Words for Writers: NaNoWriMo Still Matters

As NaNoWriMo 2014 approaches – my twelveth go at it – I am rushing to finish applying edits that I made in a red pen to a paper copy of my 2012 NaNo manuscript to the digital version and get it off to my proofreader. I am a little behind on getting ready for NaNo this year. Okay, a lot behind.

As in, I haven’t even really decided what I’m doing.

A few conversations with friends have thrown some ideas that I had for a novel into the fan, where it’s been chopped up and I’ll need to reassemble what’s come out the other side. A few other conversations has revealed some flaws with the ending of said 2012 NaNo MS, and has me considering the possibility of writing a sequel novella to go with the book.

And a look at my ever-increasing To Do list and Anthology Invitations has me thinking that maybe I should scrap the idea of a new novel all together and use the peer pressure of the NaNo wordcount to play catch-up.

Basically, I’m stressed.

What began for me as a fun way to push myself to write a long fanfic, and then to write original stories is now sort of in the way. The meetups are all scheduled horribly for me, I have become a terrible introvert when I’m writing and prefer silence and darkness to help me focus so the write-ins are counterproductive, and the thought of slogging through 50k of new stuff that my agent hasn’t seen or approved yet and might veto at the end of it is horrifying.

I am also contemplating… cheating. I’ll be AFK for three days at the start, and I keep thinking that if I just write that 4k NOW, then I’ll be on track once I get back. But that is totally against the spirit of the thing.

In short, I think I’ve outgrown NaNoWriMo.


But—! But—! I don’t want to! I love the community, I love the challenge, I love the rush of surpassing your word count for the day. I’ve already bought my notebook for this year, and gave my donation. I’ve already begun to post in the forums, and I’ve already put a novel up on my profile.

I love the literacy and arts therapy that the Office of Letters and Light promote, I love the Young Writer’s Program, and Camp NaNo. I love how important this has become for people, for their hearts, and their heads, and their lives. I love 30 Covers in 30 Days. I love that this matters to people. I love that, yes, there are published authors out there whose NaNo MSes are now purchasable at your local bookstore (including mine), but more than that, I love that there are millions of stories out there in the world, now, that there weren’t before.

NaNoWriMo matters.

But does it still work for me?

This is a question I assume many NaNoers ask themselves every year.

Not only are there questions of how well writing 1700 words daily works for an individual’s personal writing style, but whether November is a good time of year this time around, and if they even have a project ready to start fresh.

I want to be honest, here. I walked away from this blog post for about three hours. Yup, writing the above bolded section made me upset. Sad, that perhaps it was true that my time with NaNo was over. Angry, because aren’t I supposed to be a professional writer, dammit? Shouldn’t I find a way to MAKE it work? Upset because I feel so overwhelmed right now, so many ideas and not enough time to do them in. Resentful because I can’t seem to write that one project that will enable me to quit my dayjob and be a full time storyteller. Jealous of my fellow pro NaNoers who managed to NaNo up a New York Times Bestseller. Guilt because I talk so highly of the NaNo community and I don’t go out to near as much as I could, don’t participate on a level that I wish I could make myself do, that I haven’t had the stones to stand up and be a Mod or a ML, that I hide so often behind the excuse of “No, I have to write, I have things do to People. Important Things for Important People.”

It left me with a lot of roiling emotion.

I felt just crummy in general, because maybe it really was time to throw in the towel and declare my days of NaNoing over. I thought for a long time about what I love about NaNo, why I started, what it means to me and realized this:

I don’t want to go.

So maybe I’m a poor community person, and maybe sometimes I have to cheat a little to make sure that I get my wordcounts in, and maybe I don’t always start on a fresh project like you’re supposed to.

But you know what I always do?

I write.

It doesn’t matter what, and it doesn’t matter when, and it doesn’t matter what the project is.

In November, I write. And that? That I don’t want to give up. That I never want to give up.

So I’m a bit of a cheat, and a bit selfish with my time, and a bit of a sneak, but I am also a writer.

NaNoWriMo – for twelve years – has given me that.

And that is why I will come back. Every year. Always.

And if that’s what NaNoWriMo means to you, if that’s what makes your heart beat fast and your passion sizzle, then do it. Do it however you have to – be a bit selfish, be a bit of a cheat, be a bit of a sneak – but do it.


That’s all NaNo is asking of you. Allow you to ask it of yourself, too.


For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: NaNoWriMo Still Matters