Reasons Why I’m Quitting NaNoWriMo

So…I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this month. Both about the book I’m writing this year and my past experiences with NaNo, and I have come to the logical conclusion that NaNoWriMo isn’t for me. Here are the four reasons why.

1. Inability To Process

I am an introspective person. I think…a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love reading so much, because unlike movies it isn’t quick and sensory, instead focusing on thinking instead of feeling. This ability also moves over to my writing. When I’m writing, I usually don’t tend to act on impulse and when I do, my writing feels disjointed and false. Instead, I take my time to incorporate ideas and mesh out plot holes as I go along.

This type of writing, I have discovered, does not go well with NaNoWriMo. NaNo is all about quick, impulsive writing with little introspection, mostly because you don’t have the time. If you’re struggling with where the story should go, you don’t have to time sit back and think for a few days because that word count is breathing down your neck.

In my previous two NaNoWriMo’s, I didn’t have a chance to sit back and process what my story was becoming, and as a result it turned into something I did not like. This brings me to my second reason.

2. The Definition of Insanity

There is this famous quote that seems to have circulated the internet for years: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

In everything I do in my life, I try to learn from my mistakes. If I use a particular face wash that causes my skin to break out, I stop using it. I don’t keep using it expecting my face to change. It is the same with writing. If I try one technique to write a book, and I’m not happy with the result, the same logic would dictate that I not employ that technique again. Right?

Well, I haven’t been happy with the two resulting books of the last two NaNo’s, so I would be insane to try to complete another month of grueling writing if I knew the finished product would be horrible. And, despite what some of my friends might say, I am not insane…not yet, at least.

3. How important is a first draft?

Everyone has a different answer to this question. Some people will tell you not to worry about the first draft because you can worry about rewriting later. However, I disagree with this sentiment. Of course you can rewrite a first draft, and you should, but in my opinion a first draft should serve two purposes.

First, it should be the foundation for the finished product. You cannot have a fully built house without a solid foundation, just as you cannot have a good book unless you have a good first draft. I didn’t say a perfect first draft, mind you, only a good one. Second, a first draft should direct you towards your final goal. If you are writing a gritty murder mystery, the last thing your first draft should do is deviate into a comedy romance.

I find too many new authors, myself included, assume that first drafts are rather meaningless. That it is more important to get words on a page instead of writing a comprehensive story. This is one of the problems I have with NaNo, because it forces you to move so quickly through your first draft that you have to say at some point, “I see this issue, but that’s okay. I’ll fix it in the next draft.” But that issue might grow larger and larger until it consumes your entire narrative, eating away both at the foundation and the direction of your draft. This happened to me both times I did NaNoWriMo.

4. Only 50,000 words?

I’ve read a lot of books. Probably more than is good for my health. But I have rarely read a book that is 50,000 words. For reference, books average between 70,000 to 125,000 words. There are, of course, a few outliers (Game of Thrones might be a good example). Though technically a novel is defined as anything above 40,000 words, most books are longer.

Another problem I have with NaNo is that its word count goal is 50,000 words. For most books, this is too short, meaning you either have to write at least 20,000 words more during that month to finish the book, or you continue the challenge into December. This seems silly to me. Either you write a book or you write 50,000 words. And what if you end the book at 47,000 words? Should you add pointless fluff to complete the challenge?

The first time I completed NaNo last November, my story ended up completed at a little over 50,000 words. It had ended, but I had cut the plot short to finish it. During Camp NaNo this July, I completed a little over 50,000 words for another book, but this one was nowhere near the ending and, because I felt absolutely drained from NaNoWriMo, I didn’t want to keep writing to finish it. Even now, it is left incomplete in my word files.


I’m not sure my reasonings make any sense to an outside viewer. In summary, the reason why I’m quitting NaNoWriMo is because I don’t want to repeat a process that affects my writing negatively. If a writing process doesn’t work for me, why should I continue doing it?

Saying that, I’m not judging anyone for enjoying and competing in NaNoWriMo. Every writer is different when it comes to their writing process. Some people work well writing intensely for a short period of time.

As it is, I’ll still write the book I started this month, but I’ll work on it more slowly than I would have this NaNo, and I won’t be worrying about word count.

I’m curious…have you found NaNoWriMo helpful in developing your writing, or slightly constraining? Do you write a book quickly or slowly? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

26 thoughts on “Reasons Why I’m Quitting NaNoWriMo

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Finally someone brave enough to say “No” to NaNoWriMo. I follow writers blogs and currently they are consumed by it, driven to worshiping wordcounts and keyboard crunching far into the night. Such pressure; no pleasure. I think a course of action should make a writer happy about their techniques and writing abilities whereas the NaNoWriMo pressure-cooker seems to highlight inadequacies which we already worry enough about! Instead, there’s morning pages, free-writing, stream-of-consciousness to clear the mind and start afresh in our own unique way.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am ashamed to admit that I have never previously heard of the NaNoWriMo, but I also do not see a point in it – is it for people who like to procrastinate? I think it takes time to develop one’s ideas about writing or story, and every writer has his or her own pace of developing ideas, words and sentences, etc. I think writing 50.000 words in 30 days is only useful for Freudian psychoanalysis when you put words and sentences that come to your mind spontaneously on paper without long thought so that they can be then analysed in a psychoanalyst’s chair πŸ™‚


  2. Don’t worry, I understand your reasons. What some writers do is plan their draft and story timeline months ahead and then dive into NaNo organized. I am never organized. Also, 50,000 words are just a goal to reach for the month. I’ve seen people reach over 70,000 while participating. 50,000 (plus) words do not mean you stop writing, though. I write long after NaNo.

    I don’t look at this as a way to write a novel but as a writing exercise. I love free writing, so I normally just free write during the month and deal with the draft after given that I never stick to the original draft. All the best with writing your novel!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I’ve actually tried several techniques. The first time I did NaNo, I did moderate planning, and the second time I did super detailed planning. This third time around I did no planning. And none of the techniques worked for me. I suppose every writer is different.

      And yes, I remember reading a few bloggers who said they wrote 70,000 words, but I could barely do 50,000 words.

      I agree with you! If you look at it as a writing exercise, it would probably go better.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Glad to hear you’re still going at your own pace! I agree that NaNo is not for everyone, especially the more seasoned you become as a writer. But I have to say, the first year I signed up (2012) it was amazing. It was before I had any social media accounts, and the first place I started talking to other writers. And it did get me into the habit of writing every day.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I tried NaNoWriMo last year, and just couldn’t keep up with the pace. I totally agree with all your reasons. I don’t think it’s for all writers. And I don’t think I can commit the time to trying again this year…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! I gave it a good shot. I didn’t want to just try and not finish it. I finished it twice before, so I definitely gave it a good shot. But saying that, I know some people who find it super helpful. It just depends on what kind of writer we are, I suppose.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Totally understand! I’m glad you’re listening to yourself and helping yourself in a way. I wish you the best in writing, however, because your ideas are so magnificent ❀

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When it comes to writing, I’m more of a slow writer. I like writing and editing at the same time. Before going to college, in order to pass exams, we needed to finish many compositions of which the themes and word count are confined within limited time. This was so stressful that I still kind of feel afraid of writing nowadays.

    I agree with you that everyone has his or her writing pace. It’s the quality of your work and what you experience, think and harvest during writing that matter.Take your time! More power to you!πŸ˜„

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I agree. I tend to do light editing as I write my first draft too. I find rereading my previous chapters keeps the plotlines clear in my mind. And yes, it’s stressful to be confined to a limited time, and I like to keep my life relatively low stress!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A good decision, Alice applauds. πŸ˜€ I don’t think speed is in any way meritorious in writing a novel, though maybe our rushed lifestyle can make it seem so… You’ll still write your Paris mystery, though, won’t you?

    The first time I did NaNo was eye-opening. Before that, I had been wishy-washy, never able to finish anything, little wriggly worm-Alice. Doing NaNo seemed impossible. But I steeled myself and did it, and proved that I can surpass my imagined limits. I don’t know who said it, but when we do something we considered impossible before, we become invincible, kinda. NaNo was that for me.

    But even then, I never thought it was a way to write a novel. It was, well, a month-long writing exercise. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your reasons make perferct sense. I have never tried to do it because I think it defeats the purpose of a firast draft. That first should be a strong foundation for your book. Sure, it will have plenty of edits during its evolution from manuscript to completed novel, but I feel the first draft of a Nano write would not be soemthing I could work with.

    I usually write a first draft in about a year. How could I condense a year of writing and composing plots and sub-plots in just a month?

    Then, your thoughts on word count are on point. Fifty thousands leaves you short of your actual goal of needed word count.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, It is helpful for those of us who are considering this in the future. Best of luck with your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I could not agree with your thoughts more! I usually take about four or five months to write a first draft, so to condense it into a month seems absurd. Thank you for your thoughtful opinion. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has issues with NaNo!

      Liked by 2 people

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