Oh No! NaNo

Writing blogs and columns have begun their frenzied panic leading up to NaNoWriMo.  There are a myriad of excellent reasons for a writer, regardless of where they are on their journey in their writing career, to enter and participate in this pressure pot of madness.  Having participated and completed a number of times, I believe there is a great deal of worth in focusing on this event and giving it your fullest intentions. However, this post will explore some reasons why a writer can give themselves permission NOT to enter the fray.

Whether you participate or not, its important to have clear reasons.

What are you hoping to gain?

By participating in NaNoWriMo, are you hoping to gain

  • a publishing contract?
  • experience in writing?
  • connections with other writers?
  • respect as a writer?
  • recognition that your book would transfer perfectly as the next blockbuster on the big screen?

Whilst it is possible to achieve any one – or all of these- unless you have your purpose or goal clearly stated, you will not reach it.

Be at peace with your limits

A mild hysteria builds in the writing world from around August. Many measure ‘worthiness’ or ‘true commitment’ to participation in NaNoWriMo, with a certain level of snobbiness attached to a writer’s involvement (or non involvement).

Understand your personal limits, time frames and accessibility to the workload and stress involved. Juggling a young family, work, household duties and community involvement doesn’t simply stop for the month of November. Something has to ‘give’. Unless you have plans for outsourcing duties or postponing a great deal of activities, seriously revisit your commitment to participation in NaNoWriMo. Don’t get sucked into the hype and peer pressure.


It doesn’t mean that you are any less dedicated to your craft or any less serious about following a career path as a writer, if you choose NOT to participate in NaNoWriMo. Thirty days of dedicated writing – 1667 words per day – might not sound like a big deal; but miss one or two days, and the pressure begins to mount as your word count fails to rise. This sort of pressure is not creative or supportive, particularly if you have family and community commitments also pulling at your priorities.

Choose to write 500 well chosen or crafted words per day.

Choose to pull out those first drafts hidden away in a drawer or file.

Choose to redraft, polish and submit stories to competitions, anthologies or publishers.

Choose to support a cause, educate, inform or promote an idea through your writing.

Choose to use your powers for good!

Write for the Right reasons.

Do you have a character, message or plot line burning holes in your psyche?  Participate in NaNoWriMo because you have the passion and drive to deliver this message, not because ‘everyone else is doing it’. For every pursuit, there needs to be a passionate, driving need to continue, which will dispel negativity, tiredness and disparaging comments by family and friends. If the need is not there, by week three you will find a myriad of excuses not to write and end up being disappointed in yourself and your “commitment,” not to mention having to own up to your writing buddies and writers group.

“Writing is rewriting.” 

E.B.White admits that the first draft is easy, but it’s in the redrafts and edits where the true writing emerges.  50,000 words is a great start to a novel – but for most publishers, it’s not the accepted modern day length. (Whereas classics such as Animal Farm are under 30K and many of Asimovs’ works, for example, are 27K; but thats best saved for another argument.)

For those of you who have ‘done’  NaNoWriMo before, I have a simple, perhaps uncomfortable question.

“Where is that manuscript now?”

For 99% of NaNoWriMo winnners, the answer is something like, “gathering dust” or “not seen the light of day since the 1st Dec.”

Seriously, if you were passionate enough to invest 30 days of your time, sweat and for many, tears, then be serious now and redraft, edit and continue what you have started. Consider using this NaNoWriMo month to do something with your draft and either finish it, or begin redrafting so it can be submitted somewhere.

Work out what is important in your life.

As with everything you do, ensure that what you are about to invest a great deal of time and effort into doing will support your life choices. Check in with yourself to determine whether they are in line with your goals and outcomes. Many authors write to entertain themselves, or as a means to unburden from their lives. Look at the process and at the end result of NaNoWriMo and question whether this is something that you want to experience.

Participating in NaNoWriMo may not run along the ideals you have set for yourself in your writing journey.  Don’t get bullied or persuaded to join, simply because everyone else is doing it.

Join NaNoWriMo for the right reasons. Sit it out for the right reasons. But don’t sit on the fence.


5 thoughts on “Oh No! NaNo

  1. I love NaNoWriMo. Do I have goals for what I want it to do for me? Sure. But they are much more mundane than some might expect. I use NaNoWriMo to stretch… I try genres I’ve never written in before. I try styles of prose or dialogue I don’t normally use. I know that what I generate for NaNoWriMo will be a first draft quality manuscript, not yet ready for prime time… and as such, I look at it as my opportunity to “not worry about it and just keep writing.”

    If life gets in the way of NaNoWriMo due to other things going on, so be it. It does seem that every year November finds me fighting through longer and longer hours at work and more activities for the kids. Ultimately my longer term goal is to produce a manuscript which will be something I’m passionate enough about to edit/revise/market/publish and sell. In a few years, when I’, an empty nester, it may be easier for me to focus on it (though, it may very well be more difficult to focus on it). But my point in this comment is that my short term goals, my *now* goals as it were, are to just make myself write and to experiment with different things. NaNoWriMo provides me with the impetus to do this where much of the rest of the year the excuses for not writing seem to win.

  2. I’ve got one in first rewrite/plot revision and about a 24 page outline of November’s. I’m seriously considering myself half crazy at this point but I need to get that 24 page outline into a story because I have 3 more ideas bumping up against it.

    I must be seriously out of my mind. I’m not sure what opened the flood gates when I did Camp NaNo but something did.

  3. I’m nervous about NaNo, but I still think I’m going to do it. I’ve looked at what in my life can be cut out and how long each day I’ll have to commit. I want to use my weekends to try to get ahead for weekdays where writing is just not feasible.

    I have an idea in my head that’s been manifesting itself for about a month now. It’s so different from what I’ve written before that I think it will be healthy to let it all out at once, like releasing the Kracken.

  4. These are all the reasons I’ve never joined, Annie–you’ve nailed it. Maybe in a few years…

  5. Solid advice for everyone to consider before a single word is writ dark on the page. Join or not for the right reasons.

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