NaNoWriMoI have now been a NaNo or Camp NaNoWriMo winner three times in two years and each time I met my goal, I was ecstatic with the great feeling of achievement. However, I have had to take the reluctant decision not to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo and as much as it pains me, I know it’s the right thing to do.

Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of my second novel during November and I followed the suggested rules to the letter by just sticking to the very vague outline I’d written and by never stopping to edit. I wrote 1,667 words minimum every day and by the end of the month, I had virtually a whole story. I couldn’t come back to it until April of this year though but I picked up where I’d left off to take part in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and by the time that was finished, I was at 80,000 words. A couple of months later, I sent it to my Kindle for a read through. I was very pleased with the quality of what I’d written but the story was a mess and since then, I have been putting off getting down to sorting it out because I felt like I had no idea where to begin. And this is why I have decided not to do NaNo next month because if I do, I will end up with another messy story that I will spend most of next year trying to sort out.
Now that I have done three NaNos/Camps, I have realised that I am a writer who needs to plan first because when I don’t, I go off on so many tangents that the story I end up with is so far from what I wanted that I feel powerless almost to put it right. I just can’t go through that again. So instead, I am reading books and articles to help me do a proper outline for my second book which is what I should have done before starting it last November but I was impatient and the start date was looming. I feel just the same again. I have so many ideas that I’d like to get going on but I need to spend time plotting them out first before writing rather than rehashing the whole thing afterwards.

So back to book 2. I have a pretty good first draft which is a good start and the story idea is still a good one, I think. I have gone through all my chapters, summarising what I actually wrote in each scene as opposed to what I planned to write in my vague outline and I can see much more clearly now where the story has gone off the rails. I was reading an article on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog yesterday called NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Beginning and it was so helpful that I printed it out to use as a checklist for what I have already written. Yes, I’m doing it back to front but at least I’m going to do it to help me check the strength of my story. There are two further articles on her blog about the middle and the end as well which I will also look at. I’m going to finish reading K.M.Weiland’s book ‘Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success’ which I’ve been finding very helpful and then I’m going to get on and finish this first draft. I’m aiming to do that by the end of the year so that I can send it to beta readers and the RNA (the Romantic Novelists’ Association) early in the New Year.

I hope then that by the time I think again about book 3, I will know how to write a decent outline before I even start to write the story. To all those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, I wish you the best of luck and hope that this time next year, I will be ready to join you again with a detailed outline in my hand! Thank you for reading and please do leave me a comment about your NaNo experiences.


24 Comments on Why I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a miss this year

  1. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I need to do a partial edit as I go along to get back into it each day. I can imagine VERY good planning is essential and it will be interesting to see how you get on with it next year if you have done the planning finitely first.

    • Yes, I must admit that editing as I go seems so much more tempting now when I look at what I have before me! Still, I just have to allow myself the time to think it through and to work on reshaping it bit by bit. It’s hard to know what’s best when you’re still new to it all but a deeper outline next time would help me, I think. Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting 🙂

  2. Maybe it’s simply that NNWM is for wannabe writers, and you are now a real one 🙂 I’ve always thought the whole idea was pretty ghastly anyway (writing being about quality, not quantity), but I won’t get into any big discussions about it as I know lots of people like it!
    On the subject of Q vs Q, I read a hilarious post by David Mitchell in the Guardian the other day about a speed writing app, on @philchurch77’s page; I will see if I can find it!

    • Ah, thank you! I think that if I had a decent outline and had thought through in more detail what I wanted to write before starting, the quality would have shone through a bit clearer! I do think that doing NaNo is good for imposing some self-discipline, especially if you have a day job but I wouldn’t want to do it again without being better prepared.
      I think I saw the headline for that article. Was it about ‘Write or Die’ ? I must away and read it. Thanks for reading again Terry and for commenting. I always appreciate it 🙂

  3. I’m making the same decision as you, Julie. Last year I roughly wrote out my fourth novel for NanoWriMo (it was my first year of joining) and this year I plan to spend as much of November as possible taking last year’s draft apart and starting again – but not in official NaNo-status. I do think it’s a good way to get a ‘dirty draft’ down though, and I’ve now learned that to get my novels as polished as possible I need to spend 2 – 3 years on each one, working on other things in between.
    Thanks for your post on the subject!

    • Thanks for your message, Tracey. It makes me feel so much better to know that someone else feels the same way. I like your description of using NaNo to get a ‘dirty draft’ down and I’d agree with that. It’s just so heartbreaking having to pick it all apart again 🙁 I want to get to the point where I’m publishing a book a year though and so I can’t afford to spend all this time starting over. I hope that a better outline will help but only time will tell! Good luck with your reworking and thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. I think just sitting down and writing during November is what is needed to get through it but if you are a planner you do need to prep quite a bit beforehand and this sounds like the right decision for you.

    • Thanks, Rebecca. I love doing NaNo actually and haven’t found it hard to keep up with the word count in the past but now I need to get better at preparing for it. Let’s hope that I’ll have done that before the next time rolls round 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Thanks for the link to that great blog post – I hope she’s going to move on to the saggy middle!
    I tried NaNoWriMo one year because I liked the idea of community around it . I realized very soon I didn’t have a hope in hell of finding the time to complete it so it ended up a rather depressing experience as I hate being a quitter! I don’t have much time to write but I do it because I enjoy it – the feeling of rushing and word counts didn’t add to that experience. The crafting is the fun part for me. I don’t wish to churn something out just for the sake of it. I admire people who do it but it’s always seemed a bit of a weird concept to me…

    • Hi Lucy, Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog post – the 3 posts are already there actually – beginning, saggy middle and the ending!
      It is really hard to do NaNo and the only way I managed it was by setting myself that goal of writing 1667 words a day. If you miss even one day, it does become very stressful, I think and it would be very depressing then not to finish. I liked the community spirit though and I was able to set aside the time each day but although I finished, I have now got to sort out what I wrote. Still, I’ve made good progress on that today and I have a good story. It doesn’t work for everyone though and I know it’s right not to do it this time. As long as you have the discipline to keep writing, you’ll be okay too.

  6. As someone who takes a week to craft a 750 word blog post, and has no desire to write a novel, I may be ill equipped to comment here. That’s never stopped me before, though. 😉
    I’ve never done NanNoWriMo; both of my kids have, and while I’ve seen many people whose creativity has been encouraged by it. As a former composition teacher one of the things that has appalled me about it is how many people really do not get to the editing stage at all – how the word count goal becomes everything, and once it’s done, it’s done. The tremendous discipline it takes to write when you are exhausted by a day job, or school, or whatever, becomes a sunk cost, and any sort of editing just seems overwhelming. There is a way in which people get addicted to the adrenaline of that month, and when they come down from that, it takes them then months to recover! Then along comes the jump start again… At least that’s what I have observed from the outside.
    On the whole, I agree with Terry. You are making a wise choice, one that will allow you to mature as a writer. I wish there were a month that started with a “P”, so we could have camp PLANOWRIMO – and months that begin with R and E too. It sounds, however, like you are taking steps to find the resources you need to grow your skills on your own. THAT is genuine discipline.

    • Thanks so much for that lovely comment, Paula. I really appreciate it. I think you’re absolutely right that it is addictive at the time but when you come back to it some months later, you can feel very desperate indeed. Sadly, a lot of people I know have taken part only to find themselves unable to face the daunting prospect of editing that has to follow so that now, they have a string of very messy first drafts. I must confess to feeling daunted by the editing myself but I am determined to do it and to take as long as I need. I would like to have a detailed plan ready to go for next November but I hope that by then, I will have already started on book 3, plan in hand and I will have the discipline to write my words, no matter what the month. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and for your support 🙂

  7. What an interesting post, Julie. I can appreciate why you have made your decision. For me, the great thing about NaNo is that this is where I learned the principle of getting that first draft on paper and only when that is done do you go back and start on the editing. But you’re right – to have a really successful NaNo, you do need a solid plan. Thanks for including the mention of Janice Hardy’s Fiction University Blog – I’ve not come across that before, so now I’m off to have a look.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Susanna. I have loved NaNo every time I’ve done it but now that I’m close to publication, I need to get into a better routine. It looks like I’ll be spending this November editing and/or rewriting so something definitely needs to change 🙂

  8. A great post! I must admit that NaNoWriMo has never appealed to me. I think it’s partly because it detracts from one of the fundamental advantages of being an independent author, which is the ability to fit your writing around other aspects of your life. I can see the point in a way because often writing takes a back seat to the day job, home life, book promotion etc. but for me the deadlines are too stringent and I think that with such strict deadlines the quality must suffer as a result. It must be very disheartening to have to restructure and rewrite an entire book because it has been written in a hurry. Even with a detailed outline the deadline would be too tight for me.

    • Thanks for reading and for commenting, Diane. I know what you mean about NaNo having such a tight deadline. It has been a lot of fun every time I’ve done it and the social bonding has been really good too. However, although it has been a good discipline for me to make me write that much every day, my story is in a bit of a sticky mess now. So, I’m learning from that and hope to make it work better for me by having a detailed outline if I do it again in the future.

  9. I always start NaNo with a specific goal in mind, and end up writing something else entirely. It’s been both a win/lose situation for me. Having that plan and goal always puts me off, but I keep coming back to it. I’ll most likely be around again next year, can’t seem to help myself. 😉
    Best wishes with your novel!
    ~ Jess (West1Jess)

    • Thanks, Jess. I’d agree that it’s a bit of a 50/50 thing for writers and I do think that you can get a lot of fun out of it. I would love to do it again this year but have too much editing/rewriting to do 😉 Hopefully, I will have a really good plan by next November 🙂 Good luck if you do it.

  10. I’m considering doing Nano but not in the correct style. I want next month to be devoted to short stories that I want to finish. I don’t think I could use Nano for a novel though. I do far too much planning and research for that to work for me.

    • Hi Angel,
      Thanks for reading and for commenting. That sounds like a good plan to do short stories during NaNo. I think it’s worth trying a novel in NaNo, if anything the planning will work for you so that you can accomplish the 50K words in the time. I understand your point though. I will try it next year if I’m ready and see how it goes. Good luck to you for this year 🙂

  11. Interesting comments. I’ve never done NaNo but I know it wouldn’t suit me. I find it too hard to keep all my plates spinning and need time for reflection and planning or gibberish comes out.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Sue. Having done the full NaNo experience once, I’ve realised that I prefer to plan but if I get to this time next year and I have a plan in place, I’d give it another go. I think that’s the key to making it work.

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