9 Misconceptions about NaNoWriMo

I love NaNoWriMo.

Let’s just be clear here, in case I haven’t laid it on thick enough. I think NaNoWriMo is a fantastic event for writers of all ages, abilities and goals. When I first discovered it I fell head over heels, and even though I’ve only won twice in the last decade, I continue to sing its praises and encourage any fellow authors I know to participate.

Which is why it always boggles my mind when they don’t want to!

I know that trying new things can be totally frightening to people, trust me, I absolutely relate! But don’t be frightened little bunnies, because NaNoWriMo might possibly be one of the most UN-scary things a writer can do! So I’m here to set the record straight on some of the misconceptions I’ve seen floating around about this great, writerly event. Trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to wish you had joined in sooner.

9 Misconceptions about NaNoWriMo

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1. I have to compete against other people

False! NaNoWriMo is a competition only against yourself! While thousands around the world compete beside you, they are not pitted against you. Instead, you’re all on the same team! Don’t be intimidated by other authors, we’re all in the exact same boat and no one wants you to drown.

2. I can’t write fanfiction/poems/short stories/etc.

False! While the traditional goal of NaNoWriMo is geared toward completing the first draft of a fiction novel, the true spirit of the event is simply to WRITE! Everyone will encourage and help you as best as they possibly can. NaNoWriMo has room for any type of written word-whether it be non-fiction, fanfiction, memoirs, essays, or anything else you can think of!

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3. I have to be a professional writer

False! NaNoWriMo is for ALL levels of writers! Whether this is your first book, you’re twentieth book or your thousandth book, you are welcome with open arms. And don’t for a second think you have to aim for publication either! Write for your friends. Write for your spouse. Write for yourself. There’s absolutely no rule that you have to aim for publication if you don’t want to.

3. I have to write a good story

False! This is a HUGE pressure I constantly see writers put upon themselves, and it’s absolutely terrifying!  There are so many versions of this too:

“My writing isn’t good enough.”

“My plot is weak.”

“My characters aren’t fleshed out.”

“There are too many mistakes.”

But honestly? First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect. And that’s exactly what you’re writing-a first draft! Absolutely NO ONE is going to look at your novel if you don’t want them to. This draft is for you, and there’s no rule against going back later and cleaning it up a bit. Cut yourself some slack. The road to perfection is messy and long, mistakes are part of the journey! Don’t be afraid of making them, and don’t let fear be the thing that stops you from even trying in the first place. 

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6. I have to use a computer/fancy software

False! Sure, lots of writers have a fondness for particular programs or tools like Scrivener or moleskine journals to help them write, but they are in no way a necessity! You don’t have to invest a single penny into this venture if you don’t want to. And if you can’t write on a computer? Good old fashioned pens and papers are perfectly acceptable. NaNoWriMo is all inclusive and has no entry fees whatsoever.

5. I can’t continue an old novel

False! In the beginning NaNo was all about starting a new novel, but just like in real life, there have always been rebels! Folks who wanted to continue an already established work-in-progress have always been around and included in the festivities, and nowadays they’re more common than ever. So don’t feel pressured to drop what you’re doing and start something new. Just keep pushing on with what you already have, and if you’re novel is over before you hit 50k? Start a second novel!

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7. I’m too old/young/inexperienced/etc.

False! NaNoWriMo is for everyone! I honestly can’t say this enough! It’s impossible to be too old, young, poor, inexperienced, whatever! I can guarantee you that the community will be happy to have you and every unique thought you have to contribute. NaNoWriMo bars no one from entry, and the great thing about the community is it’s desire to learn and teach! If you need help then don’t be afraid to ask, and you might be surprised how much you have to offer to other writers in return.

8. Other writers will judge me if I don’t win

False! The NaNoWriMo community is quite possibly one of the most welcoming I have ever been a part of. People join in from all walks of life, and we share an understanding that sometimes writing just can’t be top priority. You will always be encouraged to do your best, but never at the sake of your mental, emotional and physical health or your other life responsibilities. The only thing other writers want from you is to write and be happy! If that means writing a bit less than others, then that’s perfectly valid too.

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9. I’m going to have to outline or write like everyone else

False! NaNoWriMo has a HUGE section of the community devoted to simply writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (or “Pantsers” as they have grown to be lovingly called). Some writers don’t even have a clue as to what they’re going to write about until they sit down in front of a computer on November 1st! Ultimately, NaNoWriMo has space for all types of writers, whether it’s deep, complex outlines, figuring it out as you go, or something in between. Don’t let NaNoWriMo control you, you’re the one behind the keyboard!

So what do you think, are you ready to join me and my fellow bunnies in the crazy adventure that awaits us in November? Have you been fooled by some of these misconceptions before? Ultimately of course, the choice if yours. If you truly do not feel that NaNoWriMo is the right for you, then don’t feel pressured to participate. But if it’s fear holding you back, maybe it’s time to get to know the community a little better. You’ll likely find it’s a lot friendlier than you think!

What myths and misconceptions do you see floating around about NaNoWriMo? Were you afraid to join the first time too? 

16 Comments

  1. What a wonderful post! This will be my first time participating in NaNo and I haven’t written much before so I’m pretty much a newbie! I’m super nervous about it but I also know that I shouldn’t pressure myself as this is supposed to be FUN 🙂 I definitely won’t be aiming for 50k lol I just want to WRITE and see what happens!

    1. Author

      I’m glad you liked it! And OMG your first NaNo is going to be SOOO exciting! Yes! Definitely go into it with the goal of having fun, that’s what it’s truly all about!! I’m certain you’ll do fantastic and hopefully it will be the first of many more NaNo’s to come 🙂

  2. This is a great post, and so very true! NaNo is crazy but such an awesome community, and I always enjoy myself whenever I participate. 😀

    1. Author

      Thank you!! Yes, the NaNo community is so helpful and kind I encourage people to join JUST for that! We’re all in it together and got each other’s backs 😉

  3. Yay I love this post! And I LOVE NANO!! This will be my 4th year and Im’ pretty excited. 😀 Writing fast isn’t a problem for me, but I was freaked the first time with the pressure. Like what if my book didn’t work and everyone else was having a good time and I was just??? Blocked. :O But I think if we just chill out on the pressure and just ENJOY writing and the community, it’s totally fun instead. I also really just like knowing that tons of writers are hacking away at words at the same time as me.😂

    1. Author

      Haha, I’m glad even someone who can write a zillion books a year can still be freaked out by NaNo like the rest of us mere mortals 😉 But NaNo is just so exhilarating it’s next to impossible not to get swept up in it! I hope to encourage more writers to join, because like you said, it’s about the JOY OF WRITING! Forget winning, just write! Be free my little bunnies!

  4. The first time I did NaNoWriMo in 2010, I decided “sure, why not?” on October 31st at about 11pm. Talking about pantsing and super last minute at that! However, that novel turned out really well and it’s the only one I’ve written more than one draft for.

    My biggest issue is my win streak. I have always won. But, for me, winning is 50k+ AND finishing the story. And I’m weird and stubborn and don’t like entering if I know I’m going to fail (sad, right?). My job this time of year doubles in busy-ness and I end up doing crazy overtime and don’t end up SLEEPING let alone writing. 🙁 That said, I like to sometimes write alongside, no pressure. I really like Camp NaNoWriMo for that and its flexible goals!

    All that said, I TOTALLY AGREE that NaNo is AMAZING and I recommend it to SO MANY people. I think it’s a great community event and writing exercise and definitely get involved in the forums and make friends and have fun!

    1. Author

      Holy smokes, I don’t think my brain could handle tackling something like 50k without a game plan first! I’m in awe that you finished it! But it’s probably because NaNo IS so infectious! I feel like even the Camps are starting to pick up speed and attention, and I always feel sad if I don’t participate so I try my best…even if I have to give myself something like a 10k goal.

      Hopefully this year won’t be too overwhelming for you 🙂 Don’t forget to take care of yourself!! Best of luck!!!

  5. I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo yet, but I do love reading about other people joining in and I loved your post as well! Who knowe, maybe someday I’ll hype myself up enough to join too 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you so much! I know I’m getting a little carried away since I have a ton of posts dedicated to NaNo I want to write, but I have to pace myself. If you ever do decide to join in the fun, I’ll be your very first cheerleader!! 🙂

  6. Love this post! This will be my 7th year doing NaNo (5 wins) and I couldn’t agree more with everything you said!

    1. Author

      Wow, 5 wins? That’s amazing! Hopefully this is another win year for you (but even if not, I still hope you have tons of fun 😉 )!

  7. What a lovely and encouraging post! I’m joining for the first time this year. You should probably add something encouraging for participants who joined against their better judgement – because they already have a 100-page thesis to write – and are now wondering how they’re going to accomplish 50’000 words. But as you said, it’s ok if Nanoers don’t meet their goal, which is good to hear 🙂

    1. Author

      I’m glad you liked it! And yes, it’s ALL about having fun! I definitely need to remind people of that more! Omg, your November sounds totally crazy, but I’m cheering you on 🙂 You can do it! Dive right in and don’t look back!

  8. I love that you wrote this! I have heard so many people wanting to join NaNo say they couldn’t because they didn’t have the time/etc to start a new novel, say they are too old/young, and so many of these points! I can’t count the amount of times I have had to explain that there are absolutely no requirements for NaNo, and it’s a shame to miss out on such an amazing experience!!
    My first ever NaNo two years ago was a pantser! I quickly learned that method wasn’t for me, but I never would have learned that otherwise!

    1. Author

      I’m glad you like it! I totally agree, I know so many people who don’t want to join because they legitimately believe their work will be judged and that it needs to be edited and in tip-top shape! I don’t know where these ideas even come from! Hopefully we can spread the NaNo love! 🙂
      I’m totally with you, pantsing is NOT for me! Give me outlines and bullet-point lists!!

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