National Novel Writing Month – Expectations & Reality #Writer #NaNoWriMo #AmWriting


Last year I took part in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) for the first time.

This is where you write 50,000 words in a month – November.

Up until this point the longest story I had ever written was 14,989 words.

In the run up to NaNoWriMo I got totally carried away with the marketing hype (as an excitable newbie writer does) and created some really grand expectations.

I read all the articles about the lucky novelists who get a publishing deal straight after NaNoWriMo and trembled with newbie writer excitement. It could happen to me?

So I thought it would be good to now do a post on my expectations Vs. reality.

Perhaps I should be publishing this post nearer NaNoWriMo time?

I don’t want to put any excitable newbie writers off it as I think it’s a good exercise – if you have the right expectations.

So let’s look at my grand expectations versus reality.

Expectation 1I will have a finished novel that I can send off to an agent by the end of November!

Reality – I had 50,000 words of something and the only place I felt like sending it to was the bin. I remember reading through it at the end and thinking “what on earth have you created?”


Expectation 2 – Cannot be that hard whipping up 50,000 words in a month!

Reality – Good grief it’s like doing a writing marathon; you are permanently exhausted, obsessed with daily word counts, you eat loads of carbs and you hit the ‘writing wall of pain’ at 25,000 words. This is where you get down on the floor and cry out “I can’t go on any further, save yourself and leave me here to die”.


Expectation 3 – I will make loads of NaNoWriMo buddies!

Reality – I was so damn busy trying to juggle my word count, my full-time job, my family, writing blog posts moaning about how tired I was, tweeting about how tired I was and texting loved ones about how tired I was. I didn’t have time to say ‘hello‘ to anyone else let alone strike up a solid heart warming friendship!


Expectation 4 – 50,000 words should be enough for a novel!

Reality – I needed another 20,000 words to turn it into a proper novel. The prospect of writing another 20k words at the end of November sent me over the mental and physical edge. I just stuck the draft in a drawer and claimed I was suffering with amnesia, when asked about why I lived like a hermit in November.


Expectation 550,000 words with no plan / story plot – I will just wing it!

Reality – Approaching NaNoWriMo like I did last year was basically writing suicide. There is no way you can ‘wing it’ writing 50,000 words with no idea of your plot / characters / premise.

I took making stuff up on the hop to a whole new level. Every night I would fire up the laptop saying to myself “anything is possible!”

Expectation 6 – I won’t get obsessive by the word count challenge. If things get too much I will stop.

Reality – HA! Obsessive is my middle name. Once I start something I have to see it through no matter what.

I don’t give things up. Even if that means late nights, early mornings and writing stuff in the bath.


Expectation 7 – I will be a proper best-selling author following NaNoWriMo!

Reality – Just finished the second draft of my NaNoWriMo story from last year. Long long long way still to go!


In my experience NaNoWriMo was a good exercise to do as it:

  • Gave me something at the end which I could start to craft and build upon.
  • Let me experience writing 50k words, something which I had not done before.

I am sure some writers out there will have come out of NaNoWriMo with a different experience.

If you have done it how was it for you?

photo credit: Adobe.

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I am a blonde writer of romantic comedy fiction.

102 thoughts on “National Novel Writing Month – Expectations & Reality #Writer #NaNoWriMo #AmWriting

  1. This was truly insightful as I’m planning to join this year’s NanoWriMo – my first time. This is all new for me, so I’ve basically lowered my expectations. I’m not even sure it’s realistic for me to write 50k words. I’m also concern that I will to focus on the word counts that I’ll forget enjoy the experience (if it’s even possible?). But it will all be a learning experience that for sure.

  2. I’ve done NaNo several times, and I’m gearing up for it again this year. I love almost everything about it, and learn something new about NaNo, writing, or even myself, every year. It definitely takes some forethought, sacrifice, and time management though. I know it’s not for everyone, but it always makes me sad to know that others don’t get as much out of it as I (and many other Wrimos) do.

  3. I wrote a couple of NaNo posts last year and will do again this year, but to sum up I love the experience. I’ve had losses and wons so I know expectations easily fly out the window. Great you’ve been working on your NaNo story! My first book was originally a NaNo too and I definitely agree that there’s a looong way to go after November. I found your account on the NaNo site and was wondering if it’d be okay to add you as a buddy there?

  4. That sounds like a great experience. I have a load of angst trying to write now.
    I imagine I’ll feel like a proper writer after agonising over trying to produce 50,000 words. 🙂

  5. Wow, congratulations, you’re almost ready to start submitting. Re NaNoWriMo, I did consider it once, but am an incredibly slow writer. Anyway, my participation would have probably caused a divorce and/or produced a mushroom cloud over my house!

      1. I don’t think writers ever stop learning. The first draft of a novel is a doddle compared to what comes after. I’m proud of you persevering with that NaNoWriMo novel and knocking it into shape 🙂

  6. I did Nano last year – first and last time ever! I had an idea and so I just went with it, but yes, ha ha to the idea of meeting Nano buddies or doing anything other than just plugging away at writing 🙂 However, I was really happy with what I wrote, and have been editing and finishing it since in the hopes of sending it out to agents soon. I did however refuse to look at it for a good two months after November though – it was as though my brain couldn’t take any more of the story – and when I went back to it, the writing felt very rushed.

  7. I participated in 2013 for the first time and won. I also made friends in my home region. You really have to manage your time and not obsess over word count. As a rule I write 2000 words a day, so it was no big deal to meet or exceed it. I’m jumping back in this year and writing posts up until November 1st to help newbies prepare.

  8. I love how honest you are about your dreams and imaginings.
    1. What is “Panster & Proud”? Not a term I’ve heard before
    2. When can we expect this creation to hit the shelves? 😉
    3. You are an ambitious little Blonde!!
    4. I love the amnesia explanation. You have a flair for the dramatic. lol

    1. Panster is a writer who writes by the seat of their pants / doesn’t plan anything.
      When I get my act together!
      Insane more like!
      Come to my virtual party tomorrow – you will love it!

      1. I hope I can remember your party tomorrow. Weekends usually belong to my husband. But I will try to make it. My memory is horrific!
        Panster. I get it. That’s how a lot of my life goes. I’m a Panster. 😉

  9. I am a big fan of “free writing” where the goal is to write as much of whatever comes to your mind as fast as you can. Sometimes really good things come from it. With that being said, I really think if the goal is to write a novel, in order to write a good one, a person must write with inspiration and passion for the subject, story, etc.

  10. I used NaNoWriMo 2011 to begin my children’s novel The Slapstyx. I didn’t make 50,000 words in a month, and it took me another 2 months to finish the first draft, but it was good discipline and committing to NaNoWriMo meant I couldn’t put off starting it any longer – I’d had the outline lying around all year and done nothing about it! The only negative was having to write on the computer – I kept being tempted to edit as I wrote, which isn’t advisable for a first draft. I prefer to use pen and paper for the first draft, then the editing process begins as I copy-type it into the computer.

  11. Reblogged this on Lost&Found Inner Realm and commented:
    Yep, that’s about it. I never understood how people could spend hours surfing the forums and still make it to 50k. Or there’s all students or something.
    One thing though, I don’t participate to Nano with publishing in mind. For me, it’s a way to meet a few people and spend some time together, even if we’re not talking. It’s a way to get to know people with more or less the same interests, so you can have some basis of relationship for the months to come.

  12. So funny, and sadly true. I’ve steered clear of NaNo because author friends popped my excited new writer’s balloon. On my own I’ve written a novel in three weeks. But that’s also the novel I’m now rewriting. Go figure.

  13. It was my first time last year too and I experienced many similar discrepancies between expectations and reality. I finished the words I’d set myself. Decided it was, on the whole, a pile of poo and haven’t touched it, really, since January. When I did read through it, I saw there are bits I can salvage (so it wasn’t a waste of time). The whole process definitely taught me discipline and the value of ‘just do it’: getting the words out of your head on to the page…..I definitely learnt, from that process, that writing is, actually, the easy bit; it’s editing that’s the killer (for me, at least). I’m seeing all the NaNo hype pop up and instead of going in to ‘shock and awe’ like I was this time last year, I’m kind of hearing ‘NaNo’ in a Mork & Mindy voice; there’s definitely less NaNo Fever around these parts this year. Although I may still have a bash at it…but I’m thinking of aiming for 1500 words free writing on any topic each day, not necessarily trying for a whole, fluid, novel this time. I’m thinking that, actually, that approach might help me get some ‘stuff’ (characters/scenes/images) out of my head and on to ‘paper’ which I can then use to build from if any of them ‘call’ to me and ask to be written larger….time will tell….time will tell..

      1. They’re mini sausages smothered in bbq sauce in a slow cooker. Trust me. It’s very American. 🙂 You eat them with a tooth pick. My cousin likes to wrap them in bacon! 😉

      2. I couldn’t miss it. Karl said the computer was my mistress ’cause every time he’d get up from the movie we were watching to go do his stuff I’d be over here. Of course, I denied the whole mistress thing and explained the pressing need to be at my IBFF’s birthday party. I wouldn’t miss it for the world! ❤

  14. Whoop whoop, for completing NaNo! I did it twice a couple of years ago and it taught me writing discipline, which I sorely needed! My second and third (third soon to be released) novels began as NaNoWriMo first drafts…which is what I use NaNo for, a very rough first draft 🙂

  15. I’ve never done it, but I like the idea of being forced into a writing discipline that way. I doubt I could produce anything worthwhile but maybe the exercise would hone my chops. I’m intrigued.

  16. Great post. I did Nano several times a few years ago. As a world-class procrastinator, my main goal was to finish. Didn’t obsess about the quality of the finished product; just wanted the challenge. Thinking of producing 50,000 words is intimidating. Thinking of 1667 words per day, not so much. I haven’t done NaNo in a while as I had plenty of projects needing to be finished thanks to past NaNo experiences. But this year my old critique group is considering doing it together, so I might use it to start the second of a three book series which of course originated with a NaNo a few years back. I used to be a pantser but have been warming to the idea of planning ever since I started using Scrivener. My goal from now until November is to get an outline done for this new project and see how that helps me with NaNo this year. It’s exhilarating and exhausting and yes let’s just say not a lot of writing gets done in December. Would love to connect with any other NaNo participants this year so hit me up. Good luck!

  17. I managed 91k and a finished first draft the first time I did NaNoWriMo. I’ve attempted it and the camps a couple times since and am pretty hit and miss with winning, but at least I’ve written something. I haven’t had any of my NaNo works complete to a good enough standard that I’d be willing to seek publication, but part of that is me needing to grow as a writer first. I recently changed the way I think about some things related to my writing so, honestly, I’m glad I was never ready enough to send those old works out into the world because now I have the chance to make them better and fix some super ridiculous issues I didn’t notice at the time.

    1. Do you know what Ann – that is exactly my situation. I am grateful for the learning experience and looking back I was never ready for publishing post finishing my NaNoWriMo adventure. Thank you for this great comment 🙂

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