Why NaNoWriMo Needs to Stop the “one size fits all” Approach


Note: This is not an anti-NanoWriMo post by any means. It’s not meant to bash or trash the program in any way. Rather, my aim is to offer a more balanced perspective and convey the message that although it may feel like “everyone else” is doing it, it doesn’t mean you as a writer should feel pressured to.

If you’re a writer or you know other writers, chances are your Facebook, Twitter and various other social media feeds will have been abuzz this morning about NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the unassimilated, henceforth shortened as Nano in this post).

Many people have asked me in the past if I participate in Nano and what I think of it. My response is usually some variation of “Do I look crazy to you?” or “Why on Earth would I want to subject myself to that kind of torture?” So the short answer is no, I have never participated in Nano (and probably never will), because once I figured out how it works–challenging writers to come up with 50,000 words toward a new project in the span of one month–my first thought was, “And people willingly do this?”

My view is that if Nano helps writers get projects done and it gives them a sense of achievement or accomplishment even if they happen not to reach the end goal, more power to them. If they find that Nano works for them, far be it from me or anyone else to tell them not to do it or that they’re nuts. I always say that what works for one writer may not necessarily work for the next. We all have different systems, so if Nano happens to work for a writer, then thumbs up to them and by all means rock on.

However, my problem with Nano and why I fall into the “anti” camp is because for writers like me who already suffer from crippling anxiety, self-doubt and often lofty (mostly unrealistic) expectations, Nano can be a setup to failure and disappointment.

Amanda Luedeke of the Macgregor Literary Agency did a wonderful summary post last year expressing her thoughts against Nano, which I thought were bang on.

[NanoWriMo] sets writers up to fail…most writers simply cannot write 50,000 words in one month. So why force yourself to this standard? Why not accept that you work at a different pace? WHY PUT YOURSELF THROUGH SUCH TORTURE? Because you just need to plow through? Because you want to see if you can do it? Because this is the only way to turn off your self-editor?

She also mentions why Nano projects are problematic for agents, but that’s a separate issue to this post.

Personally, I would like to see less of an emphasis placed on how quickly a writer produced a first draft of a manuscript (and of those writers who do somehow manage to get the 50,000 words done in one month, almost all speak freely about how they had to scrap most, if not all, of that when it came to edits and they had to start from scratch all over again, like Christina Rozelle, who did a good write-up chronicling her experiences).

In this society of expecting instant results with the click of a button, it’s no secret that people in general have become far less patient and that we now have the attention span of flies, if not less.

Writers have been particularly affected by this, expecting instant publication and instant gratification–an instant reward for having written a manuscript, no matter how many challenges it may be riddled with–and we have a silent pressure hanging over our heads that if we don’t write quickly enough, the publishing opportunity boat will sail away and we’ll never be able to publish again! *dun dun dun!*

Writers all work at a different pace. Some writers take years to pen one novel while others take only a few months. While I’m not trying to suggest that every writer needs to adopt a “slow movement” mentality and more writers would benefit from slowing down, I think it stands to reason that if we all removed unnecessary sources of pressure that make us feel ashamed or somehow “less than” other writers unless we can write a large amount of words in a small amount of time.

So, to recap, if Nano works for you, great, but if it doesn’t, also great.

  • The Write Practice posted 3 alternatives to Nano that you may want to try
  • Write it sideways also has 3 alternatives
  • Chronically Katie offers 6 interesting alternative suggestions that are worth exploring, as well
  • Chuck Wendig has come out with 30 Days in the Word Mines as a primer for those who wish to participate in Nano but the description states it can be applied to other writing ventures outside of that, too
  • Chuck Wendig has also posted an encouraging note to those participating in Nano this year, but I think it’s important for all writers to read, regardless of whether they are or aren’t participating, because we could all do with some loosening up

What are your thoughts? Are you a staunch supporter of NaNoWriMo or are you like me and secretly glad when others come out saying they’re not in favour of it? πŸ˜‰ Either way, whatever your position is, I genuinely wish those who are doing it this year all the best with their projects.

2 Replies to “Why NaNoWriMo Needs to Stop the “one size fits all” Approach”

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks so much for sharing my blog post with alternatives to NaNoWriMo. I’m glad you found it useful.

    Katie x


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