NaNoWriMo – pros and cons

10th September 2013

Support for NaNo, found on Lauren Sapala’s blog;

If you only build your machine halfway, and then you start trying to improve it, you’re going to end up with a huge mess and a machine that doesn’t work.

That means you need a completed sloppy first draft before you can start improving anything.

As a writing coach, this is the number one problem writers bring to me. They’ve started a book and can’t get past the first third, or they’re halfway through and want to throw the whole thing away out of frustration. Or they’re suddenly suffering from writer’s block and just can’t move forward with the story.

All of these issues come down to the writer trying to edit and revise a first draft that is not yet a finished story.

This is why NaNoWriMo has such a huge following and so many writers report success by joining it. Given the deadline of a mere month to write a novel, there just isn’t time to begin picking it apart. The goal for these NaNo writers is: finish-line-finish-line-finish-line. Because the pressure is on, and the deadline so intense, these writers effectively block their inner critic and learn the difference between writing vs. editing the down-and-dirty way.

13th September 2012

NaNoWriMo chatter has begun already.  As before, I won’t be joining in, still unconvinced on the benefits of saturation writing.

However, I read a post from Nicole Bross at Unravelling my Mind today which shows that it can bring benefits to some newbie writers;

Doing NaNo last year was the kickstart that got me believing I could give writing fiction a go. I’ve been doing freelance journalism for close to a decade now but had always wanted to write a book. Various things kept me from trying in all that time – we’ll have fear as the top one, and belief that I didn’t have the time as the second.

Then last year a friend and I basically double-dared each other to do NaNo, and I found out that there definitely was time in the day for it once I conquered that fear of starting (my hands were literally shaking when I typed out the first few sentences). I went a little crazy last November, neglecting myself, my family, friends and all other writing commitments shockingly, but around the 27th I “won,” penning my 50,000th word.

And it felt so good to do it that a few months later when this idea came barrelling into my brain, I actually had the confidence to sit down and start to write it out. Six and a half months later I’ve learned so much about how I can be a better writer and grown this little kernel of an idea into a thorny bramble of a story.

Later she writes;

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It was having done NaNoWriMo that gave me the confidence to put fingers to keyboard. I’ve blogged about it before, but I’ll repeat: NaNo is great to teach first-time writers that it’s possible to write a novel. Until I did it, I just brushed those lightning-bolt ideas aside or kept them in a daydream-only holding pattern.

So NaNoWriMo can help wannabe writers with confidence issues and show them what can be produced in a short space of time.

Still not for me, but Nicole may go on to produce the next best-seller.  Watch and see!

1st January 2011

The dust is still settling after NaNo 2010.  My writing friend, Sammy has proudly shown me her 50,000 words – and I have to say I’m impressed by what she’s created in such a short time.

Still not for me, but everyone works in different ways!

1st November 2010

NaNo time is here again…

Would that work as a song?

November is blast-off for all NaNoWriMo contestants…however, I’ll be far too busy trying to complete  ‘Angels Instead’ to even look up as this annual event screams past.

Larry Brooks still has his doubts and my reservations about the whole concept remain unchanged (see below) but having read some of the hints, tips and advice that has sprung up across the Interweb, I can say that whilst most of the information is probably very useful, it’s the pace that I find disagreeable.

However, that’s if I apply it to my own personal circumstance…I imagine that there are many budding writers out there who are eagerly looking forward to immersing themselves in thirty days of head-down creativity.

And to them, I say:  Good Luck!

AJ Toynbee


5th August 2010

Basically, I think it works for some, but not for me.  However, the flurry of activity that erupted last autumn (2009) over this may possibly have been the catalyst that got me determined to write a ‘real’ novel…

What concerns me is the intensity of NaNoWriMo…thirty days of heads-down oblivious-to-everything writing.  I have spoken to people who have emerged from the other end of this exhausted, sickened and depressed.  More than one writer has gained the impression that this is how the writer’s life will be and has decided that it’s not for them.  A friend of mine managed six days before her family rebelled against what they called ‘her obsession’.

Perhaps she didn’t properly brief them on what she planned, but the result was that she hasn’t written since.

Larry Brooks shares my view, preferring to see people treat a novel as a marathon rather than a sprint.

In my (limited) experience, many of the ideas that have bubbled up and made it onto the pages of my novel would never have seen the light of day if I had used NaNoWriMo to frame my book.  Some things, like a good stew / curry / wine /cheese need time to develop.  The good ideas emerge during that maturation process.  Akin to travelling across a country – you can take the highway and get there so much faster, or you can elect to drive on the smaller roads and enjoy the scenery and build many lingering memories from the countryside you are passing through.

NaNoWriMo time (2010) is approaching…but I will have my head down, trying to complete my First Draft of my First Novel.

AJ Toynbee

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:43:57

    I think NaNo only works for very specific writing styles. Personally, I love NaNo – I need to write quickly, or the story and characters go stale in my head. Since I’m (… just a little…) competitive, NaNo is a great boost. That said, I don’t like this idea of “50,000 words – who cares about quality!”. If you’re going to write, write well, no matter how quickly or slowly your pace happens to be.

    But that’s just my cent and a half of insanity, I suppose.


    • Andrew Toynbee
      Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:49:54

      Yes, NaNo can e a great starting point for some writers, but not all. It’s an interesting point you made, that it suits differing writing styles.
      I never considered that, only differing lifestyles.
      Thank you for adding to the debate! :D


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