can relate to one or all of the above; maybe these are the very same reasons why you haven't completed a NaNo manuscript in the past. But instead of viewing my incomplete novel as a failure, I actually still look forward to the general excitement of NaNo every year. And this year I have no actual intention of finishing a manuscript.

Ad failed to load
But instead of viewing my incomplete novel as a failure, I actually still look forward to the general excitement of NaNo every year. And this year I have no actual intention of finishing a manuscript."

Instead I am pumped to get back into the throes of NaNoWriMo. By reading the NaNo advice from authors who have completed manuscripts is not only super interesting and inspiring, I've been able to adopt so many practical tips that contribute to my own work all year long. Forcing myself to sit down every day for a month and think seriously about my writing, the characters I want to create and the stories I want to tell has been invaluable to my future as a writer, whatever that may be. And surrounding myself with a community of people who want to write, want to read, and want to grow creatively has been endlessly bolstering as I continue to take my own creative path.

If you've been avoiding NaNoWriMo because you don't think you'll ever be able to finish your novel in 30 days, I urge you to take part anyway. You might surprise yourself and knock out your whole book in only 20 days. Or you might find that flexing your writing muscles every day, thinking more about the kind of writer you want to be, and finding support from a bunch of other publishing hopefuls like yourself is even better than racking up those 50k words.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle's Editors On Rachel McAdams + Parkland Survivors

Happy Thursday, everyone! I don't know about you, but I feel like February has gone by so so fast (wasn't January, like, yesterday?). This year is hurrying along, and with so much happening every day it's hard to keep up all the time. But, I've got a…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale