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How to Fail at NaNoWriMo

Words by: Mandy Moe Pwint Tu


To those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a writing event that takes place pretty much all over the world – the National Novel Writing Month. This is the time when year round procrastinators and progress-makers join forces to write an entire novel (50,000 words) in thirty days. It’s like round the world in eighty days but more hectic and more rewarding (well, sort of).

As a certified bandwagon jumper I jumped on the bandwagon this year and decided, ‘I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year!’ I was so excited. But now when the end of the month is imminent and I sit here with a measly 12889 words on my story, I reflect back oh so nostalgically on what I could have done wrong.

So here we are, a list of possible ways to fail at NaNoWriMo:

  1. Pick a story that you haven’t written in a long while. Preferably a story idea that’s been stuck in your head for about six years, a story that has undergone a lot of change over the years (what with writing and rewriting and rewriting because this one character proved impossible to write) until at long last you arrive at the present challenge with only a few similar elements to the original story. Choose this story for your novel. Believe that it’s the most honest tale you can tell and get really psyched up about wanting to tell it.
  1. Write an outline! Think to yourself that you’re not really a planner for stories, but this is going to be an intense writing month anyway so it will be best to be prepared. So outline your story, sketch out personalities for your characters and learn the lay of the land, and possibly leave ending unplanned because, as you know, stories tend to have a mind of their own and it may end up taking you where you’d never planned to go in the first place. Leave room for that.
  1. On the first of November, WRITE YOUR HEART OUT! Write until your coffee addled brain gives out, finish an entire chapter and feel fantastic about it because you’ve written more than 4000 words today, instead of the 1,667 words day quota. This is good. You’re off to a strong start.
  1. If you really want to fail at NaNoWriMo, use a laptop that’s six years old with a backlight that doesn’t work so you have to sit in the living area with the screen facing the sun so you can vaguely see somewhat what you’re typing.
  1. Let your second day be as strong as your first. Finish another chapter. Another 4000 words under your belt. NaNoWriMo is going to be easier than you thought!
  1. Have your housemate’s mother visit all the way from Malaysia. Have her stay for a week and a half. This is crucial to failing NaNoWriMo; with her around, you have little enough time to go near your dying laptop, and instead revert your attention to the housework and being entertaining in your own way. But be confident in being able to catch up on your word count by the end of the month.
  1. When she leaves get a new laptop. A shiny little laptop that works perfectly well and is simply waiting for you to continue your story! This is your time! Do it! Write! Write! Wri –
  1. Okay, get bored. Try to write but come to a chapter and a character you haven’t written in god knows how long. Refer to an old draft of the story, steal a few ideas from your past self, write a page and a half but when you come to the crucial part of the chapter think to yourself, ‘this is hopeless, I can’t write this’, and proceed to … not write this.
  1. Let the days go by, with NaNoWriMo only in the back of your mind. Proclaim to the world that you have – in all essence of the phrase – given up. This is the point you will realize that you have failed.
  1. Make a small gain out of your failure and write an article about failing for that digital magazine that you write for.

And there you go, folks! I’m fairly sure that there are more and better ways to fail at NaNoWriMo, but this is how I failed. Yay me. Congratulations to everyone who weren’t as hopeless as I was and actually reached their 50k mark. You’re all an inspiration.

As for all you other people who didn’t reach their word count or gave up halfway through, you’re not alone. And maybe, just maybe, next year, we’ll succeed!

Just maybe.