Is NaNo a No-No?

November is National Novel Writing Month, more fondly known as NaNoWriMo to us repeat offenders. Approximately a quarter of a million people worldwide aim to write 50,000 words of fiction in a mere thirty days.

Sounds pretty hectic. It can also be an amazing experience.

If you’re unsure whether to take the plunge, consider the following: 


Who wouldn’t want to get a good chunk of their writing done in the span of one month?

  • Quantity over quality: This is NaNo’s main aim. By focusing on nothing beyond word count, you’re shushing your internal critic, the voice that tells you everything you’re writing is crap and often derails your ability to finish. If you win NaNo, you’re looking at over 100 pages of a novel. Will it be perfect? Probably not. But you’ll have produced more in a month than most manage in a far longer time period. That’s nothing to sniff at.
  • Support base: If you need a cheerleader (or two thousand), November’s the month to find them. The NaNo forums are teeming with other writers, Twitter’s got word sprints going every hour, and offline write-ins get scheduled in many regions. I don’t generally like writing with other people, but I do like changes in scenery (and coffee). The best part is you don’t even have to share your writing. NaNo participants are usually too focused on hitting their own word counts.
  • Bragging rights: If you win NaNo, you can tell people you wrote a novel in a month. There is no scenario where that doesn’t sound awesome.


Man, is it easy to write 120 pages of utter crap.

  • Writing yourself into a corner: This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit. The problem with 30 days of unfettered writing is you might end up with fifty thousand words of uneditable nonsense. Some people are better at avoiding this than others (me). A great way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to outline what you’re planning to write in October, but that takes extra effort.
  • You’ll be exhausted and you probably won’t be done: Unless you’re writing a novella or middle grade fiction, fifty thousand words is not a full novel. All that effort might have gotten you closer to a completed novel in a single month, or it might’ve just gotten you fifty thousand words, half of which you’re going to have to cut, which might take you the other eleven months. Some people are fine with this; others won’t be.
  • Thanksgiving has never been so stressful. Or finals: The point of holding NaNo in November is that everyone is dealing with  the busy holiday season, according to its creator, Chris Baty. As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, now you’re juggling unsympathetic relatives and trying to write a novel, all while studying for finals? I did not complete one NaNo challenge while I was a student (didn’t even participate). Students may find trying to juggle both next to untenable.

Can’t quite quit

The last time I wrote fifty thousand words of a chronological novel during November was 2015. It was for a serial fanfic that I was already ninety thousand words into and I was hoping to get ahead. All told come December, I was pretty pleased with myself for completing another five chapters of this fanfic behemoth in a single month.

Great. But it took me over a year to edit the mess I’d created. I’m honestly not sure if that was worth it.

Last year, I met my word count goal by doing writing exercises. This year, I’m planning a modified but similar approach: One fanfic chapter (that’s about 12,000 wordy words),  then writing exercises and research toward an original story I’m not yet ready to dive fully into chapter writing just yet.

Yes, this is technically breaking NaNo’s rules of starting a new writing project and seeing it through the whole month. No, I don’t care as long as I produce the product I want by the end of it.

November will always be my kick-in-the-butt month. But I think it’s outlived its usefulness as a means of getting me writing, and that’s okay. Whether or not you decide to do it should be defined by your own personal goals and circumstances.

You do you, I guess is what I’m ultimately saying,  and I’ll see you in December.

Photo credit: bogitw [CC0 license], via Pixabay

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