The Post-NaNoWriMo Blues

keep-calm-and-keep-on-writing-20Right about now many writers are feeling a touch disappointed. They attempted a feat of greatness in the eyes of the writing community and they didn’t measure up to the recommended level of success.

To every below 50,000-words writers I say:


If you tried your best and wrote as much as you could, stand tall. I am so proud of you and you should have nothing to feel sad about. Take a moment and be thankful for all the words you did write and then consider this goal objectively.

Writing 50,000 words of anything is no small feat. The NaNoWriMo challenge also expects your brain (and fingers) to create a compelling storyline and craft memorable characters. All the while, you hold down a job and maybe care for a few kids or an elderly parent. And you must do it all in 30 days. It’s pretty much a Herculean task, and one many writers can only accomplish by sacrificing something else equally important to them, such as spending time with their family.

Of course, the world is full of lightning-fast writers. We always hear about these literary hares, the people who jotted down a bestseller on the back of a napkin while waiting for their coffee to cool. The hares are some of those people basking in the glow of their NaNo victory, empowered by their page counts and feeling ready to take the publishing world by storm. This month if you found yourself shaking your head as your friends piled up the words, or if you heard little voices inside your head telling you to slow down, it might be time to embrace the idea that you’re just a slow writer. You could be the literary tortoise in the NaNo meadow of jubilant hares.

Grandville 1855 IllustrationWe don’t often hear praise for slower writers, but we should. Please don’t despair if you’re a tortoise, you’re entering the illustrious domain of the word count under achievers, a literary hall of glory inhabited by some of publishing’s finest artists.

Don’t believe me?
Stuart Little (18 years)
Gone With the Wind (10 years)
The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao (10 years)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (5 years)
The Time Traveler’s Wife (5 years)

There are countless other slow masterpieces and it’s a group any new author should be thrilled to join.

Are the tortoises a prolific crew? No, not always, but some are. Some learned to be faster. Others decided they would rather write just one book they loved passionately than ten books they only liked. Thankfully NaNoWriMo has taught you something valuable about your writing style, something you could have spent years trying to rationalize away or make excuses for when your more prolific friends pounded out yet another book. Being a slower writer isn’t the dark cave of failure you might feel trapped in right now, it’s just who you are.

True, as a tortoise you might never write two books in a single year, but who cares about that arbitrary goal besides you?  Writers know when they have a story trapped inside and perhaps some stories just take a bit more time and effort to release than others. Stop focusing on your losses, don’t compare yourself to the hares, learn to embrace what works for you and write your way. If you and your story demand more time, take it. Use every hour you need to create something you feel is worthy of bearing your name.

There are enough mediocre books, more than enough to fill a lifetime of reading. I yearn for writers who create magic. Who pen worlds that leap off the paper and come to life before our eyes. And should it take them one year or twenty years to create such magic…I don’t care! I’m just happy they’ve given the world something worth treasuring. The tortoises of the writing world might create fewer books, but if they’re writing brilliant books, books filled with interesting plots and memorable characters, they will find fans today and they will find fans in a hundred years. And every time that book finds a home in a new pair of hands, not a single reader will lament how long it took the author to write it, they will only care about how the story made them feel.

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook( However, Pinterest ( is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

12 thoughts on “The Post-NaNoWriMo Blues”

    1. Thanks Traci!
      It’s always nice to see you’ve stopped by. 🙂 And thanks also for the RT on this post. It is much appreciated. Take care, Robin

  1. Well, I participated…sort of. I was moving along pretty well until life intervened. But I did manage to write about 11,000 words which is more than I started out with! Thanks for the pep talk.

    1. Oh boy, don’t you hate that? The unexpected monkey wrenches of life. You have the right way of looking this, any words you have after NaNo are bonus words. Good luck to you Sarah, 11,000 is a fantastic number. Robin

  2. I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, but I share K’s reaction – I really needed to read this right now. It’s frustrating to squeeze out 800 to 1000 words in a few words when you see tweets from other writers that say they cranked out 1000+ during a half-hour lunch break. So, it can be very frustrating sometimes, and very easy to beat yourself up over it. But that never helps. Thank you for writing this, Robin. 🙂

    1. Sara, You are so right, never beat yourself up. The hares are a vocal group. Why wouldn’t they be, it’s almost every writer’s dream to be a hare. But if you’re not a hare so what, just be the best tortoise you can be. Hang in there and keep writing. Robin

  3. Hi Robin. Just found this via #ArchiveDay. So encouraging. My first novel took 9 years to write. The second might be finished in half the time – so I’m speeding up! I love the idea of NaNoWri Mo but know it’s not for me. I find ‘hare’ writers completely intimidating. Thanks for your brilliant common sense. I needed to read this to remind myself that not all writers are the same.

    1. I’m so happy to we are starting a slow writer fan club in the comments area. Writing a book is a journey! And some books (and writers) just take longer. The goal is to never lose heart and always stay true to the love of your story. If you do that, I have total faith that everyone can make it to the end. And congratulations on finishing book one, you got book two in the bag. Robin

    1. Three cheers for tortoises. Thanks for stopping by Ariel. I’m always happy when I get to meet new writers. Robin

  4. OMG! I really needed to read that! Thank you Robin. This post really made me feel better about my writing habits. I am a plodder and I’ve always wondered if I should speed things up. The truth is, though, that even though I’m slow, I always finish. Now I know I’m a tortoise, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Thank you so much for the validation!

    1. Awesome! There are some wonderful reasons to be a tortoise, and tortoises have written many of my favorite books. Good things are worth waiting for. Thanks for the comment!

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