I Don’t Participate in NaNoWriMo and Here’s Why

Every November, the online writing community is worked up into a frenzy about National Novel Writing Month also known as NaNoWriMo. In the weeks leading up to November, writers are frantically preparing an outline their new piece of work only breaking to tweet about their progress.

For those not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it began in 1999 as an online creative writing project. November was chosen to take advantage of the miserable weather. Participants must write a 50,000 word manuscript for a novel in thirty days. You register through a website and input your work to have your word count  verified.  Well-known authors write “pep-talks” to keep writers motivated or provide tips on dealing with writer’s block throughout the process. Local writing groups hold events to support writers. It’s a big deal.

There are about one-half million writers who participate and there is not cost. This event is strictly to encourage authors to write. Last year there were over 40,000 “winners”, which is anyone who reaches the 50,000 word mark.

NaNoWriMo focuses on the length of a work rather than the quality, encouraging writers to finish their first draft so that it can later be edited at the author’s discretion. The concept is fine for many writers. I’ve heard writers say 1,000 words of crap is better than nothing. It can always be edited.

The problem is NaNoWriMo doesn’t fit my writing process and I have no intention of adapting my writing process for one month. I’m a Pantser, which means I don’t work from an outline. My writing process is purely organic. When I begin a chapter, I know what will take place in that chapter but not beyond that point. I have ideas where the story might go but it’s constantly changing. One morning I may wake up and come  up with the idea of a new side character. That means going back in many cases and writing the character into parts of the story that has already been written.

That means my writing process is very slow. It would be rare that I would write 1,667 words in a day. I certainly couldn’t sustain that pace for 30 days. I also choose my words carefully and sometimes edit as I go, which further slows down my writing. By the time I finish my first draft (in 8 to 9 months), it is already in pretty good shape. At that point, my editing will consist of typos, a  few grammar issues, a some minor plot holes and further developing side characters.

I also don’t want to commit an entire month to writing. Like every other writer, I have family, social and work commitments and some health issues. I’m not going to push those things aside to spend an intense month just writing. Many writers do much of their writing late at night. I’m not very creative or focused in those hours. I enjoy writing and don’t want it to become a stressful part of my life.

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful concept and many writer love participating. It’s just not for me. I don’t like the idea of writing being part of a contest. It’s a creative outlet for me. I prefer to plod along. When it comes to writing I’m like Frank Sinatra, I always do it my way.

4 thoughts on “I Don’t Participate in NaNoWriMo and Here’s Why

  1. rachelabowen says:

    Okay this really resonated with me. Your writing process sounds a lot like mine. I’ve never heard it out so eloquently so thanks for that! I am attempting NaNoWriMo this year, meaning I outlined for the first time (the second book n a series) mainly joined for the comrodary of writing ‘with’ others. But this post makes me feel better about not reaching goals. Thanks!


    • williehandler says:

      Less than one out of five writers can write in this manner. Even those that identify as Pantsers do a little bit of outlining. Just don’t let the NaNo ruin the enjoyment of writing. Feel free to reach out to me anytime you like.

      Warm regards



  2. lonnaseibert says:

    I’m strictly a pantser, but I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice and enjoyed it. I wrote at least 50,000 words each time, different chapters and vignettes, in whatever order they came to me, and stitched them together afterward. Sometimes it felt like a lot of pressure, even though it’s mostly self-imposed. I mean, nobody was going to come break down my door and drag me away if I didn’t write “enough” writes on any given day. Still, I decided not to participate this year. For one, I don’t have anything I want to work on. Everyone has their own process and that’s fine. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. Happy writing, however and whenever you do it!


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