Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo

This month, scores of my writer friends are preparing to take on the yearly NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge with varying amounts of gusto, trepidation and determination. They’re gearing up to write at least 1667 words a day for 30 days, with the goal of writing 50,000 words in total. Sounds great, right? An adventure, right? If you’re nodding yes, click here to see lots of great reasons you should take part in NaNoWriMo.


I’ve thought about NaNoWriMo for the past few years and while spontaneous me says, ‘Wow, how exciting!’, my practical side knows it’s not for me. I know it can be a great way for establishing a writing process, finding some accountability partners, knock out a draft and, the big one for me, learn to stop self-editing. However, here’s why I’m still saying no:

I need to be accountable to me. I’m the one who wants to make being an author a reality. I have terrific writer friends and mentors and a fantastic husband I talk to about how I’m going. I can’t fit many more people in.

I know my limits. Life is busy. Mine no more than others. But I’m old enough now to know my limits and say, ‘I can’t fit this in’.

I have enough challenges in my life. Setting myself another challenge would be setting myself up to fail. Simple as that. If I say I’m going to do something, I want to follow through. But life happens. And I’m going to beat myself up if I can’t follow through. I know this about myself. Am I still writing nearly every day? Yes. Do I feel bad because I haven’t met a word count? No. The only deadline I need to meet right now is my own inner one.

I need balance. I am a writer, but I am also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, book reviewer, and employee. I love reading, cooking, taking photos and drawing mandalas. Yes, writing is a big part of who I am, and it makes me happy when I am doing it. But, there is more to me and I can’t focus all my spare time on writing for a one-month challenge. I need to apportion the spare time I have so that my life is balanced, and I have time for others and other activities or responsibilities. Oh, and go for a walk sometimes!

I don’t write that way. We all write differently. We’re not all on the same page. Yes, we can learn from trying new things, attending classes and workshops, and being part of critique groups. But not every aspect of every class, workshop or group will resonate with every writer. NaNoWriMo is not for every writer and that’s okay. For me, I’m not a get-the-words-down person. I can do that in short bursts, but not for long. Sometimes I write notes and ideas and then craft them into sentences, paragraphs of scenes later; sometimes I write part of a scene and save that for later. I don’t write, write, write as fast as I can just to meet a word count. For me, every word counts … which leads to my next point.

I’m a self-editor and I’m not ashamed of it. I like to mull over words, to craft sentences. No, I don’t sit at the computer for ages and waste time on one word or sentence (not usually). If I get stuck, I highlight the part I’m thinking over and come back to it. If I’m completely stuck, I write ideas in dot points and come back to it later. But that process of getting a paragraph or sentence right for now, suits me. It’s how I’ve always written, even when I was at school. Yes, NaNoWriMo could change that, but right now, my way gives me pleasure. To me, the challenge of writing comes from crafting words together, not from meeting a word count day after day after day.


NaNoWriMo is a fantastic initiative and the support out there for those taking part is great, including Facebook groups like this one. If it’s something you want to take part in, best of luck (tell me how you go). And if there’s anyone who would rather keep on plugging away at their writing without having to write 1667 words a day for 30 days (or 3334 if you miss a day, or 5001 if you miss two … these numbers are doing my head in), please let me know I’m not the only one.



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. You are not alone, Monique, and I found myself nodding in agreement at each of your points. I did try NaNoRiMo several times and always felt like a failure at the end of the month for not achieving my 50,000-word goal. I finally acknowledged that setting word targets and trying to speed-write is simply not how it works for me. Some days my writing is a quick sprint, other days it’s a leisurely meander and from time to time the words take a holiday from the page. I’m OK with that now.

  2. I’m with you, Monique. There’s no way I could fit it in around work and family. I really don’t need that kind of pressure. Some days I’m lucky to get 500 words written, if anything. That being said, I won’t be against giving NaNo a go when I’m eventually writing full time. 😉 One can only dream.

    1. I think that’s the key – recognising your limits, whether it’s just for now, or forever. It’s not to say you can’t and shouldn’t push yourself, but you also have to know when not to.

  3. Well said, Monique. Writing is such a personal thing, and often, what works well for one author may not necessarily work out so well for another.

  4. I did it back in 2010 (I think). I ‘won’, as in I reached the 50,000-word milestone and I did it in about 22 days or thereabouts. Did I have to shift heaven and earth to do it? Yes. Did any of it end up in my novel? No. Have I even re-read any of it since? No. Do I shudder at the memory of some of the things I wrote? Yes. I sat down at my keyboard and punched words out, any words that came to mind, and any story that meant I could keep typing. The story had the same characters as are in my novel, but quite frankly it was a load of crap, and I’m too embarrassed to even open up again!

      1. It was quantity over quality, though! Like I say, I haven’t even re-read it—I hope no one ever reads it! If they did, I’d have to hide under a rock for the rest of my life.

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