What to Expect From Your NaNoWriMo Draft

If you’re participating or have participated in NaNoWriMo, you know how hard those first few days of November can be, but also how exciting! Whether you’re writing the first few pages of your first novel ever or gearing up for your tenth piece, those first few days never change.

They’re tough and they’re grueling, but once you power through them, they’re so worth it and suddenly you feel like you can do ANYTHING as a writer.


However, after the first week or two of excitement, you might get to a place in your novel where you have no idea what is happening or what you’ll do next. By that point, your novel starts to take on a strange form that looks far less like the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel you imagined it’d be.

In fact, it’s looking pretty awful.

Suddenly that excitement has faded away and the prospect of finishing your novel is no longer something you are looking forward to, but something you can’t wait to get over with. Your characters aren’t clicking with your story and everything feels out of place. Some chapters drag on and others end too quickly.

In short, nothing feels right.

But despite that, you power through November so you can finally say you’ve finished your first novel. And let me just say how AMAZING that always feels, no matter how awful you felt during some of those weeks. All of a sudden you feel great about your work again and can’t wait to get back to it.

But what should you expect from your NaNoWriMo draft, especially if it’s your first one ever? Were those bad weeks really all that bad? Or were those great weeks actually pretty rotten?

As someone who has participated in my own makeshift NaNoWriMo more than once and written many other first drafts, I’m here to fill you in on something you should expect from your NaNoWriMo draft so that when the time comes, you aren’t disappointed!

Because after all, most first drafts are total crap.

Which brings me to my first point...

Your NaNoWriMo draft will not be very good

We all want to think that the novel we powered through during November was a masterpiece in the making, but the truth is that it’s a first draft, plain and simple.

Of course, it’s not to say that it won’t be good someday, but that it isn’t now. A year from now, when you’ve fixed and polished up the piece, it may well be great. But for now, it’s the first draft and very few and fortunate people have amazing, nearly perfect first drafts.

So, if you’re like almost everyone in this world and have a crappy first draft, don’t beat yourself up. Even the most prolific writers first drafts need editors and rewrites, so to have a less than mediocre first go at your story—especially when writing so quickly—is completely normal and to be expected.

A bad first draft is just part of the growing pains of your story.

On top of that, some people aren’t really cut out for the fast pace of NaNoWriMo. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact, NaNoWriMo is the best way to learn—especially if you’ve never written a novel before—that you’re meant to write a slower first draft, which is why your first draft may be awful to you.

Your NaNoWriMo draft will need a lot of edits

With a bad first draft comes many, many edits. This shouldn’t surprise you, but it likely will anyway.

You likely are imagining that your novel will only need a few edits—maybe a character switch or cutting a few chapters—but be prepared for a full rewrite, if not more if you didn’t do any prep work beforehand. Again, this isn’t bad. It’s part of the growing pains your story must endure!

For my first novel, I scrapped everything except one small idea and a few paragraphs. It took a lot of willpower, but it was for the best and because of NaNoWriMo I knew I could do it again.

After all, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is not for people to write award-winning novels. The purpose is for people to realize they have the ability to sit down and write a novel when they devote the time and effort.

Now that you know that you have that skill, you can put it to use with other things like rewrites and edits!

You may completely abandon your NaNoWriMo draft

Finally, you may toss your NaNoWriMo draft completely and never return to it. This could be because it’s a bad story altogether or because you hate the idea or something else isn’t working. You gave it a try as a first full-length novel, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it if you hate it after a few months away from it.

It will be hard to let go of the story, especially if this is the first novel you’ve ever written. You don’t want to waste all your hard work!

But don’t see it as a waste. See it as 50,000 more words of writing experience under your belt. And trust me when I say, it really makes a difference.

Most people dabble in short stories written sporadically over the years, myself included—before I wrote my first novel in a month—and as a result, they have to wade through a lot of bad writing for a long period of time. But if you write your first novel in 30 days and completely toss it, you’ve just fast-tracked your writing experience by a LOT.

I know from my own experience. Before I wrote my first novel in a month—which I tossed completely later on—I wasn’t very confident as a writer and not once was I told something like “you have a strong writer’s voice.”

And yet after I wrote my first novel, which again, I trashed, people started to tell me they could hear my writer’s voice. And that can only come from one place: experience!

So, no matter how your NaNoWriMo draft looks, take heart in that you have done something many people have only talked about doing: writing a novel. And if you can do that, then you’re already miles ahead of everyone else, no matter what the outcome is for you NaNoWriMo draft!