The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again!  *trills*  Time where we live on nothing but caffeine and leftover Halloween candy while pounding out 50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s time for NaNoWriMo.

This will be my fifth year participating in NaNo.  Last year I wondered if it would be my last NaNoWriMo, but earlier this year I decided to throw myself back into the fray.  Why would I swing between the two extremes, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you, with a short list of the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo.


1) It’s friendly.  Being a writer can be lonely, especially if you don’t have close friends who are writers. It’s a life that a lot of people don’t understand.  NaNo is great because suddenly there are literally thousands of you racing for the same goal, and everybody can be a winner.

2) It diminishes the fear of writing a novel.  This is especially true if you’re new to novel writing and the mere concept of a novel breaks your brain.  And once you realize that writing a novel is an attainable goal, the whole world opens up. 

3) It gives you a clear, concise goal.  “I will write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting on November 1st.  I will achieve this by writing 1,667 words a day.”  Well, there you go. You know when you’ll start, when you’ll finish, and what your daily word goal is going to be.  Contrast this with the famous “I’ll get to it someday” mindset, and you can see how NaNo makes it a little more realistic.

4) Motivation.  NaNo is very public.  You have an author’s site, writing buddies, and a progress bar. If you don’t want the entire Internet to see you fail, you’d better finish NaNo.  That’s pretty motivating.

5) It’s a productive break from your current WIP.  We all know that a change is as good as a rest.  Perhaps you’re already working on a WIP, but a new idea keeps popping up.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to put the first Work in Progress aside and write the guts out of your second one.  You spend a month on the new idea, get it down, and then go back to your original WIP.   Both projects get to breathe and you aren’t “trapped” with any one piece.  Golden.


1) Quality vs. Quantity.  While one of the main themes behind NaNoWriMo is to stop stressing and just write the darn thing already, the truth is that we want a little bit of quality in our work.  I don’t want to write 50,000 words that I’ll have to immediately toss out because they’re drivel.  Sometimes the writing can be really, really bad just because you’re trying to hit a word count, especially if you decided to write a 150,000 word novel in 30 days instead.  Trust me, this does happen, and while I’m certain there can be exceptions, I haven’t seen a good 150,000-in-30-days novel yet.

2) Goodbye, Family.  In order to write a good, coherent novel in 30 days, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time writing.  Not only writing, but thinking and planning. You’re going to live and breathe this book for 30 days, and that means that you’ll have to disappear from your family for a bit more than usual.  Spouses/significant others/Mom will have to pick up the slack while you’re busy, and it’s difficult for everybody.

3) The stress is astronomical.  Really, it is.  Writing a novel takes work, no doubt.  Characters, conflicts, romances, gritty fight scenes.  It’s difficult enough to write a novel, but then you put an extremely intense deadline on it, and it just ramps up the tension.  Make sure it doesn’t kill you.

4) November is a busy month.  That means that NaNoWriMo kickoff parties take place on Halloween night.  A lot of us in the US travel for Thanksgiving and that really throws a wrench into both plans.  I can’t tell you how many Thanksgivings I spent stuffing my face and then running to the hotel in order to pound out my word count. Oh, wait, yes I can.  Four Thanksgivings.  This will be five.

5) If you’re already a serious writer, it’s unncesseary.  While it’s fun to get together and enjoy the meetings, discussions, and chats, I found it more helpful as a beginning writer. Now that I’m actively living a life in the arts, I don’t need the push that I used to.   The meetings in particular eat into my writing time.

That’s my list of pros and cons.  That said, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year because I like the comradery. I’m doing it with my friends, and NaNo has always worked well for me in the past.  I’m looking forward to putting my WIP aside and focusing on a completely different story for a month. I also owe NaNo my gratitude for two other reasons: I wrote my very first novel with NaNo, and I found my agent based on a different NaNoWriMo story.  It motivates me and I like the out-and-out literary brawl that NaNoWriMo becomes.

Are you doing NaNo this year?  What do you think are the pros and cons?

16 Comments on “The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo”

  1. I’ve got a pro and a con that is the same thing. Pro: I get to go with one of my fave people to San Fran for the Night of Writing Dangerously and Con: I will miss a weekend of being with my honey.

    Oh well, at least it’s a good reason to be gone 🙂

  2. Merc you now have me thinking of my personal NaNo pro’s and cons. Our lists are very simillar.


    I maintain you can turn out a good book in a month with enough planning (this does not mean you wont have to edit), then again I am not a seat of my pants kind of gal. Perhaps some others have mastered the art of bull shit so well they can not plan and still write qaulity. I would like to meet this people. Somehow I have figured out how I best plot, and now I can write a solid fist draft in a month, 3 weeks, and heck even three days apparently.

    I maybe didn’t tell some of my crit partners I was having them read my three day novel contest entry, and none of them were any the wiser. 😉

    Somepeople work best under pressure. I sure as heck do, if I don’t give myself deadlines I would likely never accomplish anything.

    People need to learn to live with the spirit of NaNo year round. Just to make yourself write and move forward even when you don’t want to. Which sounds very Dickens.

    <3 <3 <3

  3. I can’t do it…one more thing on my plate and my head will ‘splode.

    Isn’t it weird to think that there are actually people on the same planet that we live on who get bored? Like, have time to kill and can find nothing to occupy said time? That just kills me. I’ve never met a bored writer. Just ones with heads ready to ‘splode.

  4. I’m with Jeremy. I have two books to market, including an upcoming release, day job and my family already forgets who I am (except when they want $$ of course!). But the closer we get to 11/1, the more I want to dive in and do it anyway. I’m sick, I know. But I’ve never participated and I’m really itching to start something new.

  5. I’m doing it! I like the challenge of the 50,000 words in a month. True, it comes out very, very rough, but I guess December is National Novel Re-Writing Month.

  6. Laura: Yay! YAAAAAAAAAY! That’s all I have to say to that!

    Veronika: That’s my #1 reason for participating this year. Give Project 1 a rest and start in on Project 2!

    Angela: Well, sure, you can, but you’re INSANE! 😉

    Jeremy, my head ‘sploded just thinking about bored people. Egads!

    Kristie, it’s really, really fun. Really really. For reals.

    JEF: ROCK ON!!! 😀 I’ll see you in the NaNo trenches!

  7. Frack. I’ve been considering starting my novel over from scratch, with my brand new outline. NaNo might be the kick it needs to get someplace after all.

    Oh, hell. I’ll do it. You convinced me. 🙂

  8. I think the cons do it for me. I participated one year, and “won”. I do like deadlines. I do like goals, but I find plenty of motivation in myself. I’m sort of stuck in overdrive.

    Last year, I felt as though I’d be an outsider, out of the loop. I don’t like to be that guy. This year, I’m just facing the fact that I am that guy, and that is okay.

    I do have some secret projects afoot during November…shhhh.

  9. The whole thing kind of terrifies me. I agree with lots of your pros AND cons, but for me the biggest problem is I just can’t write that quickly, I’ve never been able to and I suspect I never will.

    Funnily, I can write thousands of words for the day job in a few hours, but fiction comes slow – and every year NaNo makes me jealous of the folks who can get a story down so quickly!

  10. I am doing the NaNo thing BECAUSE I need the camaraderie and the strict deadline. I need something to work for. I write quickly and I am the type of person who can write oodles and oodles within a couple of days however I am so busy (and facebooking and twittering) that this will give me something to work for, to save sheer embarrassment. Merc, thanks for posting and Mr. L jump on in! It’s my first time too. 🙂

  11. Thanks for a neat list of pros and cons. For me , NaNo puts an additional pressure of a time deadline without the accompanying stress.
    The way I look at it is that if I achieve 50K words in one month, I have a large part of the novel done. Granted it needs a lot of editing but NaNo is the best catalyst I have come across for getting up-and writing!

  12. Pingback: Pros & Cons of NaNoWriMo « Writing To Be Read

  13. NaNo is definitely about the camaraderie. For the past two years, I would do write-ins within my city and made some awesome contacts. Last year was the first year I actually broke 50k without stressing about it.

    It’s definitely an endurance test. I will mostly likely participate this year but on a WIP rather than a fresh idea and not working toward the 50k mark. I just get so inspired by the enthusiasm of fellow writers (so yes to the chats and write-ins, no to the finish line).

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