NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?

It’s November and everyone is jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Thousands of people from around the world get synced-up online on November 1st and start writing the first of 50,000 words to become an author!

But before we start, here’s a full disclosure: I totally did my own NaNoWriMo in January of 2012 (as I couldn’t partake in November). Later, I did something similar when writing my current novel. I did a Thirty-Day Challenge, where I didn’t force myself to have a word count. Instead, I would spend a part of the day to plan and organize my novel.

So what’s up here? I did NaNoWriMo (kinda) then I didn’t. So what?


After getting over 54,000 words during my “JaNoWriMo,” and eventually reaching over 70,000 words a few months later, I SCRAPPED THE BOOK. Why? Because it was garbage, that’s why!

I can remember reading it over and just hating everything I had done. All of the characterization, plotting, the pacing, descriptions – oh, god, it was terrible. I still have a copy of it (unfinished) just to remind me how bad it was.

The problem with NaNoWriMo, which a buddy of mine, author Sean Munger, touches upon on his blog, is that it promotes bad habits. It promotes vomiting out word count over actual quality. While it may make a book, it doesn’t make a good one.

It stinks!

So when I did my Thirty-Day Challenge (which was for a different story), I took my knowledge from my JaNoWriMo and applied it to my busy lifestyle. I simply dedicated time to creating the project, rather than actually writing it. I would spend an hour or so getting 1,000 words of characterization down, rather than the novel itself. And I didn’t write every day (nor give myself a word count like 1,000 words a day for when I did). It made for a dramatic improvement to my story-telling and my skills of writing, pacing, and oh-so much more!

So NaNoWriMo is Bad?

There’s a silver lining to it all. I found that NaNoWriMo certainly didn’t make a good book, didn’t promote good writing, and didn’t promote good writing habits. What it DID do was get me to write and learn from my experiences. There’s a lot more to writing than just plugging yourself down and firing off words to reach a numerical goal.

I learned a lot about how to characterize and plot. My NaNo-Novel was a pale comparison to the newest one I wrote. The pacing in my newest novel is exciting and pulls the reader in – because I planned for it to do that.

Even if you plan out your novel before NaNoWriMo, you’d be surprised how many little things you will miss. Even with plotting out my novel like how I did, I had to go back multiple times and make sure things remained consistent and flowed together. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give you time to pause or reflect. You’re just supposed to punch in a word count and call it a day. Coherent writing is important, but it’s not reflected in NaNoWriMo.

But as I said, NaNoWriMo got me writing. That’s important because it helps you hone your craft. You learn little tricks and the proper way to create sentences (And yes, I know this blog is littered with errors. Pot, meet Kettle).

The way I look at it is NaNoWriMo is the biggest Creative Writing Class you’ll take all year. It’s great writing practice, but terrible if you’re looking for quality.

And for all that is good in the world: if you do partake in NaNoWriMo, do NOT give your novel to publishers! You’re congesting them with a bunch of sub-par books! Stop it!


That’s my take on it. But have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of learning experience was it for you? Did you go anywhere with it? Do my opinions sound ridiculous? Sound off below!

4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?

  1. For me, the whole point of NaNo is self-discipline. What the project really provides is a set of tools to show people that with consistency, they can and will make the time to write. Are most of the projects garbage? Probably. 50,000 words are just 50,000 words. Ask Jack Torrance how easy it was to hit that mark writing his all work and no play… sentence over and over, right? But it does teach people that when they put their mind to it, they can do exactly what you did in JaNoWriMo: make their writing a habit, make it part of their everyday lives, learn how to incorporate time for writing. That’s not a bad thing at all.

    I do wish there was more post-NaNo support: editing groups, for instance, because a lot of people think once those 50,000 words are done, their book is ready for publication and that’s never a good idea. It’s a start, though, and it can also be really, really fun to go through the experience and find yourself with what could be the bones of a good novel somewhere down the line.

    1. Thanks for the comment, G.L.!

      I totally agree with having some sort of post-NaNo support. EdNoWriMo or whatever – would be ridiculously helpful for everyone involved. It would be interesting to see the outcomes from that, and see how the writer’s novel would evolve from there.

      But I do enjoy that there’s people like you and I that can take NaNo in stride: using it for self-discipline and allowing it to evolve and change one’s personal writing process. It’s much better than writing X-amount of mindless words per day.

  2. Derek, great article. I think you’re the prime example of why writers don’t need NaNo and why its rules and hype simply don’t work. You achieved success when you abandoned its framework and sought to develop independently the skills and discipline that NaNo seeks to impose artificially. Obviously there are some good things about it, but your path to writing seems much more sustainable and genuine.

    1. Thanks, Sean!

      Well, I’ve *almost* achieved success. Now it’s just getting the damn book published. (Although actually having a completed novel that I’m satisfied over is more-than-enough success for me).

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