NaNoWriMo 2020: Should You Participate?

good morning, cyberspace!

That title is unapologetically clickbait and NO. I shall not change it. Mwahahahahaha. *coughs and adjusts the neck of my cape awkwardly* Ahem.

So as you can probably tell from the subtle bite in the air, October is quickly approaching. Or approaching as quickly as anything is expected to approach this year, which means that time is completely irrelevant and doesn’t exist. We could wake up to a fierce December snowstorm tomorrow and no one would bat an eye. But I digress. October is coming, and with it comes preptober, and for any well-worn NaNo veteran, you know exactly what this means:

The screaming.

The hair-pulling.

The sleep-deprivation.

NaNoWriMo is nigh upon us, my friends. And this year–not for the last time–I’m questioning whether or not to participate. And since I know for a fact that I’m not the only writer pondering this *waves happily at my writing group* I thought it would be fun to go over some of the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo that will more or less affect my decision on whether or not to participate.

Whether or not you choose to participate this year is completely up to you, of course, and I’m not here to sway you to either side–though you would think that is the purpose of this post. Some of the things that I consider cons might be meaningless to you, and that is perfectly okay. We’re all friends here. We can settle our differences over pitchfork battles and tea.

But before we start sharpening our blades, let’s discuss the actual pros and cons.


— THE PROS AND CONS OF NANOWRIMO —

PRO – NaNoWriMo builds community

There is no denying that NaNoWriMo is one of–if not THE–best places to find your writing community. Every year, thousands of writers take on the daunting task of writing 50,000 words of a novel within the 30 days of November. Every year, many succeed, and many fail. But the fact remains that we all have a jolly good time doing it, and we all find a sense of camaraderie in knowing that we are not doing this absolutely ridiculous thing on our own.

Aside from blogging, NaNoWriMo was the place where I first found other writers who were just as obsessed with writing as I was. Unfortunately, not many of the first relationships I made through NaNo really lasted, but that initial toe-dip into the waters of the writing community was what would later influence me to start and maintain a blog. (which, if you couldn’t already guess, was where I met my current writing/friend group.)

For many writers–myself included–NaNo is the place to find your community. And in a business that is constantly described as the loneliest of jobs, having a community to be a part of is crucial to succeeding.

PRO – NaNoWriMo gets books written

All right, all right. The NaNo cons will come momentarily, but I must admit that there definitely ARE major pros to NaNo–most important being the fact that NaNoWriMo gets books written. So many of the stories that I have finished–dare I say all of the books I’ve finished–are because of participating in various NaNoWriMo events throughout the year. There’s an accountability about it, this sort of expectation that you’re going to stick with the goals you set for yourself.

Plus, when you tell the world on your various social medias that you’re going to attempt to write 50,000 words in the expanse of 30 days, the world kinda sorta expects you to stick with it. even if it means getting .5 hours of sleep each night and eating copious amounts of chocolate to stay motivated

Accountability and community-wise, NaNoWriMo has been instrumental in my growth as a writer. Before NaNo, I had only finished a single book, and that had been completed four years prior to my first NaNoWriMo. After discovering and participating in multiple NaNoWriMo sessions, I’ve finished two more books–one of which has been through four complicated, messy, mind-numbing drafts–and am currently writing the first chapters of a third.

Without NaNoWriMo, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to start taking my writing seriously. Would I have gotten there eventually? Perhaps. But I know that I am where I am right now with my writing because of discovering NaNo.

CON – the website is crap

We’re not even going to try and sugarcoat it anymore, folks. Literally everyone who was a frequent user of the NaNoWriMo website before last year’s delightful “upgrade” can and will attest–in the most heated of rants–that the new website is absolute garbage. It’s glitchy. It’s weird. It’s colorful, I’ll give them that, but the fact that it deleted half my Camp projects and switched all of my hourly goals to words–making it seem as though I had won an April Camp session with a grand total of 30 (count them: THIRTY) words–makes any aspects which lean in its favor crumple inwards like a poorly cooked souffle.

And I know what you’re thinking: Kenzie … will the fact that their website sucks REALLY be an instrumental component in you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

And to that I must answer–who knows. Maybe, maybe not. But in return I must ask you this: does the new wordpress block editor keep you from blogging? Does a horrible YA trope completely ruin a good book for you? Are bowties cool?

I’m not implying anything, but I mean … *shrugs*

CON – it has the potential to foster poor writing

This, of course, is based on each individual writer, and therefore the answer can change depending on each participant. It’s a sort of “you get out what you put into it” kind of thing, and everyone’s path is different.

However. With the pressure to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days hanging on your shoulder for the whole month of November, it can be really difficult to continually remind yourself to write not just any old words, but good words. Words that, once the month is over, you’re actually halfway excited to go back and edit.

Because HOO BOY, is your novel going to need some editing. Assuming, that is, that you actually have a completed novel at the end of the month (something I’m still trying to accomplish). But again, this is completely dependent on each individual writer.

For me, personally, I’ve never topped anything higher than 60,000 words during NaNo events. But my slower pace keeps me from writing words that are written just for the sake of writing them, and I feel like that alone is worth not finishing an entire draft in a month.

That, and my first drafts typically land in the 125,000 word mark, and writing 125,000 words in a month is a surefire way to actually kill me.

But back to the main point of this: while NaNoWriMo gets books written and helps keep writers motivated to continue, I have to question what the trade-off is. Are we stunting our growth as writers to hit a specific word-goal? Or is the ability to write bad first drafts fast more efficient than writing a slower, more polished draft with less editing for our future selves?

I’m not sure if these questions have any one specific answer, but still. It’s something to ponder.

CON – I have an unforgotten grudge against NaNoWriMo

Ah, yes. Let us not forget me and my stunning ability to hold a grudge. But NaNo did me wrong and I’m still salty about it, peasants.

If you’ve been following this blog for a few years, you’ll probably remember what, exactly, they did to me, but in order to keep any bad blood out of this blog post, I’m just gonna sweep the details underneath the rug and say this: as far as NaNoWriMo goes, while I love the community and excitement of the event, I can’t really support it as fully as I once would have.

This, of course, doesn’t really mean much to you guys, but ever since a particular event, I haven’t really been able to see NaNoWriMo through the same young, innocent eyes which I once had. It burns and I’m disappointed, but I have participated in NaNoWriMo since. It just … hasn’t felt quite the same.

And finally, our last bullet point of the day–

PRO – NaNoWriMo is simply fun

There’s no denying the thrill, the rush, the exhilaration of attempting to write 50,000 words in a single month. And after having done it, once those words are in your hands and you can shove them into the non-writers’ faces and say “SEE??? Look what I did!!!”, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the whole entire world.

Put as plain and simply as possible, NaNoWriMo is one of the most fun and challenging events for a writer. And if you haven’t done it before, I highly recommend trying it just once. And then, once you’ve done it, you’re going to understand that at the end of the day, no matter how many cons I can possibly think of to try and dissuade you, there’s no way you’re not going to participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s an addiction–a drug–and once you’ve gotten a taste of it, there’s no going back.

So to answer the question of the hour–should you participate in NaNoWriMo? will I be participating in NaNoWriMo?–the answer is, and will always be … yes.

Because it’s NaNoWriMo, for goodness’ sake. And for better or worse, I’m addicted.

(but the website really does suck, I’m not exaggerating that, okay)


talk to me, peasants!

Are YOU participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What sorts of things do you take into consideration when planning on whether to participate or not? Do you enjoy the NaNo website, or do you–like literally every other writer I’ve ever talked with–think it has some serious issues? (actually honest question, here. I would love to know if there are people who enjoy the newer features??)

And most importantly–

HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN AN ENTIRE FIRST DRAFT IN A MONTH?

Let’s talk about ALL of the NaNo-y things down in the comments below, and as always, until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

Featured Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2020: Should You Participate?

  1. I don’t know if I’m participating, but probably won’t. The website is cursed and doomful, and most importantly…I don’t think I have ever written a FULL first draft in a month. Only a partial first draft. i would like to change that, but I just have so much writer’s block as of late.

    I’m excited to find out what you’ll be writing though!

    Like

    • Dude, same. I’m definitely planning on participating, but I’m gonna be using the spreadsheet Pheebs made instead of the site. It’s just…..so bad. XD I can’t even log on without feeling ill. XD AND JETHAN!!! We should 100% try and write a whole novel in a month together!!! Would you be down for that??? I seriously want to try it now… That, or just write like a whole STORY in a month. I have a few plot bunnies for serialized shorts that aren’t technically a full-fledged novel, but longer than, say, your typical flash fiction or short story, and I’d LOVE to pound one out in a frenzied month of writing!! Are you down? (perhaps we could get some of the other cabinettes in on it too…. *begins plotting*)

      I can’t wait to find out what I’m gonna be writing, either, tbh. XD I have ideas, but nothing concrete yet…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I want to write a whole story in a month, and I’ve just accepted a story to write, so maybe we can do something! If I do NaNo, I’ll probably be picking which project on Halloween as usual. xD

        Like

        • So I totally broke the rules and already started writing my NaNoWriMo novel. Aha…oops? But I mean, when the inspiration strikes, you’ve gotta take it while it’s hot, right?? XD BUT DUDE!!!! I cannot wait to see what we’re gonna write! We should DM and talk about all of the NaNo stuffs. Maybe make spreadsheets or accountability sheets or something…

          Like

  2. THIS POST. THIS WAS SO RELATABLE. I was just nodding along to everything. (Except I don’t know if I know this story about NaNo doing you wrong? :O I’M SO SORRY!!!)

    I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious I’m obsessed??? I’ve been doing it for 10 years straight now and I don’t know if I’m physically capable of quitting even if I tried? (I may need NaNo rehab, because it definitely feels like a drug. XD Seriously…helpme.)

    There are definitely cons. It’s at a bad time of year, it sucks away ALL my time, sleep is non-existent, my drafts turn into type-induced word vomits, THE NEW WEBSITE IS THE WORST YES, ya know, the usual. BUT. At the same time, I NEED NaNo. It’s the one time I allow myself to set aside other things and just disappear into my book for a while. To actually take time every single day to WRITE. I’ve gotten 10 books written because of NaNo, and I wouldn’t want to trade that for ANYTHING. These days I rarely first draft anything except during NaNo. I’m usually occupied with edits or other work. So if not for NaNo, I don’t know if I’d ever write new books? And I WANT to write new books, I adore first drafting.

    So yes, all the cons always get way overpowered with the pros for me personally. I 100% understand it’s not for everyone. We ALL have different lives and writing habits and NaNo is not and SHOULD not be for every writer. But for me, it’s been one of my greatest blessings. It, too, launched me into finding a community and starting a blog AND is the very thing that made me realize I want to pursue writing for the rest of my life. Writing was more of a hobby before my first NaNo. But after that amazing experience I realized I wanted to really, truly be an author, and I started seriously studying the craft and getting disciplined. I would not be the same person if not for NaNo. So even if I don’t continue to do it for the rest of my life, I’ll forever be grateful to it.

    But for now I 100% plan on continuing to do it and I am PUMPED for this year!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • MEEP!! Oh my goodness, thank you so muc!! And II mean it’s been like three years ago, so I’m definitely not surprised if no one remembers! (I’m just…still salty about it. And I definitely should not be. XD)

      Oh my goodness!! 10 years in a ROW?? Dude, that is AMAZING! I believe this will be my * quickly counts years off on my fingers * sixth year participating? And it’s been one wild ride, let me tell you. XD

      Oh my goodness, YES!!! Yes, to all of this!!!! NaNo obviously has its cons, but I 100% agree: I would not be the writer that I am today without it. And it really does help me focus on fast drafting in a condensed amount of time without guilt? Because if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, I can actually tell people about the whole challenge appeal of it, and they won’t question my sanity as much as if I said I was trying to write a book in a month “just becuase”. XD

      I’m actually SO happy that you’re planning on participating this year, though! Your NaNoWriMo posts actually give me life during NaNo. XD It’s like a breath of fresh air after pounding the keys for so long… I cant wait to hear about what you’re planning to write! (perhaps we can try and do some word wars together???)

      Like

  3. Love this post! Yes, the site is awful and I am annoyed at things, but I have participated for the last 10 years sooo I’ll probably keep doing it because yes, it does get books written, and that’s the main thing for me. XD

    Like

  4. I’m still on the fence about participating in NaNoWriMo…because on the one hand, as you said, the community is fantabulous, on the other hand, I have a feeling that with three college classes + three high school classes, my November is going to be INSANE, and I’ve found that NaNo does bad things to my ability to write coherently/well. And I’m not sure which one of my babies I want to subject to that. So…still not sure. Shall continue considering. XD
    And seriously, what is UP with the website?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, but it is PERFECTLY fine not to do NaNo if your schedule won’t allow it!!! Sometimes things come up–like school–that simply can’t be pushed aside, and sacrificing the quality of your draft for the sake of writing a ton of words isn’t always the best option. (though it certainly IS an option, if you prefer to write messier first drafts and then edit extensively later?) HOWEVER, you could always set a smaller goal for yourself? I’m considering doing that this year, though that completely depends on what project I’m actually going to be working on. I’ve got two in the works currently that I’m trying to decide between, and it … isn’t going very well. XD

      Like

  5. You have some good points in this post!

    I really hope you don’t mind me putting this in here, but I just want to spread the word. While I won’t be doing official “NaNoWriMo” due to some things/agendas they support and push, I will be doing a writing camp called King’s Daughters Writing Camp. (kingsdaughterswritingcamp.blogspot.com) We already had one ‘camp’ session back in June and it was awesome!

    It’s a writing camp for Christian girls of all ages (seriously, we had I think 80 of us ranging from 13-50 something!) It was such a great experience being in a group of like-minded ladies with no worries of anything getting posted or discussed that I might not want to read… and everyone is so uplifting and supportive!

    The next camp will be from Oct. 15 – Nov. 15 (but the “gates” will be open from Oct.1 – Nov. 30) just in case anyone is interested.

    Now, I’m off to go see if I can find the post and read what NaNo did to you. (since I’m a relatively new follower and have absolutely no idea…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely, 100% do not mind in the slightest!!! I gave the page a glance and it definitely looks like an awesome thing you guys are doing! I also sent the link to my writing group to see if any of them would be interested. As of right now, I’m not sure I’ll be able to participate, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind if I find my footing before the 15th!

      Oh goodness. XD See, I think that post is buried pretty deeply, but if you manage to find it, please don’t think too poorly of Salty 2017 Kenzie. XD

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find it interesting that you didn’t mention any of the social issues that most other bloggers have mentioned while considering whether or not to do Nano. What are your thoughts on those?

    Like

      • Wow, that’s actually really nice that you aren’t dealing with any of those. XD But yeah, Nano was sending out emails encouraging people to support some anarchy and possibly even some terrorist groups (don’t quote me on that one, I’m just pretty sure that’s what I heard. I think Jenna Therese has a more accurate article on the matters.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I definitely think NaNo has some problems it’s working through. Still, I’m usually able to participate in the event without associating my work with their agendas, specifically, and I’ll be using a different method of tracking my wordcount than their website. So taking all that into consideration, I’m kind of boycotting NaNo as a group, while still participating in the writing event with my friends. XD

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely summation as always! Since we’ve already talked in other spaces (ok, screamed at each other, but still) you know I’ll likely do a form of NaNo this year, but what and how much is all contingent upon how my current rough draft progresses. I will NOT be using the site, though. Sadness all around over the kerfuffle there.
    I WILL scream at you over stories, though, because whatever you write in November is going to be glorious.

    Like

    • We do scream at each other, and it is lovely. XD Actually, speaking of screaming…YOU STILL HAVE TO WRITE WITH ME TODAY!!!! PHOEBE!!! COME WRITE!!!! *offers you cookies as a reward*

      Honestly, I’m excited to not use the site this year?? The spreadsheet you made is GLORIOUS and I am in love… I’m also really really excited to start using it. Can November get here already??? XD

      ALSO ALSO!!! Awwww!! That is so sweet??? But trust me. Whatever YOU write is going to be even MORE glorious!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. OKAY OKAY OKAY
    So. I will agree that the site, when they initially switched, WAS indeed kinda trash. I, personally, think they rushed getting it out and they should’ve waited for one more NaNo cycle before releasing it.

    HOWEVER, I don’t know how recently you’ve used the site — if you only use it during NaNo or if you use it during the rest of the year as well. I’ve been using it on a regular basis at least since April. And I can say that they’ve made changes that make me, at least, think the new site actually is an improvement. It’s just as easy as it used to be (on the old site) to update your word count, it’s actually easier than it used to add words from a backlog, and you can create multiple goals for a project, which I think is super cool and helpful and allows you to more easily work on the same project for multiple NaNo events (which, fine, you technically aren’t supposed to do, but I’m a rebel). And I honestly do like the new forums; it’s easier to follow threads and to browse and stuff. I’m not crazy about the infinite scroll, but still. I think that, overall, the new site is just as good as the old one in most respects and better in others. (They’ve also fixed that thing that causes EVERY BADGE YOU GET to appear in your groups, so that’s cool.)

    But yeah. I’m going to be doing some kind of NaNo thing this year. I will probably be a rebel and aim for under 50K or else use NaNo for editing, depending on when I’m able to start my Midnight Show sequel. But it’s going to happen, even if I manage to get a job by then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, I am SO happy that they’re actually taking steps to improve the site! I think one of my–and my writing groups’–complaints was we weren’t able to compare our word counts/progress with everyone else’s at a glance, which was something we were able to do with ease on the old site. Now we have to click through each individual person’s profile in order to see how they’re doing, and it’s just….a lot of clicking. Especially since we’ve got like 12 people in our group at this point. XD

      However, if they’re improving the site, I’m definitely interested in checking it out and maybe giving it another chance! One of my friends created a spreadsheet for us to use this November, so I’m probably going to be using that to track my progress, but I may just have to check out the website, as well…!

      Definitely in the same boat of having a smaller goal than 50k this year! I’ve never written a full 50k in a month while also working, which is unfortunate but … you know … kinda understandable. I DO want to try and win a full NaNo while working someday, though… Maybe not this year, but SOMEyear. XD

      Like

      • Yeah. They haven’t gotten the group/cabin stats back yet, but hopefully they will soon. And they definitely are doing a good job of trying to pay attention to what’s bothering people and making it better.

        I feel that. Good luck with your NaNo!

        Like

  9. I plan on competing just cause I’ve won the last 12 yrs and I gotta make it an uneven 13. I definitely hate the new site and its atrocious organization. I’m bummed that there aren’t in-person events this year, as that’s usually my main drive to keep the momentum going throughout the month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, I’m really sad about the in-person events, too! Last year I actually did a train write-in, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. I’d never been on a train until then, and it was quite the new experience! (also wrote like 2,000 words in a whole hour, so like??? WOOT?) And EEP! Good luck on making it an uneven 13!!!! If you want to be buddies on the website, let me know! I’d love to keep up with your progress next month!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’d love to be buddies! I’m EstelleNoire on nano, too, lol. I’ve recently discovered “word crawls” and they sound fabu so I’m excited to see if they work for me this year.

        Like

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