nanodoubtsThe other day we’ve met our neighbor heading out with his dog and his camera. “It’s this time of the year,” he said with a smile. I also watch the growing display of Halloween decorations in stores (many more than what I was used to in Ireland) and the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever seen (which in a way proves the cliche saying that “everything is bigger in America”). Because, yeah, it’s this time of the year too.

And then, of course, almost every writer out there will recognize it’s this time of the year. Frantic plotting, digging out prehistoric projects for inspiration, desperately stocking on notebooks, caffeine-products, and snacks. As NaNoWriMo approaches, the writers’ universe on the Internet polarizes: from all decked-up to panic-stricken, authors share their preparation progress, exchange their NaNoWriMo usernames, and join the fantastic community that grows bigger and bigger each year.

Whenever I watch their preparations, sometimes rushed but always full of excitement, I feel like I’m missing out on something great. The call of the fantastic event lures me like a siren’s song, and I confess that each year I consider joining in. And then, I never do.

I’ve written about it before, but with two years having passed and my writer’s experience growing, I revisit the topic. Thanks to the 365k Club challenge I already know I can write 30,000 words within 30 days with quite an ease, and even reach as much as 40-45k in a good month, but I’ve also learned that variety is what makes my writing flow. When I get stuck, I switch from a novel to short stories or write another blog post. On worse days, I might be trying to write several various things, searching for the one that would “click” with me.

NaNoWriMo forces the focus on one project, so writing anything else slows the progress down, and even though I could pick one novel to work on as in the past some of the novels “demanded” my undivided attention, I’m not sure if I want to add such pressure to my writing process. Why would I stress myself?


I think that NaNoWriMo is a great way for all those busy people to try and carve out some writing time. It provides those who have extended family or busy social life an excuse to lock themselves away and ignore the incoming phone calls. It’s like a writer’s retreat wrapped around the necessities of daily life. But what about me? With no children and introvert approach to any possible outings, I have the comfort of weaving my writing into my life all year long. I don’t need a retreat, I don’t need excuses to write (if anything, I should limit the excuse I make up for not writing), so NaNoWriMo doesn’t seem like an opportunity anymore.

I’m also very picky with the challenges I join, choosing the ones that would help me grow or provide new experiences, so as alluring as the event is, I see no benefit in joining “just because everyone joins”. I still play with an idea of starting something new or working on one of my unfinished projects since I always have something new to write, but I don’t need NaNoWriMo to do that, right?

I guess, I’ll feel I’m missing out again.

What about you? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo or skipping it like me? What are your reasons to do it or to avoid it?

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. I did NaNoWriMo once and wrote a novel. I am rather unwilling to repeat that experience. I work in fits and starts, writing every day was a chore – a doable chore but still.

    1. melfka

      I think it can be pleasure too but not when you have such a short deadline over your head and so many words to write.

  2. I always participate in NaNoWriMo, now that I’ve adopted a “rebel” or “cheater” mentality. I’ll bring in an old WIP that I haven’t touched in a while, or I might play around with a couple of different manuscripts at once. I might even write nonfiction! But I love to write during the month of November precisely because I know there’s the NaNoWriMo community rallying around writers at all stages of their careers, encouraging everyone to try writing a book. It’s so inspirational that I can’t stay away. So even if I don’t hit 50K, that’s okay with me. I just like the enthusiasm about writing that comes from this event, and like to participate in the write-ins for a change of pace in my own writing habits.

    1. melfka

      The community is what lures me in, but I like to follow the rules of challenges otherwise they stop being challenges, so I don’t think I’d be able to adapt a “rebel” approach. It’s still nice to cheer on all the people who participate.

  3. authorglendathompson

    I’m with Laura. I’m a “rebel”. Darlin’ always says “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” and I love being able to tell the kids and grandkids, “Sorry. It’s NaNo.”

    I write all year long as well and somehow like a dummy ended up in the Tolkien level of the 365K Challenge. Still not sure how I did that but oh, well, I did and I’m meeting my goal for the year.

    I still do NaNo because it refocuses me and more importantly, it refocuses my family and those around me on the fact that I am a writer and this is what I do.

    1. melfka

      I can understand the joy of being able to say “Sorry, it’s NaNo” and I can somewhat relate. 365k Challenge means I can say “Sorry, need to go home now and write” whenever I have to leave. 🙂

  4. sjhigbee

    I agree with you – I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for folks whose writing time is pressured during the rest of the year. But as I keep writing throughout the year and have had the luxury of being able to do so – sprints like NaNoWriMo aren’t all that helpful. I’m working very hard at present, anyhow – but it has to be sustainable and if I focus just on my novel, I would have to neglect my blog, which also takes a great of time and energy to keep going. That isn’t an option as far as I’m concerned.
    That said, I’m always impressed at the creative energy the fellowship engenders. Thank you for raising this topic:).

    1. melfka

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I think non-NaNo writers might feel a bit lonely so it’s nice to find kin souls out there. 🙂

      1. sjhigbee

        Maybe we should have some NonNaNoWriMo gatherings?

        1. melfka

          That’s a good idea. Maybe next year we will have weekly support meetings or something. 😀

  5. J.R.Bee

    I always feel like I’m missing out when I see all these people talk excitedly about it, and chart their progress. I once set up an account with visions of joining, but I know it’s not for me, I write when I can, and I worry that my time spent writing will be frittered on time spent in the cabins instead, so I avoid it.

    1. melfka

      I can relate. I think it’s best to decide based on what works for you, not on what everyone else is doing. 😉

  6. Marša

    I’ve done NaNo for three times up to now and in retrospect for me it was more about atmosphere then a story itself. First was just pure craziness and meeting people. Second was like a follow up. Third was a mess. I’ve fall out with some writing friends in late October and I was writing pretty much alone. No meetings, discussions with other wrimos, no write-ins in nice cafes in the city for me. And it was a road through muddy sad marshes that I do not want to repeat. I’ve got to 50k in the end but it was painful road. I am happy of what I have written (it’s not finished but I finally have some part of an old idea translated into words and I can work on them when I will feel ready) but experience itself was terrible.
    Are you missing out? Maybe. But I would say that NaNo should be more for fun. Yes, it is also a challenge (or an excuse, or both), but fun is what should count, so 🙂 I’m writing this year again. I hope to erase part of previous experience with that – maybe it will work, or maybe I will flood twitter with my whining that life sucks, writing sucks and so on 😉

    1. melfka

      Thank you for sharing your experience.
      I agree that NaNo should be for fun and a way to connect to like-minded people.
      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll succeed this year. 🙂

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