You don't need to win, to win

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

25 November - As a last-minute decision, I joined the National Novel Writing Month (, a worldwide event where writers aim to reach 50,000 words in the month of November.

With only a few days to go, I am not going to ‘win’, and I am okay with that.

Why? Cranking out 1667 words per day seems achievable in theory, but, it is difficult in reality. I can only speak for myself of course but reading the 1000’s of Facebook posts (not all of them 😊), threads on the NaNoWriMo participant site (not all of those either), work, family, and life in general, makes it challenging.

I jumped from the blocks on the first of the month and managed to write for several days in a row. I then had a few days where work and life left me collapsing into bed with a promise to catch up tomorrow. I had a few of these days before getting back to the story. Although I won’t reach the 50,000 words, I have written more, and far more consistently, than I ever have before. Therefore, I am counting that as a win.

Also, I learnt some valuable lessons along the way.

1. Almost every ‘how to write’ book encourages you to write. Write, and keep writing, and don’t stop to look for the correct word, or to search for the right piece of hardware (see last post for a classic example), or any other excuse that takes you away from getting words down on a page.

For me this was difficult. I kept verbalising the excuse to family and friends, that as an academic, getting the right word is important. Turns out this excuse is a crock of disillusionment. This belief was holding me back and preventing me from reaching my dreams. I had to let it go.

How did I do it? I stepped away from the computer and went back to my trusty pens and notebook. I started to write. The words appeared like magic out of the end of the pen and before I knew it I was onto the next chapter, and then the next. Couldn’t think of the word I wanted? No problems. I just put [work out which crew member I want to kill here OR suddenly! (meaning I know I have overused ‘suddenly’ but that will do for now, so don’t sweat it)] and kept going.

I know that if I was on my computer, I would have gone back through my notes and writing and spent two hours deciding which crew member I was going to kill off OR spent almost the same amount of time in the thesaurus. I might still have to spend those hours, but it will be with a 70-80,000 manuscript in front of me, not 7-8,000 words on some pages.

The NaNo pressure to crank those words out finally made the advice of so many others, make sense. And you know what? It worked.

2. Writing—wait for it— helps you write—not only more but better quality! (Note I said ‘better’, not necessarily good or award-winning, just better). I know, I was gobsmacked too. Again every ‘how to write’ book tells you this, and maybe I am a slow learner, but I learnt this too.

Not pouring over my search engine for the correct word or meaning or staring into space trying to work out how to express it in a more original way, allowed me to just write, as above, and get words down. However, the more I wrote, the greater clarity I had in telling the story. Of course, I know it is far from perfect, but I know there are a few gems lurking in there, and the rest that aren’t, well at least I have something to play with now as opposed to dozens of blank pages.

I am finding those twists or colourful descriptions are coming easier the more words I have behind me. Writing really does help you write—and this is only after four weeks. I can’t wait to see what will happen after four months, four books, or even four years.

So, although I am not a winner and I will not pass Go and collect my two hundred dollars, it has, as many have said in the NaNo community, worked its magic and unlocked the secret door to getting more words done.

I still have about five weeks to go until my self-implemented deadline of having a first draft by New Year when I get to have lunch with two talented and inspirational authors Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle (I’m just a tad excited). I was just starting my book at last year’s get together and felt impostor-syndrome acutely. If I can turn up this year with a ‘first-draft’ I hope I will have more confidence to discuss all things writing, and not just sit there like a guppy hanging onto the words of others, who I must remember have been in my place too.

Always happy to hear from you, whether you’re a fellow aspiring author or a fellow reader. I am a great cheerleader, so if you need someone to have your back, just give a big Tassie Devil growl and reach out.

Happy days.


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