NaNoWriMo: Why I don’t participate.

Hi, everyone! It’s the end of October, which means I’ve been seeing TONS of talk about NaNoWriMo around Twitter and Facebook. (For those of you unaware, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month” — an event in November where writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month.)
Since I started writing novels (at the end of 2008), I’ve had people encourage me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have never participated in NaNo, and I don’t plan on doing so this year, for reasons I’m about to tell you now!
Before you start reading, know that I always support people who participate, and am not anti-NaNo in any way. I do think it can be a good way for someone to prove to themselves that they can write 50,000 words. I am simply explaining the reasons why I personally do not choose to participate.
1) I don’t like the notion that you “win” if you write 50,000 words in a month, and “lose” if you don’t. I don’t think writing should be a competition, and when you declare there are “winners” it is being set up that way. I also don’t think it’s “winning” if you write 50,000 words of nonsense. Tons of people can do that. I would consider a person who wrote 20,000 quality words in a month a “winner” above someone who wrote 50,000 disastrous words. Quality > quantity. 
2) I don’t like the pressure of writing every single day. When I’m drafting, I write five days a week. If I wrote literally every day in a month, I would feel burned out and like I didn’t want to look at the manuscript for a minute longer! Break days are good for the brain 🙂
3) Everyone writes at a different pace. When I’m drafting, I can typically write 1,000 – 1,500 words before I feel brain-fried. I edit as I write, so while I don’t write fast, my first drafts typically are not despicable. At that pace, I write about 30,000 words a month. But hey, if I keep that up for 2-3 months, I’ll have a draft of a novel! I know it takes me about three months to finish a draft, and I’m fine with that. I wouldn’t want to rush and lower the quality of my work. 
4) Writing should not be rushed. Sometimes while drafting, I’ll come to a section and realize I need to do more research to make the scene come to life. That means I may not get as many words written that day, but I’ll have done necessary research to make my novel better. To me, that is still progress, even though it may not be considered so in “NaNo world.” 
5) I go out of town every November. On the second weekend in November, I always go to LAS VEGAS! (It’s a family event.) I’m usually there from that Thursday until that Sunday. Then at the end of November is Thanksgiving, and I usually visit my family up north. (Although I won’t be doing that this year since that’s when Timeless is coming out and I need to be home for that.) All of those days out of town make November a bad month for me to get 50,000 words done of a draft. (This is, of course, a 100% personal reason, but I also feel like there are many other people who visit family for Thanksgiving 🙂
So there you have it — my reasons for not participating in NaNoWriMo! When it comes down to it, I don’t like looking at the drafting process as a competition. It’s part of the art of writing, and each individual should approach drafting in the way that’s best for them 🙂
Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?

7 Comments on “NaNoWriMo: Why I don’t participate.

  1. Great points, Michelle. Thank you! I am not opposed to NaNo but I've never participated either. I think there are more cons than pros for me – I don't like to be rushed so I'd probably fail horribly. A lot of your points are very well said – like not wanting to be forced to write every day. I know I wouldn't like that. My pace is usually too slow for its own good. ;D

    SO looking forward to Timeless! Cannot wait to read the lovely conclusion. 🙂 And, to see what comes next for you.

  2. Totally get where you're coming from. Last year I was particularly against NaNo for some of these same reasons.

    But I feel like the time before NaNo (month of Oct) is a great time to outline what you want to write about, which includes research, etc. on things you'd typically have to stop writing for.

    Also, I don't think you technically HAVE to write every day. If you write double the words the day before, then you technically can have days off where you don't write. The “winning” part leaves kinda a bad taste in my mouth, too. However, I think “winning” and the “competition” is having the encouragement to put words on paper that maybe some people wouldn't have been so motivated to write before. Some people work better under competitiveness, and some people appreciate encouragement!

    And, yeah, November IS a sort of sucky time for this project, what with holidays and all, so I totally get that part, too. But I know that I personally get a skeleton draft done with words on paper before I go back and edit to add bulk/details. I know a lot of writers who use this method, too. I think it's a great way for us to get our basic idea out and then go back and fine tune! After all, I don't think 50k makes a MS finished and ready to query/sub!

    But I totally understand your method and where you're coming from. What works for some doesn't always work for others 😉

  3. I've done NaNoWriMo for the past four years (this will be my fifth year of participating) but I have to say that I do agree with many of your points, specifically the one about needing 50,000 words to “win”.

    I have a friend who isn't much of a writer, but she likes to write on occasion. If it weren't for the word limit, she would do NaNoWriMo. I like to encourage her to set her own challenge – maybe only 20,000 words, or whatever she feels she can achieve. And while that may sound like a good plan, people are put off by the fact that they don't “win” if they don't hit 50,000.

    Every year that I've done NaNoWriMo, I've only had to work around a part-time job, so hitting 50,000 words has never been much of a challenge. Last year I did it in eight days – pretty boring. The challenge I have always set myself is to write something that I'm happy with, because I'm one of those people who will finish a novel and not like the end product. And in this respect, last year was the first time that I really “won”. I've hit 50,000 words every time, but none of it meant anything because I never wanted to go back and edit until last year.

    I completely agree that quality is much greater than quantity, but with NaNoWriMo I will sometimes let this slide. I like to see what I can come up with on the spot, in a rush, under the pressure of You never know when a great idea is going to pop up, and that's half the fun of this challenge for me.

  4. I don't participate for many of your reasons, most specifically the point about rushing the writing. I also don't participate simply because I write every month. I don't feel I need a particular month set aside to suddenly sprint for some phantom finish line (which, in most adult genres, 50k isn't even a finish line- it doesn't equal the word count for anywhere near the first draft of the genre I write). Good post!

  5. This will be my fourth year participating. I use it as a tool to get me to sit down and focus. Too often I procrastinate and put off my writing, but having the word count meter as a target and the community of Nanoers around me really helps. There is a real sense of support and encouragement that ecourages me to get on with it.

    I know that what I write won't be perfect and will need a lot of work afterwards, but at least I will have something on the page to work on!

    I also don't get downhearted if I don't complete the 50k, after all anything I can get down is more that I had before. It's really just a kick up the a** to get started and fun to share your writing adventure with others. 😀

  6. I've done NaNoWriMo a couple times. ONe of them I felt really successful, although I only got about 30,000 words. It is one that I've gone back and worked on since, but have yet to finish it. One thing I don't like, is that you have to start a new book each time. To me, it would be more useful for me to go back and say I'm going to write more on the novel that I got so far on. That would help me.

    I appreciate your post! As you are an author, it is very interesting to get your take on it.

  7. I've participated in NaNoWriMo the last two years and I will most likely this year too because it's fun. Even though I never win lol. I always wondered why it was in November though… like, worst month ever to host something like this!

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