• Rachel Paige

No Thanks to NaNoWriMo

November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel ( defined by NaNoWriMo as 50,000 words) in a month. If you do it, you win. If you don't, you lose.


I will never do NaNoWriMo. Here's why.


1. NaNoWriMo is about word count.

Plot, characters, and story don't matter. If you hit 50,000 words, you win.


Writers shouldn't focus on word count. It doesn't matter how many (or few) words it takes. A completed story, not 50,000 words is a success.


NaNoWriMo emphasizes quantity over quality. Your 50,000 words can be crap or nonsensical rambling, but if you write them you "win." In reality, you don't. Like I said, a story is a success. If all you write in November is 2,000 words of well-crafted storytelling, you're better off than most NaNoWriMo "winners."


2. NaNoWriMo is unrealistic.

It claims 1,700 words a day is attainable, but if you're actually a writer, you know that's not true. Some days you'll write three words. Other days you'll write 5,000. Some days you'll do research. All those days help you grow. Forcing a 1,700 daily word count is ambitious and not reaching it may make you feel like a terrible writer. Plus, November is a busy month for most people. There's holidays, work, family trips, and forgotten school assignments. All that plus 50,000 words? That's asking a lot.


3. NaNoWriMo reinforces the idea that writing is easy.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they could write a novel, I'd have more money than I'll probably ever make writing.


Writing is not easy, but many people think it is. Advertising that a novel can be written in a month reinforces that idea. People don't see that even if the word count is met, there's still months or years of work that need to be done. Which brings me to my next point.


4. NaNoWriMo diminishes the process

You can't write a novel in a month. You can write 50,000 words in a month; I've done that. But not a novel.


A novel is more than words. There's research, revising, cooling periods, and more revising involved. NaNoWriMo allows people, especially new writers, to think they need to buckle down for a month and they'll be all set. It ignores all the other work you have to do.


5. NaNoWriMo is an excuse not to write.

NaNoWriMo encourages writing... in November. The idea that a novel can be written in November implies that the other eleven months can be spent not writing. I've heard people say they aren't writing because they're waiting for November. Or they have an idea for a novel, but they'll do it during NaNoWriMo.


Do the writing now. Whenever "now" is.


It also lets people stop working when they hit the 30th. It leaves ideas and stories untouched, because they were "finished" when the 50,000 word count was met or the month ended.



Setting more realistic and long-term goals is a better ideas. Like 500 words a day. Or finishing chapter 2 by the end of the week. Or knowing what the climax will look like by January. Set a goal to write everyday and stick with that. You probably won't write 50,000 words in a month, but you'll have higher quality writing and a habit you can continue the rest of the year. The 1,700 daily word goal of NaNoWriMo is not a habit you can continue.


Habits and realistic goals will make you into a writer who writes every day, not one who crams it all into a month.


It might help if you need a reason to get back into writing or if you're competitive. But in reality, most writers "lose" NaNoWriMo. They don't reach the word count.


Here's my advice. If you do NaNoWriMo, use it as a jumping point. Let it help you rediscover your love of writing or help you see writing as a job. Don't rely on it to give you a novel, because it won't. If you focus on the 50,000 word challenge, you're going to gain nothing but a poorly told story and exhaustion from writing so much every day.


Try making your own NaNoWriMo. Maybe to you, a successful NaNoWriMo is writing every day. Or working on the story you've been procrastinating. Ditch the 50,000 words. Ditch the idea that the novel is complete on the 30th. Ditch the black and white thinking of winners and losers.


Make November a writing month if you want, but you can't keep it there. Writing needs to happen all year and writers need to remember that more goes into a novel than words. You need time, patience, and long-term habits to write a novel. Not a one month coffee-fueled extravaganza.



What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo?

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