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Seven Things I Learned by Failing NaNoWriMo

by Lacie Nezbeth

December is newly upon us, and that means there are oodles of NaNoer’s out there either celebrating or trying to forget November ever existed. I admit to being in the second group.

This was the first year I attempted NaNoWriMo. Admittedly, it was an ambitious goal for me, one that I fell far short of reaching. But after I went through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance) I was able to find a silver lining. (A very thin, hard-to-find line, but a line nonetheless.)

Silver lining: I learned something!

1. I learned that life happens. (I learn this one a lot.) Holidays occur, kids still fight, the car will inevitably get a flat tire, dinner happens every evening, and the world goes round and round. Take a deep breath and roll with it, and give yourself some grace.

2. I learned that November is a horrible month to hold NaNo. With all the holiday buildup, the stretchy, turkey-eating pants, and the race to put up a tree, November is an awful time to be holed up in an office. Just one deflated opinion.

3. I learned that large word counts combined with extended periods of sickness don’t mix well. I used to think that being sick had to be one of the perks of the writer life; a time when you can get extra work done. You’re laying in bed anyway…might as well do it with a laptop. Right? I’ve seen the light though, so don’t send any strongly worded emails my way just yet.

4. I learned it’s okay to feel disappointed in yourself…for a bit. I really did travel through all five stages of grief. I felt so prepared and excited about trying NaNo this year, that when it blew up in my face I wasn’t ready for the surge of disappointment at my shortcomings. I hadn’t planned on failing. Feel the disappointment, but don’t wallow in it.

5. I learned that it doesn’t mean you’re not really a writer. This is a fear of mine. That I’ll do something or fail at something that I should be able to do, and then the world will know that I’m a wannabe. Thankfully, not succeeding this year doesn’t get you kicked out of any clubs.

6. I learned that my writing habits stink. This is hard to admit, but I suspect I’m not the only one who’d prefer to sit with a remote in my hand at the end of the day. Now I know exactly where I need to focus and improve.

7. I learned that the story is still waiting to be told. The timer might have gone off for NaNoWriMo, but that’s okay. Find something new to motivate you. Set a new goal and keep at it.

I hope all of you met your November goals. But even if you’re like me, there’s always a thing or seven to learn from the experience. And sometimes…that’s enough.


From her earliest years, Lacie Nezbeth knew two things-she longed to be a stay at home mom, and stories, in any form, captivated her. Today, those two passions have culminated into a fairy tale life that continually points her to God’s overflowing goodness. Her love of history, traveling and research made her decision to write Historical Romances an obvious and fitting choice. When Lacie isn’t working on one of her stories or tackling the unending mountain of laundry produced by her three small kids, she can be found chauffeuring her children to their various activities, talking to herself in the grocery store or plotting ways to get her entire family on another Caribbean cruise.

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8 Responses to Seven Things I Learned by Failing NaNoWriMo

  1. I love your honesty, Lacie. Excellent post!

  2. Lacie,
    For some of the reasons you list, I’ve never attempted Nano for that reason. November always ramps up for me as the holidays approach. But this year, I thought I’d give it a shot, and I failed.
    Last year I had a good reason to not do Nano. My debut novel was releasing in November. This year I was waiting for edits from two different editors and didn’t know if they’d arrive during November or not, so I thought I’d give Nano a shot. Turned out I received edits from one of the editors and spent the final two weeks of the month working on them. Needless to say, Nano fell to the side. By the time I could get back to the WIP, December was rolling along & I had to catch up on holiday prep, plus I decided I needed to beef up the plot of the story I was writing for Nano, so I have been doing that instead.
    My conclusion is that Nano works well for some, but probably not for me. It’s not a measurement of one’s success as an author. I finally did receive book contracts in 2011 with never participating. I’m living proof!

  3. Latedra says:

    I remember my first year at Nano. (last year) It sucked by far. I put up flyers and posters, I tried to recruit people to join with me, even made a facebook for the dallas chapter. After I finally realized people weren’t going to join me, I decided to write. I don’t think I got halfway there. I blamed it on school (i was in four days a week) and worked nights Mon-Fri, sometimes Sat from 3-to 11. I was so stupid to not have a plan ready. I figured I will just write whenever I can. Couldn’t be hard right. Nooot!!! I was disapointed too but I learned about my story which had me scrapping what I did right for NaNo and starting over. I (halfway) tried again this year without any effort because I was at a standstill with my novel but NaNo did get my juices flowing and I’m writing again so, that’s the good part.

  4. Thank you, Lacie. November is a horrible month to hold NaNo! I’ve tried it a couple of times only to withdraw when life and holidays happen. lol
    But, congratulations to all those who did enter and complete!

  5. Robin Bayne says:

    I agree on November being a terrible choice! March would be much better.

  6. Rick Barry says:

    Lacie, I fell short of my goal, too. But that doesn’t mean we’re failures. Every word you added in November is still on the page, waiting for more words from your mind.

    NaNoWriMo kept a flame under my feet and helped maintain momentum. Yup, I fell short of my mark, but it helped me to stretch further than I would have without it. Still growing that story each day day. Blessings to you!

  7. Anna Labno says:

    Hi Lacie!

    I love your honesty. Now, you made me feel better that I didn’t even try it. I wasn’t ready. I work full time and raise two small boys at home. And life happens!
    How great for writers who don’t work outside their homes and have free schedule for themselves.

  8. Great list! I ALWAYS thought NaNo would be best off in Oct. Why November?? I lose too many days in November. ;-)