To Nano or Not…That is the Question

Most writers out there know what Nanowrimo is, or have at least heard this strange word bandied about in blogs and forums. For everyone else, Nanowrimo is basically a collective decision with writers all over the world to complete a novel (or at least 50,000 words) in a month.

The month of November in fact, which is 12 days away.

There are two sides to the Nano debate–the avid, Nano is the best thing EVA! and the How will pounding out 50K worth of drivel help me? camps.

Me, I see pros and cons to Nano. The pros are that you get to lock the nattering inner editor in the cupboard for a month and draft…my dream come true. Also, at the end of the month, you can feel good about accomplishing such a huge chunk of writing in such a short time. There’s a load of enthusiasm, camaraderie and encouragement during the month of Nano.

The con is one, but a big one: quality of writing. Doing 50 K in a month doesn’t exactly encourage first rate stuff. If you plan on trying to sell your Nano novel, you’ll have a boatload of revisions to do, and you better hope the stamina you built up during November sees you through the copious editing needed later.

Now some people do Nano with the idea up front that it will never be publishable, that they don’t care about quality and are just there to shove as many cheesy characters, cliches and strained-peas plots in a single novel as they can. I don’t really get that, but that’s just me. I’m in it to create a (hopefully) sellable product.

I’ve entered and completed Nano twice. It was fun, and a real high to write that much that fast. The rewriting though…ugh. I hate revisions in the first place, so I finish Nano wondering why I did this to myself. One book I’m sticking with, the other is in the back of the filing cabinet.

So, whats your opinion? Are you Nano-ing, or not? I’m still on the fence, so help sway me one way or the other!


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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24 Responses to To Nano or Not…That is the Question

  1. Donna says:

    I signed up for NaNo a few years ago but never did it. I signed up again last month and I’m sticking to it. I want to see if I can actually complete it and I think the book I plan on writing for it would be the perfect length for the time frame (I only plan on having be around 55k words).

    I plan very little when I write and most of it is flying by the seat of my pants. I feel that with planning I have to stick to what I plan (I blame the OCD) so I like to leave my options open.

    And I agree with the others that say they need the right beginning to proceed. I found that out with the novel I finished last month. Three false starts before I could get anywhere and I still have to rewrite the thing.

    I also just want to say that I wrote two novels this year, even if they’re not edited yet. I write complete crap for the first draft and I shine on editing. It’s how I’ve always written so I think NaNo would be perfect for me. I also love working under deadlines. I set them for myself (although not this drastic) so I can get things done. Otherwise the procrastination fairy comes in and takes over.

    If you think you can do it, do it. But only you can make the decision.

  2. Angela says:

    It’s funny, but I find revisions exhilarating.

    We’re similar in a way…I find the idea of having someone else revise my work exhilarating.


  3. Creative A says:

    Thanks Angela, for the tips as well.

    Tabitha’s method sounds a lot like mine. Once I get past the beginning I can roll along pretty good, which is what makes me so antsy. I just need to scrutinize every detail. Maybe planning tomorrow’s scene will help some.

    It’s funny, but I find revisions exhilarating.

  4. Angela says:

    Keri, I think Nano is pretty adaptable. Good luck!

    Creative, I’ll swing by your blog. I’m still not sure if I’ll do nano or not. One thing i found helpful when I got caught up not knowing how to proceed with the novel is I’d skip ahead to the next scene I could visualize. That way I didn’t lose momentum, and then later once I’d mulled over how to ‘get to that scene’, I’d go back and fill it in. It worked for me, so if you’re haing trouble with the whole by the seat of your pants thing, give it a try. 🙂

  5. Creative A says:

    Great post! I’ve struggled with a lot of those questions myself. One huge problem I have with Nano is that I do not, repeat DO NOT do well writing by the seat of my pants. I get frustrated and confused and I loose stamina. I have to write a little, pause, plan, write a little, etc. And it works for me.

    This year I bit the bullet and decided to Nano, but nothing official, no signing up. I’m doing it with another blogger, so we’ll see.

    Quick side note: I’m doing a Nano event for my blog and I’m gathering stories from other Nanoers, about Nano, to post during Nov. I was wondering if you’d be interested? Let me know 🙂


  6. Even though I might regret it because of the timing, I joined Nano. . 🙂

    I’m with you.. Revisions make my brain explode.. Especially 60K worth. I’ve tried writing the whole thing, then going back and this method takes longer. I’m better at revisions as I move through the story. So, I kind of cheated. I’m almost 30K in my Nano.. So I can revise while I go.

  7. Angela says:

    Wulf, excellent point. Nano is a great time to hone craft and experiment.

    Courtney–yeah, I don’t see the point of being against nano–it’s eather something you do or don’t, but it isn’t a exclusively good or bad thing. Now leaving Viggo Mortensen in a burning building in order to save PeeWee Herman…that’s a bad thing.

    Jacqui, all I have to say is WULF for PRESIDENT!!

  8. Jacqui says:

    “Nothing helps your writing more than writing.” I think that’s a great quote, Wulf.

  9. courtney says:

    I’m pro-nano! I think it’s a great idea. Writing is a constant learning experience, and there’s a lot to be taken from doing Nano (figuring out what type of writer you are etc, how you work under an intense deadline, learning to shut off your inner editor). I like what wulf said–nothing helps your writing more than writing. Plus, it’s not like it’s mandatory. That’s why the really vehement opposition to Nano always surprises me a little… like, dude! No one’s forcing you!

  10. Wulf says:

    Nothing helps your writing more than writing; we’ve all got to churn out crap for some length before our writing turns to gold.

    It may or may not produce a best seller, but I think that has more to do with where we are in our development of the trade rather than the quality of work that NaNo can present.

  11. Angela says:

    CR–I agree, Nano can be a great time to take a break from current work. Often our creative process is stymied somewhat by revisions, revision, revision, and this can be a great way to get back on track.

    Marian–sounds like you’re doing what works for you!

    Tabitha–I know a few people who feel this way about beginings. I know I di when I do the first revision–I have to get the start right in order to move further.

    CJ–Oh I’m so glad you’re on Blogger now! I don’t know why but I had a lot of difficulties on your website with having pages freeze or being spit out of the interet. My computer’s getting older tho–it’s probably my end. I’ll be visiting your new home, ad hope everything is goig well for you!

    Kelly, the thought of completing Nano by writing picture books sends shivers through me! ACK–wise choice to avoid Nano…lol

    Kate–yes if there’s too much temptation to revise the Nano can be slow going if not impossible. Do what works for you.

    Yuna, good on you for giving it a go. I think the best part of Nano is to jump into creativity with both fee ad not sweat anthing. It really feels good to do that once in a while, considering 99% of the time we’re thinking about how our writing isn’t yet good enough, it needs to be stronger, better, etc.

  12. Yunaleska says:

    I’m attempting it for the first time this year, circumstances depending. It’s a fun idea, because I can get really stumped with my internal editor yabbering away ‘you’re rubbish, you should quit writing’. Nice to just go for it!

    I hope to write the first book in a YA trilogy written.

  13. Kate says:

    I simply can’t write without rereading and polishing the work from the day before first, so I really don’t think doing NaNo for me would work. But I admire those who can do it. It at least gives them a structure of a story that they can scrub and polish later.

  14. Kelly says:

    I work better under pressure, but being a PB writer, not sure that goal is reasonable for what I do..But only you can decide whether or not to jump in! Good luck!

  15. CJRay says:

    I’ve bitten the bullet and I’m going for it. I think because I’ve gotten into the terrible little habit of procrastinating over the past year and a half (as you well know). I believe this will be good for me personally as it will make me more accountable, and cause me to organize my life and priorities.
    No pressure friend, just do it! Tee! Hee!


    P.S. Miss ya! FYI – I’m on “blogger” now as well as my older site.

  16. Tabitha says:

    I’m with Becca in that I won’t attempt to sway you one way or the other, because writing style and process is a very personal thing.

    Nano doesn’t work for my process. I have to take my beginnings slow and rewrite them a thousand times before I can write the rest. Don’t know why, it’s just how my brain works. But, to me, in getting the beginning absolutely just right, the rest of the novel falls quickly into place and there’s not much revision to do.

    But for those who thrive on Nano, then I say go for it! 🙂

  17. Marian says:

    I won’t be NaNo-ing. I’ve just completed the third chapter of a very fun but very demanding fantasy, and that’s going to take up a lot of writing time for the next four or five months. I don’t want to lose focus with this work.

    My books also tend to be long – usually 130K first drafts – so there’s no way I could complete one in a month. So I just plug away with my own thing and enjoy cheering on other people. 🙂

  18. C.R. Evers says:

    I’m doing Nano for 3 reasons

    1) It works with my style of writing. I like getting out the idea first and putting aside the inner editor. It helps my flow of creatiity

    2) This has given me the indpiration to plan out a novel that has been in my head for a while now and get the plan on paper and in Nov. the idea on paper too.

    3) I need a break from my current WIP. I’ve been working on my WIP for about 1 year and 1/2 and I need a break before I go on to my next round of revisions. I have to revise a lot no matter what, so the revision thing doesn’t bother me.

    My vote is to go for it! :0)

    or not. ;0)


  19. Angela says:

    Lyra, I did that before, only with chapter book/mid grade novels. Good on you!

    Merc, I would like to rewrite Orb, someday. I have an awesome sequel in mind, but UGH the thing is so messed up with cliches and purple prose. I’m afraid to even look at it, but one of these days I’ll yank it out again.

    PJ–Yeah, timing is everything. The first time I did nano, I was in Mexico with no internet access for 10 days. I still finished, but man did I ever work hard at it.

    Jacqui, I’ll check your post out. The last time I did nano I did something similar–I tried a different POV and really tried to figure out the whole voice thing. It was a huge success. Learning is awesome!

    Becca, I hear you. I think for me, pressure (the time limit) is a good thing, because it forces me to get moving and not procrastinate. I am a huge procrastin–oh look, someone wants to play internet scrabble with me! See-ya!

  20. Becca says:

    I wouldn’t dream of trying to sway you one way or the other. My own personal choice is not to NaNo. I find that when I make reasonable goals, I’m good at sticking with them. But flexibility is key. If I need to take a couple of days off and I don’t, it kills my drive. So NaNo isn’t such a good idea for me. Even if I had the time to do it this year :).

  21. Jacqui says:

    I just today blogged
    Seven Reasons WhyMo

    I hate revising, too. So instead of thinking I’m writing something I’ll try to publish one day, I try to focus on an aspect of writing that usually comes hard for me. So last year, it was all plot, plot, plot. I wrote a terrible fantasy novel that will never see the light of day, but it was great practice. This year I’m focusing on set-up and payoff.

    Do it!

    Jacqui (SproutQ from BBs)

  22. PJ Hoover says:

    I’m not NaNoing only because it doesn’t fit with my schedule. I’m all for finishing a first draft quickly but I don’t mind revisions at all. At least not the first 30 times through something.

  23. Merc says:

    I say do it! 😀

    (Are you ever going to do anything with “Orbmaster”? That was your nano book as well, right?)

    I’m sure you’ll be able to write something sellable even if it’s a rough draft to start. 😉

  24. lyrajean says:

    I’ve decided to nano this year but I’m going to write a series of short stories instead of one long novel.

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