Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

Ever since November of 2016, I’ve had it in my heart to do NaNoWriMo. At first, I doubted my ability to write 50k in a month—but after soaring through both April and July Camp NaNos this year with over-achieved goals and even hitting 100k in July’s Camp, I grew more and more excited for this famed month of word counts, coffee, chocolate, and fellow writers all in it together with one goal: write a novel in thirty days.

But I believe there’s more to writing a novel than just hitting a fifty-thousand word count mark.

In fact, I believe if I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, it would more than prohibit my novel from reaching its full potential—at best, it would cost me frustrating rewrites, time and work wasted—and here are 3 reasons why.

1. My Novel Isn’t Yet Ready to be Written

Like, what does that even mean?

It means that the work put in before my novel is ready to be written isn’t completed yet. What goes in is what comes out—I didn’t do any plotting or structure when I wrote my first novel To the Death, and what came out of it? The worst thing I’ve ever written. The worst thing I’ve ever read. And that’s coming from someone who’s pretty darn self-conceited about their work. There was no plot, no structure, no character arc, no reason for the readers to keep turning the pages besides cliffhangers I threw in that didn’t make any sense. It was a sloppy, terrible first draft, all because I didn’t know how else to do it.

I understand that many authors do pants their novels, but you know what that requires? At best, multiple revisions and edits. A lot of time and work spent unnecessarily. Which is what I’m doing now with my current WIP—completely rewriting To the Death.

Making major adjustments in a finished manuscript of 100,000-plus words is far more painful than in a few dozen pages of outline notes.

K.M. Weiland

Outline notes? What do you mean?

Super exciting, evil plotting and structuring stuff I’m doing to ensure I don’t end up with a terrible first draft—because no one has to!

2. I Don’t Have to End Up with a Terrible First Draft

Which is what I’d end up with if I didn’t do any work beforehand, and what To the Death turned out to be.

But I don’t have to end up with any more terrible first drafts. And neither does anyone else!

But wait! Aren’t all first drafts terrible? That’s why they’re called first drafts, right? They’re never the finished product?

True. Editing must be done whether the first draft is awful or not. But just because we’ve all ended up with some pretty awful first drafts doesn’t mean we have to continue to do so—and it’s not an excuse for laziness like it would be for me.

Doing the excitement-revving, success-ensuring work beforehand—outlining, plotting, structuring—saves me so much hair-pulling, gut-wrenching, 4 AM-wailing rewrites. (No, seriously. Taking one look at To the Death‘s chapter 2 at 4 AM my second day of editing the draft resulted in wailing at the top of my lungs in misery. The wail probably made its way into my family’s dreams and caused them horrific nightmares.)

So why is there so much encouragement about writing a terrible first draft? Isn’t it true that if you stop and edit along the way, you’ll never finish? Shouldn’t you just write until it’s finished, then go back and edit that big fat mess?

First of all, if you’ve disciplined yourself and did the work, you can trust your planning and yes, write like the wind and edit later knowing you won’t end up with crud. No need to edit every single thing along the way. Of course, there’s always the 50 page edit—in which we’re far enough in to see a big chunk behind us but not too far in that plot holes are a nightmare to be fixed—but if you’re writing all the way through, you can relax and know that even if you’re editing afterward, you still won’t end up with a big fat mess.

Plus, at the end of 30 days of hard work, I’d want to end up with something I’m proud of. Not an embarrassing, terrible first draft I desire to sentence to death via the delete button and that makes me wonder if I’m a terrible writer. I wanted to cry when I read the hunk of junk once known as Loyalty Book I: Brave Like a Warrior. *sinks to the floor in a mortified heap of despair*

3. I Want the Thrill and Enjoyment of Cranking Out that Organic Perfection to Last for More than Just Thirty Days

I wrote another terrible draft in July (thanks to the wrong kind of work beforehand), and my very favorite part of writing was the first few hours of the first day. At 4:30 AM, I wrote until I reached 3k a couple hours or so later, and it was the most exhilarating, exciting, breathtaking writing time of the entire month of July. It was so beautiful.

After that, it became a grind because of my massive goal and the deadline. I still loved it—writing, are you kidding me? Let’s go for another one of my 20k days, I’d never quit! But that free-flowing, exhilarating awesomeness had disappeared. It was still fun, but not as fun. It became more about word count than about how much enjoyment I was taking in writing my story. And I believe there’s so much more to a novel than just 50k.

With To the Death‘s rewrite (which is my current WIP, Warfare Book I), I want to take my time and enjoy writing the thing—not slave away for thirty days under pressure knowing I’m going to end up with something terrible because the prep work isn’t finished yet. Writing is an experience I love. It’s a gift God’s been so gracious to give me. I do it for fun, I do it for free (right now, anyway) —and if I’m not having fun, I’m doing something wrong.

I want to enjoy the process of writing it, and thirty days are going to pass by quick—even if my novel was ready in time.

 So many people rush into NaNo and come out of it with a terrible first draft. That’s not going to be me—I’m going to put in the work and save myself frustrating, unnecessary rewrites. I’m going to take my time and not limit myself to 30 days of NaNo, so I can enjoy the beautiful experience of writing a first draft—which you only get once per book. And I’m going to write my novel to its full potential because of it.

Are you going to be doing NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? I’d love to talk with you about it in the comments!

Psst. Warfare (previously known as Loyalty) outlining snippets coming up soon. >:)

P.S. Not trying to bash anyone over the head for doing NaNoWriMo at all! I love NaNo and really do hope to do it in November someday in addition to the camps. Everyone’s gotta do what they feel is best for their novel—I just wanted to explain why I’m not participating and hopefully bring these points to others’ attention so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. So if you feel bashed… stop it! 😉

By |2017-10-06T22:48:04-04:00October 6th, 2017|Writing|51 Comments

About the Author:

I'm Madi: blogger, writer, doll collector, and minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Learn more about me here and this blog here.


  1. Sarah October 6, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Hey, go you for making decisions for yourself and your writing! It’s definitely easy for the word count to take over the actual quality and enjoyment of writing, I think . . . I’m just doing the YWP this year so I DON’T DIE BECAUSE UGH SCHOOL. ?

    (also scrambling to finish my outline this month help meeee)

    • Madi October 6, 2017 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! Arg, it definitely is haha! BAD SCHOOL. ? Good luck with the YWP!

      (you totally got this! ;))

  2. Danielle October 6, 2017 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Good for you! Honestly, I have never been as prepared for writing as I should have been. I”m still participating, but this time I’m going to lower my word count to something WAY lower. Haha, I still haven’t written down my plot. *sheepish grin* . Good luck on finishing your novel! Also, WHY MUST I WAIT SO INSANELY LONG FOR WARFARE SNIPPETS!!!!!! I must go wail in my pit of despair. XD

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply


      HEHEHEHE! Because… because it takes me an insanely long time to get snippets up. XD Seriously though, I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE EXCITED FOR THEM YOU ARE WAY TOO NICE.

  3. Josie October 6, 2017 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Dang it, I forget to get first. ? Anyway, great post! >:)

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Dang it. ? Thank you. >:)

  4. Olive October 7, 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

    heeeeeey, i LIKED loyalty! it wasn’t terrible! yes, it needed a little work, but allllllllll first drafts need work! (it was also better than some finished books i’ve read, so there)
    also, i posted yesterday, and it includes the photos i tried to email you, and a few more. so you can go see that 🙂
    Most crazily, ~Olive

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:13 am - Reply

      *coughs* A little work? XDD But awww, I’m so glad you liked it. You’re awesome.


  5. Sara ? October 7, 2017 at 8:21 am - Reply

    You are making good decisions Madi. writing and counting at the same time, I would think takes away the joy in writing it? So it’s like whats the point if your not having any fun writing it? So your making a good decision by taking your time and enjoying it, Great post Madi! Keep up the GREAT work! Hopefully I see you sunday, I don’t think I’m going ????? *cries* Have a great, & blessed day Madi!☺

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Haha, thank you sooo much, Sara! 😀

      • Sara October 8, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

        Your welcome, madi?

        • Sara October 8, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

          I am so sad I’m not going to the planet shakers concert tonight with you ????????

  6. Maddie October 7, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Wow, congratulations, Madi ? Honestly, I think that’s awesome that you made that choice. I am doing NaNo this year (it’s my first year) so I’m gonna give it a go. I probably won’t be able to write as much as I’d like though ? But whatever, I’ll just have fun with it. Whatever I get is whatever I get.

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Thanks Maddie! 😀 OOH GOOD LUCK WITH NANO! That’s awesome!

  7. Lydia Dyslin October 7, 2017 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I’m not doing NaNo this year, either. I have no planned project I could work on — the ones I do have planned out are part of a children’s’ series, and they aren’t supposed to be 50k. Besides, I NEVER reach my goals. I’m either too busy or just end up falling behind, and then it gets me discouraged because everyone else is like, “I just reached my goal two weeks in, hahaha!” And I’m like ” . . . How???” XD

    ~Lydia~ <3

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:18 am - Reply

      LOL! It is discouraging when you get behind and people finish super fast. XDD But they probably didn’t start that way, they worked up to it. 😛

  8. Zielle October 7, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    That’s true! I was supposed to do NaNo last year, but I stalled. *groans* And I suck at planning and structuring and ever finishing a book. XD But for people like me, I guess NaNo would be good for me because I’d be timed, and therefore forced to finish my first book. I don’t mind the editing that much, as long as I get the first draft for the whole book. Awesome post, Madi! 🙂

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:19 am - Reply

      I stink at the planning and structuring, too. Mostly ’cause it’s my first time doing it right. XD Helping Writers Become Authors totally helped me with that, maybe it could help you!

      Thank you SO much, Zielle!

  9. Kendall October 8, 2017 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Cool beans! (why are beans cool?)

    I’ve been thinking about doing NaNo for the first time, but I really don’t have time and I’m not ready with any of my story ideas yet, so I’ll just be plotting when I can snatch twenty seconds a week. 🙂

    • Madi October 8, 2017 at 10:19 am - Reply

      (LOL! No idea. XD)

      Ooh, good luck with your plotting! If you are able to do NaNo, I hope you have fun! 😀

  10. From a Doll's Perspective (Anna) October 8, 2017 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Yeah… I might not do it for the same reason. AKA if I get a readable and understandable plot done my parents will try to slow down school, but if not I’LL NEVER EVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME.
    Ahem. Anyway so…. umm… off to work on my barely-started plot! (yikes)

  11. Sara October 8, 2017 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    I am so sad I’m not going to the planet shakers concert tonight with you ????????

    • Madi October 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Me too :'(

      • Sara October 9, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

        I know! But at least I watched it on YouTube LOL! But I wish i was there with you! It must have been AWESOME!

        • Madi October 9, 2017 at 7:48 pm - Reply

          LOL! It was super awesome!

  12. Maryam Vaseer October 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Ahh, I sometimes consider doing NaNo but then I just get caught up and it all seems too much work!

    Okay, what?! I wanted to put an emoji but they’ve somehow just disappeared from my keyboard. However that works.

    • Madi October 10, 2017 at 11:24 am - Reply

      Doesn’t it? It really is a big chunk to get done in a month.

      That’s weird! I hate it when my phone does weird things like that. 😛

  13. Sarah October 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    You’ve got some great points here! Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and I really struggled through and wrote 20,000 words. I probably could have reached the 50K mark, but like you, I don’t want to compromise quality. Having written one dreadful first draft and being left with the task of completely reconstructing it, in hindsight it was kind of a good thing that I lost it when my computer crashed (and I was stupid enough not to back it up), but it forced me to move on and I’ve certainly learnt from it. This year I’ve decided to try NaNoWriMo again, but I’m actually going to continue the novel I started last year (I know you’re supposed to write something new, but :P). I have no idea how it will go this year, but I’m determined to maintain quality even if it means writing less words. 😉

    • Madi October 10, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Thank you! Hey, congrats on a good-quality 20k. Haha, I’ve lost tons of stuff because I was stupid enough to not back it up, too. 😛

      Best of luck with doing NaNoWriMo this year! You’re sure to do great! Thank you for commenting. 😀

  14. ginnie October 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Oh man, I definitely wail in despair while editing! LOL! I wrote a 500 page novel once, and chucked it in a drawer because it’s a piece of junk. LOL! One day I will re-examine it, but for now, it stays in the drawer. 🙂

    When I started writing the Everlasting Trilogy, I thought okay, I’m going to do this differently. I’m still not one hundred percent happy with Book One in the series because I hadn’t grown as much as a writer back then, but that’s okay. Once Book Two and Book Three came along, I was a lot more confident.

    I am now finishing up the editing on Book Three (all three books are over 500 pages. *facepalm* so during editing, I often do the wailing bit as I think to myself, when did this happen? How could I have possibly written so many words!! Agghhh!! LOL!)

    After being so immersed in one story with the same characters for so long though, I am really looking forward to starting something new. I think that I will take your advice, and do the planning first. I think it’s definitely something that gets overlooked. It’s possible to overplan, but you can’t just rush into writing with no idea what’s going to happen.

    I wish you so much luck in your novel writing endeavours!! 🙂

    ginnie / http://www.fakingitmostly.com

    • Madi October 11, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

      LOL, yes! Oh my goodness, wow!

      I’ve definitely noticed growth in my writing skill as I write more and more novels, too! LOL! That’s amazing you can write so many pages!

      Doing the planning first definitely saves you so much heartache and work in the long run!

      Thank you so much!! You, too! Your books sound so amazing!

  15. Daisy October 18, 2017 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    I love NaNo (it really fits my work style :p) But I could see how it might would be not so great for other people. *holds up Coke* TO WRITING.

    • Madi October 20, 2017 at 11:28 am - Reply

      I love NaNo, too! It definitely works for a lot of people, but yeah, not for everyone!

      *clinks your Coke* TO WRITING.

  16. blackiesunshine October 26, 2017 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Hehe, I’m doing nano because I don’t get any real writing done outside of nano. 😛 Something about the deadline and racing makes me go – BAM! Bad draft XD. This year, though, I’m trying to plan out everything first, because reasons, and I’m gonna try and make it cohesive. Because my writing is good but it doesn’t go together in a story because I decide to change something and then don’t go back and fix it earlier. XD I ought to send you my April Nano just to prove that point. It’s soooooooo badddddd! Maybe you’d laugh?
    But hey, you could always set a tiny rewrite goal and be a Nano rebel!

    • Madi October 30, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Hehe! I know a lot of people like that. NaNo is great for forcing you to write. Deadlines seem to help me too. XD

      Ooh, EXACTLY. Hah, you should! I’d love to read it. And it’s probably not as bad as you think! 😉

      Hahaha, true that!

  17. […] I’m actually not doing NaNoWriMo. :'( In just five days, I wanted to be writing Book III. I’VE WAITED SO LONG. AND I’M SO EXCITED FOR IT. […]

  18. […] But my other two reasons for not participating still stand, and I don’t think I can get 3.5k questions answered and still have fun, so… *sniff* I still won’t be doing NaNo this year. […]

  19. Skipper Spirit November 6, 2017 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing with us why you’re not doing NaNo this year. I agree that writing is a gift from God and should be a pleasant experience. For me, I guess the deadlines in NaNo might be a good thing since I struggle to get anything done unless I have a deadline (*cough cough* A deadline to get you moving when it’s like a few days until the deadline and you still have nothing written… *cough cough* -_-). Though I’m not participating this year, it might be fun to try writing a novel within the 30 days. Then there’s still a deadline, but without the stress.

    Can’t wait to read the excerpts from your novel!

    P.S. What is ‘ywp’? I’m new to blogging and have a lot to learn still. ‘=3

    • Madi November 7, 2017 at 6:34 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for following and commenting, Skipper!

      That’s a fabulous point! I know a lot of people who only write during NaNo because of the deadline to motivate them. I’m afraid that never works for me… I’m way too motivated for my own health! Arg. ?

      Thank you so much again, Skipper! So glad you found my blog!

      P.S. It stands for Young Writer’s Program, NaNoWriMo for students or those under 13. Their site is http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ . And ooh, welcome to blogging! Your blog is awesome, I just followed!

      • Skipper Spirit November 11, 2017 at 9:32 pm - Reply

        You’re welcome! Anytime. =)
        Go you for being motivated! I get bored of my stories easily; I don’t have any finished stories under my belt at all. That’s all right though. Eventually I’ll finish something (key word here being something. 😉
        And that you for checking out/following my blog. It really means a lot to me!

        P.S. Thank you also for the YWP link; I checked it out, and it looks amazing! I’ll have to try it out soon.

        • Madi November 12, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

          I used to be the exact same way! I have way more unfinished stories than I do finished ones. I hope you’ll be able to finish something soon! 😉

          You’re so welcome! Your blog is amazing, I followed right away!

          P.S. You’re welcome! It really is awesome.

      • Skipper Spirit December 3, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        You’re welcome!

        By the way, I just checked out the YWP, and am going to ask my parents about it. Thank you for the link!

        • Madi December 5, 2017 at 9:29 pm - Reply

          Ooh, I hope your parents say you can join! And you’re so welcome! 😀

  20. […] mentioned this in Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo: I want the thrill of cranking out that organic perfection to last for more than just a few weeks […]

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