When Not to Participate in NaNoWriMo

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In this #NaNoWriMo article we talk about when you shouldn’t participate in NaNoWriMo. 

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If you don’t know, November is the National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you start on November 1st, it means you’ll have to average 1667 words per day in order to make that goal a reality. 

For a lot of people trying to become full time writers, 1667 words per day is a significant increase in the amount of productivity that they have during the month. Sustaining that becomes draining over a long period of time, especially once the excitement of the project and the stress of life gets in the way. 

I’ve done NaNoWriMo many times. I’ve won some years and lost some years, and I have some insight from years when I got caught up in participating in the fun of NaNoWriMo when I shouldn’t have participated at all that year. 

NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone.

Yeah, I said it. 

And I want to reiterate that it’s totally okay not to participate in NaNoWriMo sometimes. Here are some definite clues to help you decide if this year’s participation is worth it or not to you. At no point am I saying you can’t, but I am saying judge for yourself. So let’s dive in.

  1. Consider your Mental and Physical Health, and the Season of Life You are in.

Take a serious look at your mental health, your physical health and the season of life that you find yourself in when NaNoWriMo comes to call. If you’ve just had a baby and are barely getting enough sleep yourself while also trying to keep a tiny human alive, you may not also want to pile on the challenge of fitting in 50,000 words in the month of November.

Some people’s productivity tanks when they see huge word count goals, can’t make them, and fall further and further behind. If word counts in general put you in a bad mental state, NaNo probably isn’t the challenge that will positively motivate you.

If you need to devote 100 percent of your energy to chemotherapy treatments and fighting cancer–do that, and maybe don’t also worry about NaNo until next year after you’ve got this cancer thing beat.

There are so many reasons why this year, this time, this challenge may not be right for you, so think about where you’re at before you take on such a hard task.

  1. Consider the Stage of the Process You Are in.

Not everyone will have the luxury of starting something brand new on November 1st. 

Some people will be in the middle of their 4th draft. While this is totally acceptable to be a NaNo rebel and work on something you’re already working on, unless you’re getting in new words, you won’t see much of a word count change from day to day.  And not everyone can stop in the middle of what you are writing to write something entirely new, and then go back to what you were working on before after November is ended.

Some people will be editing on a deadline. Editing words really doesn’t gain you any new words that you can use for NaNoWriMo. If your publisher or your fans are waiting for your book, they may not be pleased that you decided to take a month off to work on something else instead of the thing they are paying you to write, or have already prepaid to have you publish. 

You may have school or work obligations that simply don’t allow for you to spend extra time writing 50,000 words in November. I know when I was in college this was especially hard, as I was having to crunch research and papers and projects all month just to finish my workload before the semester ended in December.

You just might not be at the right stage of the writing process when NaNo season comes along.

  1. Consider that You Simply May Not Want to.

NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. Some years I’ve been too burnt out after November to work on anything for months. I sometimes skip NaNo because losing it or winning at the expense of producing sub-par work really bums me out. Even if you don’t have a bad experience with NaNoWriMo, you can still not want to participate.

Perhaps you already have an established writing routine with page count goals or smaller, more manageable word count goals that works for you. 

Perhaps you’re actually less productive or completely daunted by the idea of 50,000 words in a month and 1667 words in a day. 

If the thought of NaNoWriMo makes you ill, or if you’ve already got something good going on that works well for you, there’s no need to allow your peers to force NaNoWriMo on you if you don’t want to do it. While writers tend to go a little overboard during November, it’s absolutely okay to say no to NaNoWriMo.

So those are my thoughts on when not to participate in NaNoWriMo. I hope you make good decisions and that whatever you decide to do, you have an extremely productive month of November.

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever decided not to participate in something you felt your peers were all participating in?
  2. What other reasons might someone have for not participating in NaNoWriMo?
  3. What are your best tips and tricks for making 50,000 words in November?
  4. Do you plan on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Will you do a full 50K, and if not, what are your goals?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

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One Reply to “When Not to Participate in NaNoWriMo”

  1. I myself have never joined a NaNo event because I typically write every day. I think that’s one of the reasons why someone would not want to join. I still root for those who do though. It’s great fun seeing others’ progress. Thanks for this post!

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