5 Lessons I Learnt From NaNoWriMo


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This year, I did not complete the NaNoWriMo. At the beginning of November, I was so so sure that I would nail it this year. I had a story line with the plot twists and turns, characters straight in my head  and even the book cover down.

In the first three days, I did more then 5k words… then…. came travel, injuries, sickness and distractions… all of these stood their ground in blocking my way and kept me away from completing it. On 30th November, I knew I could not complete it and gave up. I was heart broken. The impact of this failure was so much that I fell sick. Physically sick. I spent the day lying up curled in my bed and was throwing up every few minutes. No, it was not a good place to be in.

Not knowing what was bothering me and attributing it to bad posture and unhealthy eating, I went off to work the next day. It was a long, mad and satisfying day at work. The morning after, I was sick again and wondering why. I realised that my eating was erratic, my posture was consistently bad but that is something I have dealt with before. What kept bothering me this time is the constant nagging thought at the back of my head that I did not complete my draft this year. Was my falling sick a sign self inflicted misery at a metaphysical level?

I do not know. What I do know is that the story I wrote last year is half crap. The manuscript lies discarded and the characters do not speak to me anymore. This year, I wanted quality too. May be that is what I did wrong. Maybe I am not meant to write a novel in 30 days. Maybe this is what it means to fail. Once I was done wallowing in this misery I told myself that I have yet to find the writing style that is best suited to me. I am experimenting to see that works for me and what does not. There is nothing wrong in failing at something if you are able to bounce back and give it another shot. There is nothing wrong in not being successful in your attempt if you learn fom each attempt and do things differently. That is what I plan to do. Here is what I have learnt from attempting the NaNoWriMo in 2015 and 2016

  1. The same thing does not work for everyone – NaNoWriMo works for a lot of people around the world. No doubt about it. However, the writing style consisting of a word vomit first draft and mad edit later does not work for everyone. Isn’t this true in other areas of life as well? Just as the same study pattern does not work for everyone, the same workout does not work for everyone, the same diet does not work for everyone… There is no success mantra. There is no guarantee that I will benefit from something that many others may have benefitted from. If I do not fit in, then maybe I am trying to fit in at the wrong place or from the wrong angle. This does not mean there is a problem with me. I need to simply keep at it and find out what works.
  2. A little bit of pressure is good – In the early days of my carrer, my favourite quote would be “A Diamond is a just a piece of Coal that did well under pressure“. I still go by this. The right amount of pressure is needed to get a job done. Without a deadline to redo my first draft last year, I did not look at it for months at an end. If I did have the promise of a reward and a time bound pressure, I think I would have done something with it. Managing the level of presuure to ensure it is just right means achieving a fine balance. The ones who succeed are the ones who learn to strike this balance and maintain it continually.
  3. Self motivation is a Unicorn – Unicorns.. those lovely mythical creatures that are so so rare to catch and so difficult to hold. Self motivation is like that. Very few people are self motivated for sustained periods of time. Writing a book is a long and iterative process that requires a lot of self motivation. Long term success needs perseverance and one needs to work at it constantly. If we do not, then our dreams are relegated to a corner of our minds and run a risk of becoming something that we regret not doing. What is the point of contantly wondering what could have been? I do not want to think at the age of sixty that I could have been a great writer if only I had tried.
  4. A little bit of support goes a long way – I can not thank the WriMo India community enough. They are a fantastic bunch of people always ready to lend advice, dish out motivation and even pull you up if needed. A lot of what I got done is because of them. You can get support in unexpected places and sometimes all you need are these little reminders to help you plough on ahead. Everyone needs this support. No one’s success is a solo act.
  5. Learning must never cease. Ever! – The world today is insanely comeptitive. If your product is not first rate, no one will give you a second glance. Heck, even if your product is first rate, chances are no one will give you a voluntary second glance. I may have a great story in my head but I still need the techniques to polish my story telling in a way that people will like to read it.  You need to learn as much from your surroundings as your own failure. There are tons of tools available to teach and help you reach your goal faster, to improve your process of creation or even your end result. Use them and keep learning.

For now this is it. Did you attempt NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn from it?

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  1. Zainab

    Actually haven’t heated about the NANaWri before. I did see a lot of it on twitter but didn’t bother to ask anyone!
    You have made some good points, and hope you are not feeling sick – love the diamond coal quotation

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  2. Tes

    I tried to finish a nanowrimo novel last month, too, but I fail again. This was my second attempt, and I was so sure that I would somehow finish it. Unfortunately, I was traveling most of the time last month so I couldn’t concentrate on writing 🙁 Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

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  3. Anki

    I got to know new about nanowrimo this year itself, I have been reading and watching videos about people’s experience about it, and ssly I feel this whole concept is very inspiring and challenging. Very well written post, it was an amazing read, keep it up .


    You shouldn’t feel bad that you couldn’t complete the first draft. Sometimes it takes time. I sincerely believe you couldn’t complete it because it was not your best. Give it time. I am so glad that you learnt so much from your experience. That itself shows you are a winner 🙂

  5. Prerna

    Lovely post. I think I am going to be in the 5 point state that you have mentioned soon. And you should know you have inspired me to even take up this challenge. Kudos to you.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Let me know your thoughts :)