[Writing Meta] In which Quill bashes NaNoWriMo

I was scrolling through my reader, searching tags to find new blogs to follow, when I happened across this post in which somebody was saying that they’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and that they haven’t met their word count and have been left in defeat at some 15000 words.

I’d like to note, dear original poster, that this is not specifically aimed at you but rather my thoughts on the whole mindset. I hope you don’t take offense.

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held in November every year and the goal is to write 50,000 words within a month. Camp NaNoWriMo is some summertime spin-off and I’m not entirely sure on the specifics, but it’s all time-constrained world limits though.

I understand the reasons for NaNoWriMo. It’s to create a community, to encourage people to write, to set people goals. It’s to help beat writer’s block and help get writer’s motivated. It lets people attempt to tackle a goal together, which is excellent from a community point of view.

However, I don’t believe that it can produce good writing. I find that my best writing comes when it’s ready to come out, and when I have time to think about it. I write to relax, and feeling like I have deadlines is not remotely relaxing. I’m a student. I have nightmares about deadlines.

I find the act of writing soothing. Though it’s nice if people read and enjoy my work, I’m mostly happy to have written it. I’m enjoying the feeling of achievement at finishing and posting a chapter, so I’ve been doing that lately. But I never want to feel obligated to write. I don’t want to feel like somebody is breathing down my neck saying, “You must write or you are a failure.”

Worse yet, there’s the idea that if you don’t write enough within the given time frame, you’ve failed. Even if you write 45,000/50,000 words, and those 45,000 are absolutely brilliant, there’s this culture of failure around it. It’s terribly self-centered of me to think that my opinion is worth a jot, but I don’t like that.

It’s bad for my writing, and I don’t like people feeling like they’re underachievers because they can’t write as they feel they should. Writing is a learning process. With every sentence you write, you improve and learn more. Getting the experience under your belt is excellent, but what you write will never be perfect. It will never be enough for some people.

I don’t think a system of guilting yourself into achievement is healthy. Maybe it works for some people, but even so… surely you should be writing from a positive standpoint. Setting arbitrary deadlines is fine but people put a lot of stock by them. I know somebody who feels they’ll never be a writer because they failed their first and second NaNoWriMo, which is absolutely absurd. Finishing NaNoWriMo doesn’t make you any more a successful author than anybody else who has written something they’re proud of.

I think that’s what I’m getting at as I spew words onto the page in hopes that my thoughts will become clearer and I’ll be able to articulate my point. I think it’s about pride. When I write, I want to write something that I’ll be proud of. I want to write something and say, “It’s not perfect, but it’s mine. I learned a lot writing this” or “I’m really proud of the character development here” or even, “It’s nothing special. I didn’t learn much, but I finished it, and I struggle with finishing work. I’m proud of this.”

NaNoWriMo is too conditional. It tells me that I can’t feel proud unless I finish it. If I don’t finish it, then I’m a failure. I’ve write to write things for NaNo, and I’ll quit at about 20,000 words after about 10 days of stressful writing, and never touch it or look at the work again. It’s not something I care about. There’s no heart there, and it just feels like something I forced myself to do because I wanted the dopamine reward at the end.

Writing for me is about the journey.


I know I’ve spent this whole article bashing NaNoWriMo, but I don’t think it’s all bad. I think it has a lot of good points and brings people together. I’m not saying it’s literally hitler. I’m just saying it’s not for me, and I think people should be careful when doing it.


But what do you think? Let’s see if we can start a discussion down below in the comments regarding NaNo, because I’m really interested to hear other people’s voices on the matter. I am more than happy to change my mind here.


Quill, signing off for now.



3 thoughts on “[Writing Meta] In which Quill bashes NaNoWriMo

  1. Good post! I think it really depends on your personal writing style. It sounds like you’re the kind of writer who lovingly chooses each and every word with care, which of course means that the hectic craziness of trying to write 1667 words every day would certainly not be for you! But for me it definitely works. I’m the kind of writer that just spews out as much as I can, then spends a long time editing back. There’s a comparison to building sand castles that I like. It’s like just piling up as much sand as you can, then shaping the castle out of the mound.

    I think both ways can result in quality writing, but obviously only if the writer is suited to the method they’ve chosen. I also don’t feel that if I didn’t meet the deadline, that I would be a failure. I do nanowrimo to challenge myself, but also to have fun. I’ve done it three times now, and although I admit there is a sense of guilt for skipping a day or not reaching my target, i can say that pressure does motivate me. But it obviously wouldn’t motivate everyone and would definitely do the opposite of encouragement for some people. I have a similar argument with my boyfriend about video games. He plays them on harder difficulties because he likes the challenge and to feel accomplished when he wins. I play them on easy because I like to relax and take my time.

    As for anyone feeling defeated after not reaching a word count, it’s okay to be a little down about it, but at the end of the day even 15,000 words is a start, and that’s all nanowrimo is meant to be. The first draft that comes of a nanowrimo win is almost never any good! The point is to pile up your sand so you can build the castle later, and there’s nothing to stop you gathering more sand once nanowrimo is over. In fact, you almost positively have to keep gathering, because 50,000 words would be a very short novel. But if you’re not the sand gathering type, then that’s totally fine too!

    It really is not for everyone but I think some people come at it with a lot of expectation and while being quite hard on themselves, which is counter productive really even if pressure does motivate you. In the end, there are no consequences, so it’s not worth beating yourself up over it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, it’s not for everyone, but I think it really depends on your writing style and your attitude to the whole thing. I would never do it if I didn’t enjoy it after all!

    Sorry for writing an essay in your comments!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t worry about the essay 😛

      You do make a really good point about editing. I suppose I kinda glossed over the idea of just heavily editing the many words you got down.
      I guess enjoying it is the most important thing, when it gets down to it, and it really is about writing style.
      As long as you enjoy it, I’m glad it works for you! It gets words down, right?


  2. No offense taken 🙂 I have to agree with you about some points, but I wouldn’t really take it to that extreme. My career as a writer is not dependent on whether or not I “win” NaNoWriMo. I’ve been doing NaNo since last November and haven’t won once, but I don’t at all feel that I’ve failed. I just like the accountability. I think I need to have at least some sort of deadline to write, or else I might just find an excuse not to. Life gets busy sometimes. It doesn’t exactly matter whether or not my first draft is crappy because there’s always editing, and I can’t edit an unwritten story.

    So I would agree with you that NaNoWriMo can become negative, but that’s only if people lose sight of their love and passion for writing and get focused on numbers. I think NaNo is good for me, but I take a pretty laid-back approach to it.


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