Olivia Folmar Ard


Why I'll Never Participate in NaNoWriMo Again

Originally written June 6, 2016. 

I have dreamed of successfully completing at least one NaNoWriMo competition since 2011, and this past year I finally realized that dream. I wrote 50,014 words of This Dread Road, Book Three of The Bennett Series, in November 2015.

I was so proud of myself. Not only had I finally managed to complete the challenge, but I'd done it during the same month my husband and I purchased a new home and moved. 

For several months post-NaNo, I was convinced that everyone should participate in this challenge, no excuses. But now that I'm (finally) finished with revisions, I can look back and say with all manner of certainty that NaNoWriMo, while well-intentioned, did me far more harm than good. 

For one thing, it ushered in a horrific period of burnout. I never stopped working on This Dread Road, but there were several times I was tempted to call it quits. It took me six months to finish the second half, and I went through a long stretch where I just didn't care about the story anymore. Working on it was painful and torturous. For a while, I worried I wouldn't finish it in time to meet my December publication goal. Or at all. 

The trip to South Carolina I took with my husband in March forced me to relax and rejuvenate. I came home more excited about the story than ever, having seen places like Stella Maris Church (pictured above) that play into This Dread Road's plot. It took another month after we returned home, but I finally finished the draft. I was so happy when I typed "THE END," and still eternally gratefully for NaNoWriMo. If I hadn't written that 50,014 words last November, how much further behind schedule would I be?

But when I started revisions a few weeks ago, I realized that those first 50,000 words were essentially useless. That section of the book was packed with filler words, unnecessary characters, and subplots I hadn't taken the time to flesh out. I could almost map my exhaustion during the month of November just looking at that first half.

I had to rewrite the first twenty-seven chapters.

don't wish that I hadn't participated in NaNo last year. It was a fun experience, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and solidarity that I experienced all across the Internet. It was finals week, but without the stress of grades hanging over my head. I got a lot done. Had I not participated, I most likely wouldn't have taken a break to redesign all three of the covers for The Bennett Series. I wouldn't have been able to let my experience in Charleston influence my descriptions nearly as much. But most importantly, I wouldn't have learned a valuable lesson: 

What works for others does not necessarily work for me.