NaNoWriMo: To Participate or Not to Participate

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.

-Bruce Lee

As October draws to a close, writers everywhere start going into panic mode. November is right around the corner, and that means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel-Writing Month. Every year, thousands of writers compete against the clock to pen 50,000 words in a single month through the NaNoWriMo website. Books that were written during NaNo include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. That’s just naming a few of the biggies!

For many, this instills excitement and a sense of community as writers work to get down as many words as possible per day. For many more, I suspect, the last week of October inspires terror upon realizing that NaNo is almost upon us, and we are just not ready for it. Probably every year around this time, writers with busy lives outside of our creative works think to ourselves, ‘Gosh, I wish I could do NaNo this year. Maybe next year.’ By the time it’s NaNo season again, we find ourselves swamped with work and school as always, and so the cycle continues.

OK, writers, let’s make this nice and easy. Here are lists that may help you decide if this is the year you NaNo.

Allow me to preface by saying that whether you do NaNo or not, or whether you sign up officially or just use it as background motivation while working at your own pace, there is no right or wrong answer. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking, especially for the people most passionate about it. We want our work to be amazing, and that is a constant struggle as we draft our way to a completed manuscript.

However, with ten days left of October to decide if this is the year, here are some points to keep in mind going into National Novel-Writing Month.


  • Are in a relatively new job, new location, new family, or other position of transition
  • Have a lot of professional or personal obligations to fulfill
  • Have, like, six ideas for amazing books and can’t decide which one to do
  • Are an intense editorial perfectionist


If your career or personal life is particularly busy this year—we’re talking recent promotion, new baby, etc.—this might not be the best time to take on writing a novel. It doesn’t mean you can’t do both, but you’ve already got important business on your plate. No one is expecting you to juggle a major transition in your life and a major creative project. There’s a good chance that you may overwhelm yourself, which will sour positive experiences.

On the flip side, if you have an adequate amount of time that you know you can spend focusing on writing, but you’re not sure which of your fabulous ideas to dedicate the challenge to, you could find yourself just as frustrated. Being equally invested in multiple projects may mean that you have trouble committing to just one—or, worse, regret when you lock in on a story that was more exciting before you started writing it.

For those of you who are editorial perfectionists—and I include myself among your ranks—NaNo is brutal because it prioritizes quantity over quality. The point is to force writers to get as many words down as possible, which we perfectionists know means that on December 1st, a successful NaNo writer will have 50,000 words to wade through hoping it makes sense. If this is something that you don’t feel you can get past, don’t stress yourself out trying to put out 50,000 polished, ready-to-go words in a month. The objective of NaNo isn’t to have a flawless manuscript for agents and editors on December 1st, just to have a complete or nearly-complete first draft to work with.


  • Have a great idea you’ve been sitting on for a while but haven’t gotten to writing yet
  • Have a decent amount of spare time every day that you know you won’t be too tired to write during
  • Work well under pressure
  • Enjoy a challenge
  • Are so crazy-passionate about writing that literally nothing can stop you from doing it


Being ready for NaNo all boils down to having an idea, time, and the ability to work under pressure. You’re not competing against other authors, just the clock—and yourself. You’ve got to be prepared to get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, “I can write a novel in a month.” Then you’ve got to follow through.

For folks who have time but no ideas, or a great idea but no time, NaNo can weigh down on the creative soul. If you’ve got a little of both and a whole lot of guts, this time next month, you’ll be looking at 40,000+ words that didn’t exist today.

Paige, what is your personal NaNoWriMo experience?

 Why, thank you for asking, self-indulgent italics! Though I’ve admired NaNo from afar for many years, I’ve never officially participated. Part of the reason I’m publishing a second blog post today is to psych myself up. For the first time in my writing career, I am planning to compete in NaNoWriMo.

For the next ten days, the last of October, I am going to do some research and put together a general outline of my plot. November 1, the race to a full manuscript will begin,  approximately 1667 words per day.

I still fully intend to maintain blog updates throughout November. I have a few drafts in the works that I will be publishing on Turtle Writer Tuesdays, as per my new blogging schedule, along with self-indulgent updates on how my NaNo progress is coming along.

Will YOU be participating in NaNoWriMo 2014? Have you competed before? Tell me your stories in the comments!

Happy writing!

xo P


Will YOU be participating in NaNoWriMo 2014? – tweet it!

Is this the year you NaNo? – tweet it!

This time next month: 40,000+ words that didn’t exist today. – tweet it!

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