Not Doing NaNo? You’re Not Alone!

A few have asked me if I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for anyone scratching their heads). It’s a really big freaking deal among writerly types. So much so that not participating can make one feel left out. Alone. A little loser-ish. But everyone else is doing it, they think. Maybe I’m not a real writer if I don’t do it. 

notebook-933362_1280That said, this is my answer when someone asks if I’m NaNo-ing: No. I’m not.

My home and life will be NaNo-free this November. And in all likelihood will be NaNo-free every November.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some great reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo (see Chuck Wendig’s post here). There are also some great reasons not to do it (see the same post). I don’t need to rehash all that. I want to share the reasons why I personally don’t care to do it. Because I know what it feels like to assume a loser-ish stance simply by not jumping on a trendy bandwagon. My goal here is to offer an alternate bandwagon. Granted, it will be less crowded, but it definitely isn’t loser-ish.

Reason 1: November sucks

Seriously, why is NaNo in November? Because there’s less daylight and the kids are off school for a week and oh, Thanksgiving?? I suppose the extra hour we get from falling back helps. Or maybe you can jot some stuff in a notebook whilst waiting for the doors to open on Black Friday. Of course, most of these only count if you’re a resident of the U.S. Maybe NaNo was a British creation.

Reason 2: Winter sucks

I know it’s not technically winter yet. But where I live, it feels like it. It’s cold and windy and dark and sometimes snowy. Great weather for writing, you might think. And that might be true, if I weren’t one of the millions who gets a little down in the colder/darker months. And when I’m down, my writing quality suffers. I tried to force through it a couple years ago and produced a novel that will never, ever see the light of day. Ever. I just wasn’t feeling it. This year, I’m focusing on releasing an already-written book, so I’m freeing myself from the pressure of producing new material until the weather gets happy again.

Reason 3: It’s arbitrary

Goals are good. Deadlines can be motivating. But for me, they have to be real. I’ve never been good at “do this now because this dude says so.” Sorry.

Reason 4: It lends itself to competition and resulting hurt feelings

We all have the same goal: write all the books. Or maybe just one book. And if we can punch out a book in a month, great! But it kinda blows when you get on Twitter and your NaNo group talks about all the word goals they met and you didn’t because the baby threw up on you or you were in a turkey coma or whatever. Then you feel shitty because you’re behind on the arbitrary word count goal.

I prefer to celebrate when my friends finish books (no matter how long it takes) or when they finished editing or have a new cover. We’re all in different places in the process, so the negative spirit of competition isn’t there.

Those are my primary reasons for sitting out NaNoWriMo. I’d love to know your reasons for participating or not, so fill up the comment section.

82 thoughts on “Not Doing NaNo? You’re Not Alone!

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  4. Great post, and I’ve come up with another reason for not doing it……Christmas is next month.
    Although, I must say; I did consider it, but my life ran away with me this month, plus I have a; loving, yet time-consuming mother 😀 A little restructuring will be required next year, perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is my first year participating in NaNo. I heard about it a couple years ago, but it was after I found out I’m not a pantser and I didn’t have an outline ready. It’s basically just a motivational tool for me to keep writing, so I will actually finish something. So far, it’s working brilliantly!

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  7. So you asked why or why not….I always Nano and here’s why. It’s a habit that has worked for me in the past. Just published my first novel, written during Nano.
    But if I back up to the beginning, my first Nano was a desperate cry for help. I was a stay at home mom to a special needs child who wasn’t yet diagnosed, so I was just floundering out there alone. I needed something that was not MOMMY for myself. I saw a post mentioning Nano, looked it up, and decided that would be my something. Not only did it give me a purpose outside Mommy but it gave me enough perspective to get my kiddo some help.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m pretty sure November was only picked because it’s spelled with 80% of the word “novel”. Considerations like weather and SAD were trumped by letter conformity. If novels were called Septems, for instance, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ll be hopping on the alternate bandwagon. Thank you for sharing this. As a new writer, I was trying to decide whether I should do NaNoWriMo or not, knowing deep in my gut that November is sooo not the month for me, agreeing with the things you mentioned wholeheartedly!! Thanks again….I feel a lot less loser-ish now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not doing Nano, either. I’m not opposed to it, and I might do it sometime in solidarity, but only if it works out.

    I love writing in a sheer blaze of glory/addictive behavior/irresponsibility–take your pick–but so far it hasn’t worked out in November yet. And there’s no reason anyone should feel like less of a writer simply because of scheduling.

    Writers write. As hard and as fast and as well as we can find in our souls. If you’re doing that, you’re a writer, Nano or no. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never taken part in NaNo before, mainly because I don’t feel I can churn out anything worthwhile in a mere month. However, I have been outlining for what seems like forever, so I’m using NaNo as a way to force myself to try to write faster and finish this novel in an extremely rough, not-at-all-polished format. But I won’t push ahead and write useless crap just to make the word count. So I might not “win”, but this is really an experiment in motivation for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds exciting! I am very familiar with the extremely rough first draft. A couple of mine have needed everything up to the use of dynamite to get them into shape.
      Good luck! I hope it goes well for you. 🙂


  12. I’m not taking part. I have nothing against it, and I am happy to cheer on those who do it. I am right in the middle of a sequel at the moment, and trying to write 1000 words a day. Not because anybody told me too, but because I want to. Some days I have only manage 500 words, but I didn’t cut myself up over it, I was just grateful for the words I did manage. Some days I have reached 1500-2000, and whilst that is great, I’m under no illusion that I could manage that every day, not whilst working full-time.

    Had August been Na-No, I could have done it, probably. I wrote Lightning Attraction (68K words) in the six weeks after releasing Virtually Strangers, but it was the summer holidays, I was off work with my children, and they are big enough to (mostly) do their own thing. However, there was no hurry, I just wrote what I could when I could, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

    Good luck with the new book, hopefully I’ll have my next one ready in a couple of months too.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The attitude I’m seeing out of a lot of folks is “I’ll write what I want in November, and screw Chris Baty if he can’t take a joke.” One person I read said she plans on writing 50,000 words, whether it’s on an existing project or a new one, and that might include non-fiction as well as fiction. Other people say they’re not going to put a project aside simply because the rules dictate that it must be a brand spanking new work begun at 12:01 AM November 1 in order to qualify. I’d like to see a “50K in 30 days” that simply said “write 50,000 words in thirty days, whether that’s a novel, blog entries, a rewrite of a finished draft, nonfiction, short stories, etc.” But it’s his baby.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t think of it as a competition or a self-propelled contest. For me it’s a created “someday, as in “someday, I’m going to write a book.” It’s giving me and many others some motivation, some direction, some encouragement. Those who end up feeling defeated or who have their feelings hurt in some way are, I think, missing the point. It’s about deciding to try and maybe to “succeed.” And maybe not. The point is to enjoy the process, learn a little about the craft, and maybe, just maybe, finish something that you are satisfied with and, who knows? , maybe others will enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m interested in doing NaNo some other year, but this isn’t a good time for me. My book came out last week, so I have tons of promotional work to do. I’m also preparing the next book for publication. Unless I give up everything else in my life (including basics like eating and sleeping), NaNo is a no-go.


    Liked by 3 people

  15. The choice whether to participate or not is a personal one. The choice is only right for the individual and should not bear judgement either way. It’s good that different people share their perspectives though as it may help others make up their minds which way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Too many pressures!! Writing should be enjoyable! I agree with you – do what you LOVE when and where you can (November – February absolutely blow in my humble opinion) Good luck with your newly published book Allison! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I hate to be a stick in the mud, but I don’t see the allure of writing 50,000 words in a month – oh wait, I did that in September. Oops.

    I like a good competition as much as the next guy, and if kids need to learn to read and write I’m all for it, just like I love the idea of challenging people who’ve always wanted to write a book (80% of Americans) to finally DO it. If the NaNoWriMo. competition does that, more power to it. Teamwork. Pressure. Deadlines. Fun. What the heck, it sounds awesome!

    But I’m always in the middle of a novel and I’m never interested in making 50k of words just… to say I did.

    That said, maybe it would totally rock. For those who participate, I understand they find it exhilarating and a really great bonding experience. I’d love to have that, so maybe I should do NaNoWriMo to get the side benefits. It’d be worth it to have a dozen writer pals all local. Although it’s not like FWA doesn’t have that already…

    Like my friends who run marathons, I watch and say, I’m so glad you enjoy that, and I will cheer for you, but it’s not my thing. Not yet anyway. Maybe if next year comes and I’m not finishing a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 50K probably sounds like a lot to a new writer doing this for the first time. And it kind of is. You have to do this for a while to gain some perspective on word counts (maybe that’s a good thing, bc then you’re not really writing a full-length novel in a month. You’re writing part of one.) I was chatting with some coworkers about writing for some reason, and I said something about 1,000 words being nothing. They both laughed in disbelief.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I considered doing NaNoWriMo but it just wouldn’t work for me. For one thing, I take on client work as well as writing books, and the client work always comes first because it pays more. The other thing is that I rarely write at weekends. I know writers are supposed to write everyday but I prefer to treat it like any 9 – 5 job (although it’s 9 – 6 more often than not). That way I get a chance to recharge my batteries and it stops my mind stagnating so that I can come up with fresh ideas. Plus, there are all the other commitments that a busy housewife has to meet. I’m sure it works for a lot of people, and I would love to think that I could write the best part of a novel in a month, but it just wouldn’t fit with my other commitments.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Totally with you. I made the decision a while back to leave weekends largely writing free. My kids are only young for a little while. If I were to ever consider doing NaNo, I’d have to quit my part-time job to have the time and still keep my weekends.


  19. I did participate once, to write my first book. It had been chewing at my heels for ever, so I thought I would have a go. It gave me the push (and the courage) to finally write ‘The Ninth Life’.
    But no point doing it just for the sake of it…where would be the fun in that?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve always wondered about the November thing. “Oh, right, let me cook this huge dinner and clean the house so well even my own grandmother won’t remember what a slob I was in college…luckily, I still TOTALLY have time to spare after that, so let me write a novel, too.’

    I know, I know, putting writing first and all. But sometimes, it just doesn’t come first. Why November. Why, whyyyy.

    So, yeah, I won’t be NaNoing either (haven’t, since like 12th grade), but to each his own. Good luck to the folks who do it, but I’ll join you in the non-participant corner. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Totally. I’m a big advocate of “Use NaNo in a way that works for you, if it works for you!” I love it because November is a pretty good month for me for writing (I don’t always participate… during one Finals-month I couldn’t, but when I was researching for my thesis I needed the excuse to write non-academic a bit), since I don’t have a lot of big family commitments or anything like that — and the gross weather makes it nice to have something I can pretend is an outside force “making” me follow through on a single draft. I like the chance for community (and try to compete only with myself and support everyone for whatever they’ve managed). At the same time I totally understand that it isn’t for everyone – at all! The one thing that DOES bother me a lot is when people get down on it like it’s this terrible thing that is a complete waste of time. I wrote a piece about the “NaNo Haters” last year because it was getting under my skin so much (note – I certainly don’t put you in that category!)

    Liked by 2 people

  22. You enabler, you!

    An hour ago I realized that I have only four short scenes to write on my WIP (already plotted out and pseudo-coded), and then I can send my draft off to beta readers, November could be the “put it in the drawer and forget it” trick. It would be the perfect chance to do NaNoWriMo. But you’ve given me some good reasons *cough*rationalizations*cough* to skip it. Hmm.

    Liked by 2 people

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