On “Failing” NaNoWriMo by Olivia Rivers


Photo credit: mpclemens on Flickr

Confession time: This month I tried to do National Novel Writing Month, and I had to give up. There’s a long story behind my lack-of-a-story, but basically, it goes like this: I got sick, got overwhelmed with college and work and internship and life responsibilities, and simply ended up with no time to write.

My initial reaction was to view this year’s NaNoWriMo event as a defeat—I was supposed to write 50,000 words this month, and I didn’t. I failed. Simple as that. But over the past couple weeks, I realized a few things that made me revise my opinion:

  1. I still managed to write 25k in the first two weeks of November.
  2. I tried my damnedest.

All writers deal with obstacles, and if you write for long enough, you’re bound to come across a challenge you simply can’t fix. For me, it’s my physical health. It is really hard (read: impossible) to plot out a complex story when I’m fighting a high fever and drugged out of my mind with all sorts of nasty medications.

Unfortunately, situations like this happen to me quite often, and they bring my writing to a screeching halt every single time. And every single time I have to quit writing, it really, really sucks. One of the worst parts? Knowing that this isn’t an issue isolated to myself, and that there are other writers facing the same sucky circumstances because of their own health, work, families, etc.

In the writing world, and in any competitive industry, we get told to face obstacles and work to overcome them. And, while this is great advice the majority of the time, some obstacles just don’t have fixes. I can’t cure myself of a genetic condition, just like other writers can’t cure themselves of serious work problems or family emergencies.

So I’ve decided to revise my initial view that I “failed” NaNoWriMo. It’s not a true failure, because I never had a true opportunity to achieve success. It has taken me many, many years to reach the point where I’m comfortable looking at a non-success as a non-bad thing. But I’m glad my stubborn brain has finally wrapped itself around the concept, because I think it’s a much healthier mindset.

I know tons of other writers didn’t make it to the NaNoWriMo finish line this year. I’ve already seen lots of people on social media waving a virtual white flag. But for all my fellow non-winners whose month didn’t go as planned, here’s what I think:

We tried our hardest, and that’s a success all by itself.


Olivia Rivers is a Young Adult author who writes in multiple genres, ranging from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. Her fascination with technology led her to become a hybrid author, meaning some of her works are independently published, while others are traditionally published. She has a passion for representing diversity, and you’ll often find disabled main characters in her novels. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.


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