nanowrimo · writing

The Merits of the Nano Draft

National Novel Writing Month begins very soon and I’m here to remind you why the gorgeous garbage Nano draft is worth all this effort.

Ask anyone who had the courage to go back and read their nano drafts and they’ll tell you: that stuff is rough. In fact, I consider my nano draft, the draft before the actual rough draft.

For the new and disheartened and the experienced and disheartened, you’re probably wondering: “If the draft made from Nanowrimo is always so terrible, why bother with a nano draft at all? Why bother with Nanowrimo?” There are plenty of reasons, many of which I’ve probably never heard of, but I’m gonna try and name a few here.

  • It exists
    It’s more than you would have written otherwise, and that’s a nice feeling, garbage or not.


  • Nowhere to go but up
    Lots of people are intimidated by the editing process, where to start, or just how to effectively edit in general. With a nano draft, many may find it a lot less harrowing because heck, starting from anywhere will create some kind of improvement.


  • Help connect the dots
    Got a cool idea but no idea how to get from A-Z or B-G or just L-M? Something about sitting down and saying ‘screw it I just need 1100 more words today’ can help make some of those dots magically connect. On that note,


  • It’s the dirt the seed grows in
    As someone who’s first Nano win came from an idea they got 3 days before start of Nano, sometimes that Nano draft is the best type of early development (ever had two people become one person, one person become two people, and have three people’s names and ages change at least twice? All throughout a single draft? I have and the outline for the draft after that is all the stronger for it).


  • It’s fun
    Nanowrimo focuses a great deal on quantity over quality, so when you sit down and turn off your inner editor for the most part, you can just enjoy the act of writing.


Remember, it’s a novel DRAFT not the finished novel, so it’s allowed to suck as much as it wants. So let your Nano draft be the garbage it’s meant to be. After all, compost helps gardens grow.

nanowrimo · writing

Nanowrimo: Winning isn’t Everything

Nanowrimo is once again upon us!

For the uninitiated, Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, people all over the world, amateur and professional alike, will attempt to write the first draft of a novel, 50,000 words or more. There are lots of great articles and posts talking about how amazing Nanowrimo is and how it’s a great experience and how you should definitely participate.

And technically, this post is one of them. I say technically because Nanowrimo IS great and an amazing experience and I’m gonna spend this article telling you some good reasons why you should participate. But before I get to that, you need to know, there’s a good chance you might lose Nanowrimo. The majority of the people who participate in Nanowrimo don’t win. I’ve been participating in Nano since 2011 and have only won twice in that time.

But I don’t regret the years I lost because every year I’ve participated has taught me so much about myself as a writer and my own patterns of productivity.

And that’s my main argument here, if you think you can’t win it, winning isn’t everything. Nanowrimo offers a very unique experience, a month long experiment in becoming a productivity factory, complete with cheerleaders from around the world.

What’s effective?
What’s a hindrance?
What’s impossible?
What’s surprisingly easy?

You may not know now but you’ll know a lot of that after Nano.

For me, I learned that 50,000 words in a month is possible for me. I also learned that 50,000 words in a month is only possible for me during Nano.

I learned that my Nano draft is always semi-incoherent garbage (ask some Nanowrimo participants and many of them will tell you the same). In fact, my nano draft is so horrible, I created a whole draft tier before the rough draft for it, the ‘Nano draft’.

I learned I like to write lying down.

I learned that I am most productive when I have a familiar visual distraction on TV (Bob’s Burgers has become a standard).

I learned that a significant amount of productivity advice does NOT work for me.

I learned I REALLY like tea parlors (shout out to Tipple+Rose).

I learned the energy from a strong and positive creative space is enough to keep me motivated for months.
That’s what’s great about Nanowrimo, it doesn’t cost anything (though you can donate to the organization that runs it), and though the prizes are great, the world won’t stop if you lose.

And though you’re surrounded by lots of support, Nanowrimo is very much an individual affair. Even within the given guidelines there’s a lot of room to use Nano to actively pursue your own writing experimentation. You can use Nano as a different writing exercise each year.

Maybe you want to try meticulously planning your book and see how that works for you. Maybe you want to just start with an idea and see where writing by the seat of your pants takes you. Maybe you want to try a 50k free write?

Nanowrimo is a wonderful event and a great opportunity to surround yourself with other creatives who want to attempt something as ridiculous and difficult as writing a novel in a month.

Win or lose, I suggest you join them.