IWSG 42: Past NaNo Lessons I’ve Learned

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.




Tonja Drecker | Diane Burton | MJ Fifield | Rebecca Douglass


October IWSG Day Question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I’d like to say yes. I finished them all. I’ve had all my work published even without submitting it. The problem is, I don’t want to lie. All I want to do is be supportive of the NaNo17 participants.

Please, Accept my good wishes because that’s where my heart is.

But the truth is, no. I finished all my first drafts. I didn’t bother polishing or submitting. None of them ever were published.

The closest story to submission was called “Rags to Bitches”. I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to bring it to life. I even took a writing course on revision hoping that would help me cut away what didn’t work and build up what did.

Nothing worked and I can’t explain it.

So I may have won, but my stories didn’t.

Rags to Bitches lives in a drawer.

Winning NaNo taught me some important lessons:

  • Plan out what the story was about
  • Each chapter should have a prompt
  • Write everyday

What NaNo didn’t let me do was stop when I needed to and let my subconscious work on new ideas. Sometimes letting things rest can lead to twists, back flips,  and crazy new directions. I love that. But that means quitting before I reach my word count.

I hate to say this, but I think I’ve outgrown NaNo.

I’m working on a sci-fi mystery called Symbiotic Slip and I’m having so much fun. I’m being brave and going where I’ve never gone before. Every day is full of surprise and joy.

Who knew I’d ever get here.

What about you? Any NaNo stories you’d like to share.

92 responses to “IWSG 42: Past NaNo Lessons I’ve Learned

  1. NaNo seems to be one of those things that works well for some people but not as well for others. For me, it got me focused last year and I completed a draft of my novel. The harder part was getting focused to do the edits on it. Maybe they need a NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month). 🙂

  2. Happy Halloween! I enjoyed NaNo mainly for the camaraderie aspect. It’s nice to know a bunch of other people are seeking out the same goal at the same time. That said, the last NaNo I participated in was 2013.

  3. Ditto. Your thoughts are the same as mine. Keep writing no matter if it’s November or May!! Sounds like you’re really enjoying your new project. Best wishes!
    JQ Rose

  4. I’m not doing NaNo this year, mainly because I need to do serious rewrites and having the stress of writing 50k isn’t going to do me (or my novel) any favours. That said, I’ve only done two NaNos (2015 & 2016). The first’s novel still needs a lot of rewriting, though the first draft is complete. The second taught me that my trilogy needed a full rewrite… which is what I’m doing now. Maybe being allowed to focus on scenes/chapters instead of word count might make NaNo more productive in the long run? Best wishes with your new project 🙂

  5. I’ve been slammed every year in November and never participated. I’d like to try sometime, even if it didn’t result in publication or I didn’t win.

  6. I think you are doing a great job, growing and finding yourself. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Have a Happy Halloween.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  7. NaNo motivates me to keep writing, but I can’t say I worry to much about meeting 50, 000 words. I win all my camp NaNo’s but alas not published, but have not really tried yet either. Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  8. I’ve done NaNo a few times in the past, but always came out of it with a truly messy manuscript that I couldn’t revise into shape. I think I’ve outgrown it as well. I’m outlining my next thing project right now and I’m having fun thinking about it and having fun outlining it when I can find the time to.

  9. Debbie Johansson

    I’ve done NaNoWriMo a couple of times, but will not be participating this year. I have a couple of projects that need a lot of work. NaNoWriMo has certainly helped me in the past, but I’m in no hurry to do it again just yet. Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with your current project. Good luck!

  10. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    I’ve never had much luck with my NaNoWriMo projects either. Just not suited for my writing style, I think.

  11. I never participated in NaNo. I can’t see myself setting a daily word count on creativity and then following through. I’m not that disciplined. I’m not that prolific either. NaNo demands too much of its participants. I have the deepest respect for people who can do it, but I don’t think I’ll ever be among them.

  12. I think you are so brave for giving it a try at least once. 🙂

  13. NaNo is there to spur us into writing, If you already have the desire to write, then NaNo isn’t necessary. Happy Halloween.

  14. So great to read that you are so happy working on your new story! No better feeling than that. Enjoy!!

  15. After my first NaNoWriMo in 2013, the most important lesson I’ve learned since then is to have your own personal goals. You don’t have to strive to reach the 50k words. The most important thing is getting the story stuck inside you out.

  16. I don’t think you’ve outgrown NaNo but that you realise that writing the first draft is not the end but the beginning of working on a manuscript. One of my writing teachers says, writing the first draft is easy, regardless of whether you’re a panther or an outliner. It’s the second, third, and fourth draft that counts because that when your story receive life. So, I understand very well your not participating.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  17. NaNo works for some people, but not for everyone. I know what works for me. Hour-long sprints or book-in-a-week (not really a whole book) work because they’re short term. Devoting a whole month, writing as fast as I can doesn’t work for me. We need to know ourselves. Lots of people benefit from NaNo, so I don’t know it. Best wishes to all who attempt it.

  18. It’s great that you feel you don’t need/want NaNoWriMo anymore. It means you’ve gain confidence in yourself as a writer, that you know yourself as a writer. The event may have been what you needed once, but if it is no longer, then you should let it go and feel no guilt whatsoever. Thank you for sharing, and happy writing to you. 🙂

  19. I’m not a NaNo participant. It just doesn’t work for me. However, I like how you set out what NaNo helped you learn.

  20. I participated once and “won,” but “The End” feels good at the end of a manuscript no matter how you get there! I think even if you don’t finish NaNo, you still WIN…because you always end up with far more words than you likely would’ve written otherwise.

  21. Oh yes, you need to put Rags to Bitches back into action. The title is a fun one.

    Tossing It Out

  22. Good luck with your latest project!

  23. Thanks for the insights. I haven’t done NaNo yet, but I’m thinking about trying it next year. I’m intrigued by the idea of just writing non-stop to see what happens. I think your three ‘lessons learned’ are applicable to all of our writing.

  24. This will be my first attempt at NaNo. I’ve planned nothing. I mean I attempted to plan, have like 5 points and then stopped. I’m a pantser so I’m going to wing it like I do my other stories and see where it leads me. That’s half the fun of writing for me anyway.

    Good luck with your new project. 🙂

  25. I get what you mean about outgrowing NaNo. I have a process that works for me and results in a book a year. Which I think it pretty good for a mom with a full time job (teaching, so really more than full time). I still signed up for NaNo again this year though. It gives me an excuse to steal more time for writing in November. 🙂 @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  26. It sounds like you might have found your niche. Writing is your passion, why can’t it be fun too:) Happy plotting:)

  27. Good for you! I love the titles you choose (titles are hard!!). Good luck with your new story 🙂

  28. I can’t do the NaNo either. It just doesn’t work for me, but we can still cheer on the other crazy people!


  29. I’m doing nano this year but as a Rebel, because my outline is not anywhere near being ready. Too many outstanding interviews and research to finish. 🙂

  30. Angela Wooldridge

    Hi Anna, I agree – it doesn’t allow for the germination time of ideas. I wonder if it works better with a fully developed plan. The important thing, however, is to figure out what works best for you and to go with that. Good luck in your new project 🙂

  31. That’s cool that you’ve outgrown NaNo. It means you don’t need the external prompt to motivate you to write, to keep adding to the story, daily, and to keep your eye on the prize of finishing, polishing, and publishing. You’re doing great!
    Mary at Play off the Page

  32. I won CampNaNo in July 2016…but the July 2017 CampNaNo was disastrous!
    That’s it. Nano is not for me.
    I’ll plod along day by day.

  33. Hmm…so many have said the same. Maybe there should be a month dedicated to revising NaNo projects.

  34. I’ve never done NaNo. It’s just not how I write.

  35. Victoria Marie Lees

    All I can say is bravo to anyone who even attempts NaNo, whether you win or not. I’ve never attempted it. Too nervous to try.

  36. It great to hear you’re in a good spot. Enjoying your writing without the pressure of NaNo.

  37. I love that you think you have outgrown NaNo. Good for you. You are having fun and achieving success without. Wonderful!

  38. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and spreading your glee. It’s nice to hear when others are feeling confident. I think it’s cool that you were able to learn from Nano. Your new wip sounds like fun. I wish you all the best. Sorry I didn’t respond sooner; life got in the way.

  39. Anna, I really hear you and I’m thinking the same thing. NaNo was really good the first year I did it – after that it’s like well now I’m used to writing all the time. What makes November any different? I still do it, though. This year, I definitely needed a distraction from writing for money, because of some really annoying critiques I got at the end of October that briefly made me very, very down on myself. I’m mostly over it, but still – it’s kind of nice to write just to write sometimes.

  40. jennifer@badbirdreads

    No stories about NaNo other than it always kicks my butt.

  41. I just read on an email loop…one author said, she does NaNo every month!

  42. November is the most busiest month for writers everywhere!

  43. I sometimes wonder if I’ve grown out of NaNo too, mostly because I’m still working on the same thing I’ve been working on for years. At least when NaNo rolls around, I get a guilt-free excuse to put writing first!

    (Sorry for the late visit.)

  44. Yeah… NaNo is great for getting words on the page, but I’ve had the same issue as you. In the end, many years later, I woke up to the reality that I was going to have to completely rewrite that hot mess, which is super discouraging. NaNo works for some, not so much for others, eh?

  45. The first NaNo I ever did, I hated it (this is my fifth year in a row). The pressure, and writing on weekends, which I normally take off, drove me squirrelly. Then a friend from college killed himself in a very public way (he posted his suicide note on FB, so we all thought it was a cry for help and that he could be saved. Sadly, we were too late).

    Obviously, it’s hard to care about a book when that sort of thing happens. But then, I got furious. The last thing my friend would have wanted was for me to use his passing as an excuse. So I wrote over 11K on the last day and won the darn thing. And it was the first time that month that I felt good. So ever since, I’ve embraced the challenge. It’s rare that I get an external deadline with books, and that holds me accountable. But yes, like you said, the lack of time for just thinking/pondering does mean the subconscious has to work overtime. Whether it wants to or not.

  46. Hi I was trying to leave a comment on this month’s post but despite several goes it doesn’t seem to want to work for me so thought I’d leave one here – hope that’s ok.
    Getting ready to submit to agents is exciting and sometimes nerve wrecking! I hope that 2018 is a good year for you and your writing.

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