December 4, 2012

NaNo Wrap-Up: Are You Happy with Your Accomplishment?

Jami Gold NaNo Winner Badge

For better or for worse, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) of November is over. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been catching up on sleep. (I lost count of how many nights I stayed up until midnight to get as many words in as possible.)

It was a month of highs and lows. I completed NaNo with 61,571 words (way more than the minimum 50,000) and ended up in my “stretch” goal range of 60-65K words. However, I didn’t finish the story like I was hoping (mostly because the story is turning out longer than I planned), and I owe more emails than I care to think about. *smile*

Overall, I did what I set out to do. I pushed myself, I wrote every day, and I learned that I can write a decent, full-length first draft in about a month-and-a-half.

The Ugly Side of Perfectionism

Some of the other things I learned about myself aren’t as pretty. As you can see from the My Month Calendar on the NaNo website, I had a lot of yellow days in the second half of the month. Those are days I didn’t reach the NaNo daily word count goal of 1667 words.

 Sure, the Thanksgiving holiday was in there, complete with my brother and his family in town, but many of those yellow days I still could have made word count if I’d pushed myself just a little bit harder. Many of those days I reached about 1300 words, well within reach of that 1667 number. So, being the perfectionist that I am, I’m torn about my accomplishment.

I averaged 2,052 words each day over the month, and I had a couple of 4K days in the second half to make up for those 1300 days. But there’s a serious amount of yellow-day slacking off in the second half of the month.

If I’d kept up my same pace in the second half of the month as in the first, I would have ended up at 65K words. And as my drafting was going faster in the section of the story I was writing in the second half of the month, it’s not unreasonable for me to think that I could have reached 68K or even 70K.

Keeping Writing a Priority

Many of those yellow days in the last week were caused simply by not starting my writing for the day until the last minute. We probably all have days like that. We’re working on day job stuff, or Twitter, or blog reading/writing, etc, and we keep putting off our real writing. Then by the time we finally sit down to write, there aren’t enough hours in the day left to make a big dent.

Should I still feel good about what I did do? Or should I chide myself for slacking off? What’s a perfectionist to do?

I think the lesson I’ll take away is that NaNo month or not, writing won’t happen unless we make it a priority. If we say we’ll get to our story after we finish all our other projects, it won’t happen.

This goes along with what others found about when they write best. During my best NaNo days, I fit in writing throughout the day as I had time. During my worst NaNo days, I put it off until I could get a big chunk of time—and that didn’t happen until it was too late. Many writers echo this idea with trying to get words in first thing in the morning.

So now I know about my bad habits too. Note to self: Do not wait until the last minute to start on projects. Second note to self: Why didn’t this lesson stick in your head from that science project you had to do back in six grade? Third note to self: Make it stick this time, okay? *smile*

If you’ve done NaNo, what did you learn about yourself or your writing habits? Do you consider your NaNo word count a success? (If you had more words than you had in October, that can be a success!) Do you struggle with the “I could have done better” perfectionist monster? How do you overcome that feeling?

Comments — What do you think?

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Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I’m sooo incredibly proud of you for reaching, and exceeding the NaNo goal!!! AMAZING!!
I also want you to step back and look at your accomplishment as what it is, an accomplishment. A HUGE accomplishment.
You may not have reached the NaNo daily word count goal, but you wrote a hell of a lot of words and you should be proud of that first draft you now have under you belt.
You’re a role model.
Hopefully next year I can match your stamina and drive. This year…I didn’t even come close.
Have a great Tuesday!!!


Hi Jami,

So glad you had a good experience with NaNoWriMo. I got 90k on my story. I set myself a limit of writing 5k a day, but then again my chapters are really long.

Thnaks for letting me comment

Jennette Marie Powell

Congrats on your success! Even if it’s not quite where you were hoping to be. I was happy to hit the 50k – that was my goal. I have a hard time reining in the perfectionist while I write (“wait a minute, that’s a big plot hole!”) but NaNo makes it easier to say, “Fix it later. Just get the words down!” Amazingly, my book came in short – first time that’s ever happened to me! So I used my last week of NaNo to fill in some holes and win!

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

I’m also happy that I was well over 50 K by the end of Nov. 30. Honestly, after hitting 50K, it seemed to be such a long time before Nov 30 finally came around, lol. Nanowrimo was wonderful because it made me realize that I can write for at least a whole hour every day AND still manage to do decently in school. 😀 So now, since there’s a free self publishing offer, I’m aiming to finish that nanowrimo novel in time to do so. It’s a real challenge, but it’s very exciting, and I’m posting my wordcount every day on Facebook so that my friends will see it and I can’t slack and must finish that novel. XD Plus, I really enjoy writing it and I’m extremely interested in learning what will happen to the protagonist (a five year old little boy from the infinitely far future) next! Also, I always thought that if I wrote so fast, I would generate a lot of crap. (Please pardon my language.) But it turns out most of my “crap” was useful stuff! There were a lot of digressions, but they always added to the novel: they let us learn more about the characters or more about their futuristic unbelievably technologically advanced world. So this is a great confidence boost. In addition, this nanowrimo month trained me to become even better at “looking at those moving pictures inside my head” and writing them down. It’s a real visible improvement and I feel…  — Read More »

Taurean Watkins

Well, I don’t have kids, and I still struggle to meet certain writing goals. I always have this habit of jumping into Nano without really planning out my approach, and while you took the “rebel” approach, I wanted to write a NEW book, not fiddle with an older one. After shelving my last novel due to lack of agent interest, I NEEDED to write a new book, but as much as I struggle with revision, drafting a new book’s even harder. I didn’t’ t work on a new book, but rather just fiddle with some old stuff, no full drafts of anything, and really the problem was I once again tried to do too much at once. As much as I’ve been preached to about taking small steps, I just feel I NEED to do more than “Baby Steps” to really get back on track, and while I’m trying to avoid too many public displays of negative quantifying, I’m also trying to keep myself honest, I just need more positive ways to do that. But I digress, as always… Jami, you shouldn’t feel ashamed, you didn’t meet your goal, but you wrote something more than perhaps you would’ve otherwise, especially with Thanksgiving being the precursor to the winter holidays. As far as prioritizing your writing, there are times you just have to accept that as long as you wrote SOMETHING from your WIP, it’s better than nothing. Even writers NOT married with children don’t write every day. As much as…  — Read More »

AJ Bradley

Doing NaNo helped me articulate WHY I write, which is a huge motivational tool. Also, public accountability. It surprised how well I responded to the notion of others paying attention to my word count!

Here’s my list of motivational tools that got me through it:


For me, Nano was a success simply by creating something new. I’ve been so bust with revisions and non fiction, it’s been far too long since I wrote anything brand new. I felt I needed to do Nano just to prove to myself that I could still, if that makes any sense. 🙂

Hope all is well in Jami Land! 🙂



Congratulations on winning NaNo! I only made it to 25K, mostly because I realized I needed to replot the whole thing after five days of writing. Oh well. I learned a lot about how I write and it was worth it. My story outline is certainly stronger now.

The big question is – how long before my NaNo story sees the light of day?


[…] of us who participated probably racked up higher than normal daily word counts. And building on my previous NaNo wrap-up post, that success can carry over into other areas of our writing […]

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