Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

It’s November, that time of year, when writers put themselves through the trauma of NaNoWriMo. For anyone not familiar with the acronym, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.

The website describes it as a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

NaNoWriMoThey also have this logo. The coffee, laptop, pens, paper all make perfect sense, although I don’t quite get the shield and the Viking helmet!

A number of people I know are taking part this year, and they’re all heads down, clocking up the words. Sounds a good idea? So, why aren’t I doing it?

  • First, I don’t think I would manage the daily word count that is necessary. In this last week, I’ve clocked up 8242 words, but that’s unusual for me in a week, especially as I managed only 300 on one of the days. I seem to feel comfortable psychologically with a 1000 words a day, or a chapter of about 3 to 4000 words a week.
  • Then, I don’t think it suits the way I work. To write 50,000 in a month, you have to approach it like a sprint, whereas for me a novel is a marathon. You need to write on average 1500 to 1600 words a day. That means keep writing, don’t look back, don’t think too much. Although I have to force myself not to be too critical during the first draft, but just to get the words down, I don’t like being unable to reread, ponder, and do some editing as I go along.Hand Proofreading a Manuscript beside Laptop If I don’t, I get a panicky sense of it all being out of control.


  • And, despite being desperate to finish the first draft of my novel by the end of November (currently nudging 100,000 words), I think there’s a very different feel in the final straight of a novel in comparison to the early laps. Then it’s all new and exciting, a big adventure, with unknown peaks to climb. Towards the end, it’s exciting to think

might be in sight, but there’s the weariness, the pain and the understanding of the costs involved in such a long journey.

But perhaps I’m just looking for excuses. Writing a novel is a huge challenge. Writing a novel – or at least the first 50,000 words of one is a challenge cubed. But as the cliche goes – Never say never. Perhaps 2015 will be the year I NaNoWriMo!



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  1. I tried last year and failed on the first day so gave up! That ‘novel’ hasn’t been looked at since. Flaubert was content to write 300 words a day by the way.

  2. Lindsay says:

    I think I would almost certainly fail, Becky. I’m much more in Flaubert’s camp!

  3. Christine Donovan says:

    Since Flaubert wrote in bed, I’m fully in his camp. I think the whole Nanowrimo thing is awful, like boot camp with a laptop. Mind you, I go from writing nothing at all to writing 20,000 words in three weeks, which isn’t any good for me, my family, my brain (which I quite honestly felt was exploding) or my laptop. I’m off to bed. Good luck xx

  4. Maureen Hall says:

    I’m with you and Flaubert, as well Lindsay. Although the discipline of NaNoWriMo might be good for me!

  5. Lindsay says:

    I do think the emphasis on number of words at the cost of everything else in NaNoWriMo is horribly reductive, Christine. I wonder what percentage of people have then revised and got a good novel out of it. 20,000 words in three weeks sounds impressive. Was this for a deadline?

  6. Lindsay says:

    Yes, it’s definitely good for getting words on the page, Mo.

  7. Mary HOWELL says:

    Hi Lindsay, liked your post. I’ve toyed with the idea of having a go. That urgent push is not my style of writing either, but one year, when I am not labouring on a slow burning novel, I might give it a go. A sprint might be good for me.

  8. Lindsay says:

    I agree, Mary. Part of me would like to take on the challenge, but I think I would almost certainly fail.

  9. Debbie Young says:

    Hi Lindsay, I’m trying NaNoWriMo for the first time this year – the first time also for a very long time that I’ve attempted to write a novel. Like you, I find it alien to just keep writing without editing at all – though I can understand why they make the no-editing rule, because if they did allow editing, they’d have far fewer “winners”, as they call those who make the final number. (I really don’t like the implication that those who don’t finish must therefore be “losers”!)

    However, I have found it really useful for just getting the words flowing, even though I haven’t manage to write something every day, and after a few days being busy with other things, I’m still only at around 12,000 words. Some participants say they put everything else in their lives on hold for November, and I am far too busy to be able to do that – lots of events and two book launches this month, for a start – so I’m having to fit it in around other things, which makes it harder. However, I think I am still 12,000 words up on where I would have been with my proposed novel it it weren’t for NaNoWriMo!

    But I’m withholding my final judgment till 1st December….

  10. Lindsay says:

    Well done for having a go, Debbie, and I really hope you are successful. When you are very busy, it’s so easy for writing to be squeezed out, and the fact that you’ve done 12,000 words is great. But I worry that there is too much emphasis on write fast (and NaNo is part of that culture) and it doesn’t suit everyone.

  11. It’s not for me either. My third book in The Hagstone Chronicles is bubbling away in my head and I work at my own pace. Aiming at a word count isn’t the way I work. I get a vivid picture of what I want to write and I write it and edit it over and over until its right. It may be an entire chapter or as little as a page and it may be from anywhere in the book.
    Of course there are several more edits of the whole thing when I eventually put all the bits together and reach the end. From talking to other authors I think my method is rather unusual, but I don’t seem able to write in any other way.

  12. Lindsay says:

    It’s really interesting to hear the different ways people work, Mavis, and I think everyone has to find what works for them. I feel satisfied if I write 1000 words in a day, but more often than not I don’t manage it. I’ve just reread what I wrote last week when I was working faster than I normally would, and I’m not happy with it at all.

  13. Christine Donovan says:

    Yes, Lindsay it was my novella for Salt for the Modern Dreams series, I presume they hated it as I never heard from them, but hey, it got me writing again. It’s going to be my experimental first foray into digital publishing, just so long as it all goes well. I know everyone’s got a novel in them, but I think Nanowrimo just encourages them to come out, when plenty of them should just stay firmly inside. Probably some of mine fall into that category as well, but I won’t dwell on that 🙂

  14. Lindsay says:

    It’s horrible when you don’t hear anything, Christine. I sympathise.

    I’m not sure – despite the cliche – that everyone has got a novel in them. Well, they’ve got a story, but the more I write, the more I realise how difficult it is to produce a successful novel. I feel cross when I hear that yet another celebrity has written a novel. I went to a talk by one (won’t name her) but she admitted when she sent the manuscript out, her agent said ‘This book is broken. It falls apart in the middle.’ Would we get a novel published if that was the case?

  15. Polly says:

    Not for me, either – not this year anyway – but never say never (!)

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