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5 Struggles Every NaNoWriMo Participant Understands

5 Struggles Every NaNoWriMo Participant Understands


It’s almost halfway through November and NaNoWriMo participants all around the world are living and breathing their novel. However, they’re also probably neck deep in anxiety, insomnia and spontaneous sweats from all the junk food being consumed. Words for the wise: November is NOT the month to start a health kick.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s National Novel Writing Month where participants sign up to create a 50,000 word novel in just a month. And that’s a 30 day month, not a 31 day month (that extra day REALLY matters).


It’s a great challenge to participate in if your dream is to be an author, or if you’re a creative who likes writing stories, or if you want to try a personal challenge that’s outside your comfort zone. Even just by participating, I think you learn a lot about yourself and your writing skills.

However, it’s not all positivity and roses; NaNoWriMo is TOUGH. Here are 5 struggles every participant understands:

Lack of sleep

Every NaNoWriMo writer accepts this inevitable reality before even beginning, but when it’s mid-November and you haven’t slept properly for days, you may think of your past self as a cavalier asshole for expecting things to be easy. Whether you’re killing your NaNo goals or you’re struggling, you’re probably still losing sleep.


Someone who has 20,000 words by the first week might be doing really well, but they could burn out by day 12. Those thoughts plague every writer, and we all lose sleep over what COULD happen. Keep your eyes on the finish line but remember: slow and steady wins the race. There’s no need to panic just because you aren’t as ahead as others.

No social life

Say goodbye to your friends and family for this entire month. If you’re lucky enough to have time off over the month to ensure you have nothing to do all day but write, then that’s fantastic. However, most people participating are people with full time jobs or full time school with a specific amount of free time. Being able to finish NaNoWriMo when you’re in this position means you’re a straight up superhero and you should be proud of your dedication.


You might miss out on some parties or trips with your friends or even family occasions, but in the long run it’s probably worth it. By the end of the month, you have a project you’ve poured your soul into to call your own.

Crippling self-doubt

As a writer, you probably face this on a regular basis anyway, but with NaNoWriMo you face it on a DAILY basis. Writers are notorious for hating what they’ve written and convince themselves that they are totally shit. Here is my tip for this month: Do NOT edit. Seriously don’t touch it. If you know you missed something or you want to add a detail, just make a note of it.

Once you go back and start re-reading, you’ll want to edit the bits that suck. And there will be bits that suck, of course there will, but give yourself a break and leave them be until December. You might just find some gems among all that rough work.


Writing is rewriting. The magic comes with the editing. For writers who genuinely want to get their work published, the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to finish a novel. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it won’t be, but it WILL be a framework for you to work with. You can build on those bones. It’s a hell of a lot better than a blank page.

Struggles with self-discipline

If you’re like me, you have never committed to a daily writing habit. I tried to write when I had time, but I didn’t prioritise it like I should have. NaNoWriMo has taught me that even when I don’t feel like writing, I should still do it. Magic doesn’t happen on its own, and good writing doesn’t just wait for when you’re ready.


You might have to type thousands of words of utter nonsense to come up with 100 words of gold, but that’s necessary. And you need to learn some self-discipline and develop a daily writing habit if you’re serious about writing and finishing a book. NaNoWriMo teaches you that it’s nowhere near as hard as you think it is.


Finally, and I hope you’re not facing this right now, NaNoWriMo participants understand failure. Many who have attempted it before have ended up quitting before that 50k mark and have considered themselves a failure. Even if you do get to the end of the challenge with thousands of words under your belt, you can still feel like you just wasted your entire month.


My advice is to try and put that word in a box in your mind and just never think about it. Put it this way: even if you only managed 1000 words in the entire month, that’s still 1000 words you would have otherwise never written. Give yourself some credit and don’t worry about what other NaNoWriMo participants think! Do your best. That’s all you can do!

The Arcade writer Nick and I are both participating in NaNo. Are you? Let us know your username in the comments and we’ll buddy up!