Monday 7 September 2015

Why do NaNo? (Pros and Cons)

Part Two of NaNoWriMo series

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Is it September already? The year is flashing by. In less than two months NaNoWriMo will ramp up into a frenzy of writing across the world. The challenge—to write 50,000 words in one month. Depending on your genre and audience, that’s a small novel or at least a significant chunk of a larger one.

Popular as it is, NaNo has its detractors. It seems that you either love it or hate it.

What’s not to like about NaNo? Some say— 
  • It panders to the idea that anyone can write a novel. 
  • Anyone can scribble out a half-baked, cringe-worthy mess during NaNo and slap it on Amazon the next day (it does happen) but that’s not a good thing.
  • For it contributes to the glut of poorly written, unedited, indie published novels flooding the market, dragging us all down and making it harder for the well edited, well-written books to be found.
  • Writing fast without editing or planning only results in a disorganised mess that has to be discarded.
  • The pressure of the deadline was too stressful or can result in neglecting family, friends, and work.
  • It’s in the wrong month—everyone is too busy with the run up to Christmas, the exams and final year assessments (Australia) or Thanksgiving (USA).
  • It didn’t work for me [insert name].

There is a morsel of truth in all these warnings but there are also many, many people (myself included) who have found NaNo a brilliant boost to their creativity and productivity, who have in fact been surprised by the quality of their NaNo draft at the end of the month. And not everyone is so na├»ve as to assume this draft won’t need editing, critiquing, polishing and proofing. :)

So, what are the advantages?
  • For those have always wanted to write a novel—or have stalled in the process of writing, NaNo can give the impetus to get started. NaNo coverts ‘someday’ into ‘today.’
  • Some people (me) work well to deadlines.
  • Many, many writing experts and famous writers recommend that serious writers should write every day. NaNo gives you the chance to try out a daily disciple in a limited timeframe, encouraged by camaraderie and incentives.
  • The NaNo goal is achievable—1667 words a day (a couple of hours writing)— but it is still challenging enough to stretch you.
  • The deadline pushes you NOT to indulge in excuses or procrastinating.
  • NaNoWriMo provides support through buddies, write-ins, events, write-offs, sprints, daily encouragement emails, and rewards.
  • Planning or preparing beforehand can help you make the most of November.
  • Writing fast without constantly stopping to edit and review helps you get into the ‘flow’ and allows your creativity to flourish. Being immersed in your narrative world, pays dividends in characterisation, plots, and overall 'feel' for your work.
  • Even if you don’t write 50,000 words—or 10,000—each word written counts towards your long-term goals. That might be five or ten thousand more words than you would’ve written otherwise.
  • There will be time after NaNo to edit messy drafts but you can't edit a blank page.
  • NaNoWriMo recognises that the NaNo draft is not ready for publication. It encourages writers to make December the month of the Edit, and discusses the next steps budding authors can take, including the need for editorial services, and offers discounts on writing programs etc.
  • Many NaNo projects have gone on to be indie or traditionally published (and some have become bestsellers).
So maybe instead of listing all the reasons why you can’t do NaNo, you could just give it a go, and surprise yourself.

Interested in joining us come November? 

Next month, I’ll explore ways to prepare for NaNo to get the most out of it. We will also be forming a FaceBook group of NaNo participants leading up to November — for camaraderie, encouragement and a touch of friendly rivalry along the way.

Part Two: Why do NaNo? (Pros and Cons)  7 September 2015 (That’s this one) 
Part Three: Preparing for NaNo   5 October 2015
Part Four: Ready, Set, Go  2 November 2015
Part Five:  Is there life after NaNo?  30 November 2015

Jeanette O'Hagan has a short story published in the general market Tied in Pink Romance Anthology  (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) in December 2014 and two poems in the Poetica Christi’s Inner Child anthology launched in July 2015. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She cares for her school-aged children, has just finished her Masters of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series.  You can read some of her short fiction here

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


  1. I enjoyed Camp Nano in July, partly because we got to set our own word count. But 50,000 words on one novel sounds a lot ... thinking ...

    1. The flexibility to set one's own deadline is a great thing about Camp NaNo. I like the stretch to do 50,000 though. You might surprise yourself :)

    2. I've never dared before because of reasons you mentioned in your first list, but I might think about it this year. There's that project I've been procrastinating on so hard. The encouragement from groups and posts like this may be all I'll need.

    3. That would be awesome Paula. In Camp Nano this year, it really added to the whole experience have a FB group to urge each other one (and to commiserate if needed).

  2. Great post Jenny. I really enjoyed Camp Nano. I set a goal of 30 000 words and there's no way I'd have written that many if I didn't have a goal and the encouragement of cabin buddies. Not sure if I'll try Nano in November, as I'm more in editing mode at the moment. But will definitely try it again. It does help if you have a plan though. I already had 70 000 words of the novel written before Nano so I knew enough about my characters and plot to keep it moving. Definitely worth giving it a burl if you haven't done so before :)

    1. Thanks Nola :)

      I agree to that it helps to have a plan of some sort before November - unless you are a panster :) Some idea of plot, characters and settings help and some preliminary research if necessary.

      These days NaNo is flexible enough to include 'NaNo rebels' which means you can be part of the fun while doing editing - keeping track with editing equivalent scores (e.g. an hour of active editing is equivalent to 750 to 1000 words). So even if you plan is to edit you can still join :)

    2. Great post, Jeanette. And to echo Nola's comment, it was heaps of fun having a great bunch of writers in our virtual cabin. (And, of course, our fabulous cabin coordinator. ;-) ) Encouragement is always so valuable given writing can be such a solitary pursuit. Thanks.

  3. I did NaNo a few years ago and got to 50000 words in 23 days. Yes it's a challenge, but it gave me the impetus to then further polish that story which won several US contests. I'm a fan :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Carolyn - what a fabulous result :)

  4. Jeanette, great post! I'm looking forward to my first Nano experience :)


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