November 2016 is my fourth year participating in National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words in the 30 days of November.
I completed 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMos successfully, but last year’s attempt was abruptly ended on November 7.
Before my first NaNoWriMo I believed I would learn a lot about my writing process from the 30 days of mandatory speed writing. That I did. Whether you buy into the concept of writing an entire novel in 30 days or not, the volume of writing can be good practice. It’s a 30 day project that results in a rough draft, not a finished novel. So please, make sure to edit that thing before publishing it on Kindle.
I’m not going to spend hours of my time persuading you to participate. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’m also not going to spend hours of my time persuading you not to participate. That’s for you to decide for yourself. But I will tell you what I know about it.
Some of the good things about NaNoWriMo:
Learn how to focus on a topic – For the month of November, it’s all about your novel. To accomplish that much writing, you’ll have to make it a priority. Carry a notepad or keep your tablet handy so you can make the most of spare time.
Learn how to meet deadlines – In this case, 50,000 words in 30 days. No excuses accepted and no extensions given. You’ll have to copy and paste the entire text of your NaNoWriMo project into the word counter on the official website by midnight of November 30 to verify and receive some winner’s only goodies from sponsors.
Learn how to procrastinate – There are many categories in the discussion threads just for this purpose. Sometimes when you’re completing a lot of writing in a short period of time, you just need a brain break.
Learn how to support other writers – Those discussion threads again! They have a number of topics for you to shout out things like reaching a word count milestone or when you’re stuck. It’s nice to be able to connect with other writers to receive a pat on the back or a kick in the butt as needed. Though as with any other gathering of people, some are just dicks.
There are plenty of things I don’t like about NaNoWriMo as well. Among those:
It encourages people to wait for November to start writing. We’re writers. We don’t start writing like we start a diet – after the holidays. We start whenever we damn well want to.
It causes an obsession with word counts, which leads to bloated drafts that need extensive editing because of the temptation to add words to pad your word count. Chris Baty actually gives instructions on how to do this in his book, No Plot? No Problem. Stupid thing to do when the goal is quality writing, though if you’re just doing this for fun and have no plans to ever edit or publish, knock yourself out.
Many people drop out because of the one-size-fits-all goal of 50,000 words. I believe it’s more important to write, preferably daily, whether it’s 100 words or 10,000 per day. Writers are all different. The goals that work for me may not work for you. I think some people get behind and figure they won’t be able to reach the goal, so why bother to continue? I hate to see anyone give up on creating something, especially if they’re having fun. To hell with official NaNoWriMo goals, if they don’t suit you.
I hated the pep talks. Most were rambling and unfocused and the worst of those were a way for the writer to brag about having a book published. I will not be reading them this year.
Beware needy writers. You will meet them in the discussion threads. Every sixth word requires TLC from someone else in order for them to go on to the next. I’m all for encouraging and supporting other writers, but there are some who will suck up all of your valuable writing time with their project angst.
Here’s hoping this year’s NaNoWriMo goes according to plan!
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