NaNoWriMo – The Fast Track to Disappointment

Here it is – November 3rd – and the big word acronym in the writing world this weekend was NaNoWriMo.

For those of you outside the loop…NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.

The goal, in short, is to try to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of something) during the month of November by creating an account on the NaNoWriMo website and tracking your progress. You can earn badges (badges?…) and even win real prizes.


Several of my writer friends are participating. Their facebook feeds had posts of their progress over the weekend (2,000 words today, etc).

I wish them luck in their quest…I really do, but if anybody is waiting for me to jump up and down shouting the praises of this event…well let’s just say I hope they packed a lunch, because they’ll be waiting a long time.

I can’t condone it…I’m sorry.

It’s not that I don’t want people to write…nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s just that this whole concept of writing a novel (or 50,000 words if you want to look at it that way) in a month is, in my opinion, dumb.

Why am I so critical of something that promotes writing?

Because I liken it to gyms and health clubs who advertise New Year’s Specials…knowing full well that there are thousands and thousands of commitment-phobes out there who say they want to get in shape, but what they really mean is they want to be able to say they tried. They sign up in December and hit the treadmill with a vengeance in January…by the middle of February they start finding excuses to miss a day here and there and by Easter-time they’ve gone back to wearing sweatpants and eating ice cream in front of the TV.

I’m not saying it can’t be done…I’m saying it shouldn’t be done.

Writing a book is not a race or a contest.

In my opinion, NaNoWriMo, for all of its good intentions, does more harm than good by convincing people they weren’t good enough.

Sort of like if the gym had taken a new crop of overweight accountants and threw them into a Navy SEAL training program.


One or two of them might survive, but the majority of them wouldn’t last two hours – and they’d walk straight out of the gym looking for the nearest McDonald’s.

NaNoWriMo might produce a few decent manuscripts, but for the most part it does nothing more than satisfy the consciences of people who “have always wanted to write a book” by allowing them to say “I tried.”

Yoda do ro do not

To those people I say this…

If you want to write a book…really want to write a book…then don’t worry about what month it is and don’t tell yourself that you need to do it in thirty days.

Just sit your ass down in front of the computer and start writing. You’ll know you’re finished when you type The End – not because the calendar tells you so. Then you win the prize. You win the satisfaction of saying “I did this”.

Maybe you weren’t the fastest, or the best – but simply by doing it and seeing it through to the end, you will have accomplished something that the vast majority of people haven’t, and never will – regardless of what month it is.

the end 2









As always – thank you for reading


Filed under Uncategorized

16 responses to “NaNoWriMo – The Fast Track to Disappointment

  1. Okay I concede you do have a point about just sit down and write it. But that is the problem most people put other stuff first, but in November we have a target to reach and as a team member we don’t want to let others down. I also concede that most of the 50,000 words will re edited or cut or transformed but ….you or in my case I have to discipline my self to sit in a chair and write for one or two hours every day and that in the beginning was an achievement.

  2. Helen Pollard

    I’m sure NaNoWriMo is great for those who need to get a kick start – and I am a bit of a procrastinator, so you’d think I’d love the idea – but I won’t take part for two reasons. First, I think 50,000 words is too big an ask. With a family and a day job and all the rest of it, it’s just not possible for me…which brings me to my second reason – I already have a great deal of stress, and I really daren’t give myself anymore. I’m an annoyingly conscientious person, so if I I signed up and couldn’t keep up, the guilt trip and beating myself up about it would be worse than any result I might get!

  3. Point well written, explained and positively received. I for one, needed the intensity of focus to sit down and actually start penning a book that has been brewing in my mind for more years than I will reveal. NaNoWriMo sat me down… two days late, but at least I have started.

    I must add, I have ghostwritten several dozen books over the past few years, but have neglected my own because of the challenge it presents. My goal is to complete this quest even if it’s by the end of November 2015:)
    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s truth is undeniable.

  4. Ali Isaac

    Wonderful, common sense, but even so you made me LOL! I’ve never been tempted by NaNoWriMo, although I’ve looked at it with puzzlement, and yes, a little awe. I mean, it took me 3 years to produce my 1st book, I could never have done it in a month. I would have busted a gut trying, and ended by feeling an abject failure, and given it all up in despair! That said, I’m hoping it won’t take quite so long to produce #3!

  5. I’ve entered previously – 3 times at least that I can remember, although it may have been four. The two times when I reached the 50,000 word goal, I substantially finished 2 novels, one of which is destined to become #4 in my Bequia Perspectives series. The other is a stand-alone novel, and although it’s been heavily edited since, I still haven’t gotten around to preparing it for publication. I wasn’t working when I entered both times. The third entry was attempted when I was back working as a sales rep, and I think I managed to make it through 3 days. I completed two short stories in a series I had mapped out. I haven’t touched them since. I also haven’t entered NaNoWriMo since either. I don’t like competition or competing, and it had become far too much of that with community groups (I was in Calgary then) expecting us all to add to their totals so they could “beat” other cities. I just wanted to write.

    I have taken part in at least 3 3-Day Novel Writing Contests and managed to complete 2 – or was it 3? – novellas. That was much more satisfying and didn’t take too much of my time, so I was able to participate while I was working at a full time job. One of those novellas has been published, a second has been edited and will be published soon, and the third – yes, I do remember that there was a third – needs editing.

    I won’t enter contests any longer, not because I don’t think I’m above them, but because they just don’t suit me as a way to write.

    And if I want to procrastinate getting this next novel done, I damn well will! No need in putting any further undue pressure on myself with a month-long time constraint or word count 😉

    • I suppose if I didnt have a job and somebody was paying my bills for me I would probably do it out of sheer boredom…but until that day arrives I’m not going to support it.

  6. Well, you spoke my mind. Not much more to say except glad to know I’m not alone in how I feel. I have always been more about quality over quantity in most every aspect of my life, why should my writing be any different?

  7. It’s so naive to think you can write anything worthy or anything others would want to rad under these constraints. Great books take years to write.

  8. Author Rebecca Heishman

    I agree with you 100%. And Margaret Jean Langstaff summed it up beautifully for me. I’ve seen that contest. I can’t imagine trying to crank out 50,000 words under that kind of pressure from strangers and doing admirable work. Writing isn’t a competition and it’s not a team sport. For me, it’s intensely personal. I demand a lot of myself when I write. I’m a loner and I’m fiercely independent and I spent most of my ‘real life’ conforming to the demands of others. Writing is the only place in my life where I am free of the rules and constraints of society. I’m filled with peace now that I can soar, unrestrained, in my passionate little world of creativity. In my private little writer’s world, I can do whatever I want without anyone telling me what to do. There’s no way that I would allow strangers to saddle me with the rules and regulations of anything similar to this online activity. I would feel like a wild stallion who has been saddled with reins, bridle, saddle, and a whip. I’m too old to go back to the barn with the rest of the horses. I don’t think an aspiring young writer would learn a thing from this online activity. I believe it could stifle any true creative spontaneity they might have. It takes years to learn who your are as a writer and as an artist. Cracking a whip and running an inexperienced writer to a speedy finish line could kill whatever enthusiasm that writer might have had for the craft. I can’t imagine anyone putting Jack Kerouac under that kind of oppression. He wouldn’t have tolerated it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s