Why I don’t do Na-No-Wri-Mo

National Novel Writing Month

Na-No-Wri-MoIt’s that time of year again. Na-No-Wri-Mo aka as National Novel Writing Month where thousands of people dedicate the whole of November to writing a book. In 2015, Na-No had 351,489 participants and out of those 40,423 managed to complete the 50,000 words it takes to become a “winner.”

In fact, by the time I publish this blog post on November 1st, some people will already be on their way to finishing their 50,000 words. Yes, finishing! In one day. It’s a crazy time of authors putting their lives on hold to schedule writing sprints and cheer each other on. It should be a great motivation …

… but I won’t be joining them.

Na-No best-sellers

Not that it doesn’t work.

Erin Morgenstern’s best-seller, The Night Circus, started life one November in 2004. Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, in Na-No. Hugh Howey wrote Wool. Even Marissa Meyer drafted my favourite novels from the Lunar Chronicles in the mad, monthly writing frenzy.

lunar chronicles

It just doesn’t work for me.

My Na-No track record

I’ve tried to do Na-No three times.

No. 1

The first time was in 2005, before I wrote ShockWaves, before I worked with an editor or an agent. I had the vaguest idea for a character and a setting and I merrily wrote my way through 20,000 words. Then I hit a problem with the plot and the writing stalled. It didn’t bother me too much. This was the way my writing went at that time. I had more half-finished manuscripts than you could shake your fountain pen at.

No. 2

The second time, ShockWaves was doing the rounds of agents and I wanted a distraction. Determined to be more prepared, I’d written a synopsis of the story. I guess I thought it was going to be easy. I’d already written one book and I’m a fairly quick typist. How hard could it be?

I didn’t take into account my inner editor. ShockWaves had taken many, many rewrites and, after every writing session, I would view my verbal diarrhoea and see only the amount of work it was going to take to put it into some sort of order. I started to tweak the words as I went along and my word-count slowed and slowed. I kept writing but I never got the coveted winners badge.

No. 3

Which brings me to 2015. The years between my last book had been full of unavoidable life distractions and I was finding it hard to get back into the rhythm of writing. I thought Na-No would help with this.

Here’s what happened.


Day 1 was on target.

I missed Day 2 but almost caught up on Day 3.

After that it, I fell so far behind that, despite adding some words in the second week, I gave up completely on Day 22. And when I say I gave up, I didn’t just stop adding my writing to the Na-No dashboard, I decided I was a terrible writer and didn’t write anything until January 2016.

Talk about a de-motivator.

Why it doesn’t work for me.

My writing schedule has to be sustainable. Yes, I could skip work, sit my grandchildren in front of the TV, forget the housework and turn off my internet connection. But how long before I run out of money, the grandchildren get fretful, I can’t find any clean clothes and get sick on junk food?

My life is a juggling act. If I focus on just one thing, the rest of my life crashes. It doesn’t make for thousands of words every day but it keeps everything going.

I’m not complaining. I love my life. But I can’t stand the Na-No pressure.

juggling photo

Good luck to everyone attempting to write a novel this month. I have the greatest respect for you … but I won’t be joining you.

Doing Na-No? Let me know in the comments.

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