NaNoWriMo: Insanity or Not


It’s October.  Do you know what that means?  If you’re me, then it’s two things actually.  Number one: Halloween.  Arguably the best holiday in the calendar year.  Number two: NaNoWriMo.  If you’ve circled around the writing/novelling scene for awhile, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo (here forth known lovingly as Nano).  It’s a marathon sprint to 50,000 words in just 30 days.

NaNoWriMo logo
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

A daunting task for anyone who is bold enough to undertake it.  The rewards range from personal satisfaction to relatively nice gifts from Nano’s sponsors.  It’s not without its drawbacks though.  The ‘quantity over quality’ philosophy that Nano fosters often presents more than a few bumps in the road and it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort involved to complete the challenge.

Is the neck-breaking, sanity-testing challenge worth it?  Let’s break it down!

NaNoWriMo Go:

The community

Easily one of the biggest things going for Nano is the community that has built up over time.  The forums see a never-ending stream of activity during the month of November.  It is very hard to feel alone or unsupported if you are active in the threads.  People go out of their way to offer encouragement, motivate, and give feedback to other writers.  On the whole, it’s a very positive place to meet and talk to new people.  I definitely feel connected to others during Nano.  It’s rather cool to be a part of such a large community especially considering the fact that I don’t have huge writing community in general.

The sponsor offers

Many of these offers aren’t just for winners, but participants in general.

Sponsor offers for Nano have varied over the years depending on the sponsors.  Several years ago Createspace and Lulu gave authors a free proof copy of their novel for completing the goal.  That seems to have disappeared in the last few years but that’s okay.  Scrivener is still a primary sponsor and gifts winning writers with a 50% off coupon for their software.  A great way to pick it up if you don’t want to spend the full $45 for it.  Ulysses, Storyist, and Evernote are also offering discounts.  Scribophile, a website that specializes in critique partners and feedback, is offering a discount to both winners and participants alike.  AutoCrit, a DIY online editing service, is giving all participants a discount on a membership.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of sponsor and their offers.  However, there seems to be something for everyone.

The feeling of accomplishment

Maybe the sponsor rewards aren’t to your liking.  However, there’s a deeper reward in completing Nano and that’s knowing that you’ve written 50,000 words in a month.  I love that warm, fuzzy feeling I get after I type that final word.  It’s equal parts exhilarating and a relief.  The challenge itself is a huge undertaking with an even bigger payoff.   Whether you just started writing or have been writing for over ten years, that’s not a number to turn your nose up at.  Writing 50,000 words is by no means a full novel in most respects but it’s a pretty solid rock to continue building from.

NaNoWriMo No-Go:

Unavoidable trash

Sorry, it’s going to be mostly junk. Possibly savable junk but junk nonetheless.

A large part of what you write is going to be complete and utter junk.  Like more than 80% of it.  No one ever writes a perfect novel in the first draft and they write even less perfectly when the focus of Nano is ‘quantity over quality.’  In the past when I’ve written for Nano, I’ve left some pretty horrid writing stand simply because I needed to make my word count for the day.  In fact, if I recall correctly I once slipped one of my college papers into my writing just to ensure that I didn’t fall behind.  At the end of the month, you will have a lot of revisions and edits to do before you have some semblance of readability.  A lot of seasoned writers hate the ‘quantity over quality’ mantra and urge new writers to take it slow and write a more cohesive first draft.

The burnout

50,000 words is a marathon.  A test of endurance.  You will get tired.  It’s the nature of the beast.  Usually, by the time I hit the beginning of week three, ideas are a little harder to come by and motivation has dried up.  Writing at a breakneck speed for an extended period of time drains a writer regardless of experience or story.  In the past, I’ve not been able to even look at my novel.  I’m just that burnt out from it.  Not exactly a good feeling to have as a writer.

The commitment

Nano happens in November which is the start of a notoriously busy time of the year in many places in the world.  Several holidays are happening (such as Thanksgiving or my mom’s birthday) or getting ready to happen (like Christmas and Hanukkah).  Many students, both of the college and high school variety, are prepping for exams or finishing projects.  A lot of people are getting ready to travel for some reason or another.  Trying to find time to write during this chaotic time is difficult.  Sometimes too difficult.  You might need to push writing to the back burner in order to accomplish real world priorities.

Sum it all up

Honestly, this isn’t even the beginning of a comprehensive list of pros and cons.  Do a quick Google search for other authors’ opinions and read through some of their blogs about Nano.  On the whole, most writers seem to be pretty on board with it.  I know I am.  It definitely seems more than a bit crazy but worth it.  Again, 50,000 words does not a novel make but it’s a great place to start!

NaNoWriMo starts November 1!  Check it out!

Want More?

Check out my writing prompts to get you started!  It might even help you write your Nano novel.


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