Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


To NaNo or Not to NaNo

By Lazette Gifford
Lazette Gifford

NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month ( -- has a lot of devoted followers.  I happen to be one of them.  I love the pure insanity of the month, and the infectious fun of joining thousands of other writers from around the world at the starting line on November 1.

Making a decision to join NaNo is a big step.  Some people know they're not cut out for this type of writing without joining in.  Others aren't certain, and they might want to give it a try.  And then there are the people who not only don't want to do it, but don't want anyone else to, either.

The main goal is to write 50,000 words on a new novel in the month of November.  Some of us take it a step farther and plan to write an entire novel, no matter what the word count.

Many people find the rush of writing to this schedule isn't for them and they drop out early in the month.  Others falter about midmonth and lose enthusiasm and interest in their novel.

There is nothing wrong with dropping out.  Sometimes a writer doesn't know if something will work for them until they try it.  NaNo is definitely one of those things. In fact, neither finishing nor dropping out will make a difference in your life or help or hinder your career as a writer.

So why take part at all?

Because it's fun. 

Some NaNo participants find it a wonderful way to break through a block, or to kill an Inner Editor, or just to write something they always wanted to do, but need that little added push that NaNo gives them.  Some find NaNo has helped them with specific writing problems.

However, there are people opposed to NaNo.  Some of them have tried it and it didn't work for them.  They've decided that if it doesn't work for them, it's obviously a waste of time for others.  You should decide for yourself, but it doesn't hurt to learn why it didn't work for these people.  It may be a reason that makes sense to you and the way in which you work.

There is another, related group who know this is something they'd never do, so it can't be good for anyone else.  Both of these types are plainly too self-centered in their approach to NaNo.  Not all writers work to the same needs, and NaNo obviously works for some and not for others.  It's the way of life.

There is another, more seditious reason some people are opposed to NaNo: it's fun, and there is a current in our society that says if something is fun, it can't be work -- and if it isn't work, it can't be worth anything.  With that reasoning in mind, NaNo, with an emphasis on having fun, is a waste of time and people shouldn't take part. They should be doing something more important with that time.  Like... watching TV or going to bars.   

I've seen writers purposely crush any joy they have in writing in some ridiculous attempt to make it acceptable to people who wouldn't understand the love of writing anyway.  NaNo might be the way for them to regain that joy.

An odd, vociferous group of opponents to NaNo have claimed NaNoWriMo will ruin literature with all those people rushing through the work and not taking the proper care with it.  Nothing good can come of it, and the world of writing will be ruined by such things.

Ummmm.... couple of problems with this idea.

First, they're never going to see the majority of this work.  It isn't as though all the several thousand people who finish NaNo on November 30th are going to rush off to a publisher, who will buy up anything put before him, and flood the market with NaNo novels.  Even if huge groups of them self-publish, none of this group is ever going to see it.  Very few people will see the work at all.

Second, they have no idea what the people have written, so they can't legitimately make a judgment call on it. Yes, a lot of the stories written during NaNo will not be publishable material.  However, this factor has less to do with NaNo than with the innate and learned abilities of the writers.  Some writers are good, some are not -- and the speed with which they write makes little difference.  I've seen writers take two months to turn out a single badly written and boring chapter, while others write an entire wonderful novel in that time.

Besides, it doesn't matter if the story is good or bad.  This is a first draft.  Writers have been given a wonderful tool with the first draft, though some don't really appreciate it.  Having the first draft ability means you can write out the story as fast or slow as you want, and it doesn't have to be perfect the first time.  Editing is wonderful.  Many of the writers who take part in NaNo know this.

I plan to take part this year, just like I have for the last few years.  I'll write an outline, and I'll be sitting at my computer waiting for 12:01 am on November 1st.  During the month I might go to a couple of the NaNo gatherings in the area and meet other NaNo people.  I'll wander around the boards.

But mostly I'll write and have a wonderful new adventure with my characters.  Maybe sometime the following year I'll edit the novel.  Maybe it I won't get to it for a couple years.  Maybe it will sell, and maybe it won't.  None of that matters.  I'll still have had fun.

Is NaNo a waste of time?  Only you can decide -- and you can only decide it for yourself.  If you join in, have fun!  If you don't join in, stand aside and watch the rest of us enjoy ourselves.  We can always use some cheerleaders on the side lines!