IWSG – On Finish NaNoWriMo Projects

Sticker Decorated Laptop

The Insecure Writer's Support GroupIt’s IWSG Day again! The question this month is…

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

This is a doozy of a question, but allow me to drop a plug for IWSG before I dive in. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by the esteemed Alex J. Cavanaugh, is an online space where writers (insecure and otherwise) can come together to share stories, successes, struggles, and all the rest of it. The website is chock-o-block full of great stuff. There’s a Twitter Pitch, which I haven’t checked out yet, contests, books, swag, conferences, and more. Be sure to jump over there and check them out! The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass! Do follow the links and jump over to their sites to say hello.

Okay, back to the question. NaNoWriMo. Do I usually finish my projects, and have I gotten any of them published? I’ve written about my views regarding the merits of NaNoWriMo before this. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, check out this earlier post I wrote that explains all (well, nearly all).

Here’s the thing. I’m a fiercely competitive person. It’s ugly, or rather I turn ugly when I engage in activities with a competitive component. There are dark times in my childhood related to Red Rover, pick-up games of football at recess, gym sports.

Despite what some might argue, NaNoWriMo does have a competitive edge embedded into it, and if I’m not careful I could slice myself wide open on it. Not to mention my friends, my family, my graduate studies, my job.

Do participants actually compete with other folks during the event? No. However, there are achievement badges we can earn, forums where people can “support” each other. I have “Writing Buddies” whose progress I check on. There’s definitely an inherent feeling that I need to keep up with the authorial Jones going on when I participate.

I Always Win, but…

I cheat. Oh, Thor! Do I ever cheat! The first year I did it, I won fair and square. But that was the only

Cheating cyclist
That guy running up the steps during the bike race? Yeah, that’s me.

time I penned all 50k in November. And, that project was far from “finished.” That draft didn’t wrap itself up until March! It’s not getting published, by the way. It’s a steaming pile. Which is fine. I learned a LOT writing that draft.  Of course, cinderella stories exist about breakout authors whose best-selling debut novels were drafted during NaNoWriMo.  I remain highly skeptical. To discuss further would merit a whole other post.

This year is the first year since my original foray into the world of NaNoWriMo that I haven’t begun working on my WIP early. No, wait. Scratch that. I totally gave myself a 12,000-word head start. Why? Because I have a problem, that’s why.

If I don’t take some of the pressure off by getting a block of writing done in advance, thereby lowering the daily word count goal from a genuinely challenging 1,667 to something closer to 1,000, ugly me might emerge once more. Plus, it makes the volume of words I need to write in November actually fit into my life without harming my spouse or my children. Yes! My children! I do it for my children! Justification accomplished.

It’s Not Really About Winning or Losing

Chimpanzee at a TypewriterThe spirit of NaNoWriMo is about getting writers to put words on the page. If that’s the ultimate goal, who cares if I get a head start, especially if the story is calling to me?

It’ does, too. The closer November first gets, the more I find myself thinking about the story and itching to get at it.

For me, that itch is one of the biggest pros to taking part in NaNoWriMo. I just need to mitigate the underlying competitive aspects of the event, dull the sword’s edge if you will. 30,000 words in a single month is still a challenging goal for me. It’s just… less challenging, and therefore less likely to bring out the I-must-win-at-all-costs-and-if-you-get-in-my-way-so-help-me-I-will-end-you side of my personality.

At the end of the month, I log my wins. That first year, when I won fair and square, I celebrated by purchasing Scrivener, a new fountain pen, and a new notebook. Every year after that, I’ve rewarded myself with a new fountain pen and a new notebook, but I don’t feel right about taking advantage of the coupons and discounts and whatnot if I don’t load all 50,000 words into 30 days.

When my kids get a little older and I’m not in the midst of a graduate program, then maybe I’ll put the edge back on NaNo. For now, though, I’ll stick with my Bokken sword.  Speaking of which… I do believe it’s time to do battle!

I can’t be the only person who does this. Fudge the start date, I mean. How about you? Do you usually finish your NaNoWriMo projects?


  1. Olga Godim

    I don’t do NaNo because I don’t want to box myself into the artificial word count each day in November. Other obligations always intrude, and what is the point of starting something when I don’t think I’d be able to finish it? But I admire those who do NaNo. It’s the same as with singing. I can’t hold a note – I’m tone-deaf – but admire people who can sing and play music.

  2. Lynda R Young

    I have been known to keep all the typos (with the correctly spelled word next to it) and long-winded sentences in the manuscript until after NaNo is complete. On the flip-side, I’ve also been known to type in “[put in a description here]” so I don’t waste time thinking up the perfect description and I can keep writing. After NaNo I go back and fill in the spaces. Personally I think it should be a ‘win’ if you simply start NaNo, no matter how far you get.

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      I’m pretty sure that’s how Star Trek NG writers wrote their scripts, too. They’d go along and then [insert sciency explanation here]. Then the script got passed along to the science writers, and they’d fill in the gaps. It’s never occurred to me to do that when I write. I sit and muse over a description for as long as it takes for me to come up with the write words. And, I totally agree with you that even starting NaNo is a victory. Happy writing to you, Lynda, and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    That made me chuckle! No, I bet you’re not the only one to fudge the count. I won one year and came close the next.
    And I messed up – it’s BuNo. Used to take place in June. A couple other people mentioned it today,

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      I figured there was a healthy membership in my little cheater’s club. Regarding BuNo, a subsequent search informed me that Buno is a system of Filipino wrestling like Dumog.

  4. Debbie Johansson

    Both times I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo was a combination of having some kind of outline before I started and my competitive nature. Last year, I was itching to start writing, that I couldn’t wait for November to come around. Even though I didn’t ‘cheat’, I can completely understand your reasons for starting earlier. It’s getting those new words down that count. Best of luck! 🙂

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  5. Juneta

    I include any world building I have set up and story notes I am going to use. If I have already written some of the story, you bet, I include it. Do I do it every time? No, but sometimes. I am including world building this time. Mainly I am doing it to try to get back into the habit of writing everyone.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

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  6. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    I love how NaNo brings out the competitive writer in me. Each year my region challenges another to see who writes the most on the first day, the fifteenth and the last — it pushes me to write around 15k in a day (and our region usually wins ’cause we’re all crazy competitive). It’s great motivation for a first draft, which is already plotted, of course. This year, though, I’m sticking to rewrites, so everyone will be safe from my I-will-end-you glares 😉 If plotting the entire project in October is considered cheating, then I’m guilty as charged 🙂

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    Yay! Cheaters unite! What’s your handle over on NaNo? I’ll look you up and add you as a buddy (you know, if that’s okay or whatever. Cool if not).

  8. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor

    The first year I did NaNo, I was a complete failure. It just didn’t work for me. But the second year I did it (last year), it worked much better. I think it’s because I had a better idea of what I wanted to write and more of a structure underlying it. Both times, though, it got me writing, which is what it’s really about.

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      I know what you mean. Last year, I actually just used NaNoWriMo to block out a plot, write purely exploratory scenes designed to help me get to know my characters, flesh out political, economic, and religion structures in my world, etc. All great things and necessary things, but not actually a rough draft. It set me up, though, for the April Camp. Are you taking part in this month’s madness?

  9. K.L.M. Moore

    You are not alone! I totally cheat every time too. I’ve written 15,000 words on this year’s project already. But I agree with you. The point is about writing, whether you win or not, whether you cheat or not.

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