Books · Writing

Redefining NaNoWriMo

As book lovers, writers, and bloggers, I am sure that most of you have heard of NaNoWriMo by now. (For the noobs: NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.”) The last few years I toyed with the idea of jumping on the NaNo bandwagon, but always dismissed it as not being my thing. As November approached this year and NaNo fervor began popping up all over the blogisphere, I began asking myself “Why isn’t it your thing?” I’m a writer. I wrote an entire novel last year and am currently working on the second one. How is a month celebrating book writing not my thing?

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This year I decided to give it a shot. I know for some the premise is to start a new project, but considering that I’m still in the early stages of book two, I figured just focusing on that would be enough. Well…as of today we’re halfway through November and I feel like an update is necessary.

NaNoWriMo: The Bad

By the beginning of week two I started remembering all the things that turned me off from NaNo in the past. Blogs, podcasts, and Twitter are rampant with talk of progress – specifically fixating on word count. According to the NaNo gods, everyone participating should be aiming to write at least 50,000 words (basically the entire draft of a novel) in one month. That’s 1,500- 2,000 words a day. No excuses. It doesn’t matter the quality or how good it is, you just put the words down anyway. You can delete it all later and start over if you have to. Just get the words down so you can brag about how many you wrote.

Obviously I’m exaggerating a teeny bit, but this is honestly what in hear when I listen to a lot of people talk about NaNo. It feels like the focus is on the word count, not the content itself or the process of writing a novel. Personally, I find it hard to wrap my head around this one. If I’m going to invest a good chunk of my time working on something, I want to put out something with a little more thought and quality. I know myself well enough to know that if I squeeze 50,000 words out in a month, most of it is going to be dribble. Maybe some people can use that dribble later and turn it into something fabulous, but for me it almost feels like I am just pushing myself to reach an arbitrary number. I like to take my time to do things that are important to me. I like to think, then overthink, then plan, then overthink again, then carefully pen things out. That’s just how the process works for me.

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Another thing that irks me about NaNo is the fact that you’re expected to have enough time to pump out an entire draft in a month. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but having a full-time job (that isn’t writing) takes up the majority of my day. Then there are those other pesky things that get in the way: cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids/animals, reading/other hobbies, exercise, personal hygiene, sleep, etc. Some days it seems virtually impossible to sit down and squeeze out more than a few hundred words, if any. I suppose if your lifestyle gives you more free time this might not be a problem, but for me time is the biggest limiting factor when it comes to writing.

NaNoWriMo: The Good

I’m sure it seems like I’m bashing NaNoWriMo, but I promise you I’m not. I love the concept of writers all over the world supporting each other and mutually making an effort to write new novels. It’s a terrific thing. The gripes I have lie mostly within the pressure surrounding word count and the notion that you’ve basically “failed” if you didn’t write an entire draft. After a week of pushing myself and realizing that NaNo just isn’t my style I decided that I wasn’t going to completely abandon ship. Instead, I’ve been using NaNo as an excuse to push myself a little harder than I normally would. Some evenings that means writing for 30 minutes when I would normally say “eh, I’m too tired.” It might mean writing some lines or ideas down on my lunch break when I’d normally be reading or messing around on my phone. It might mean forcing myself to edit something I’ve been putting off or writing a short story set in the world of my novel. At the end of the month, I most certainly won’t have finished my second book but I will have done a lot more work than I normally would have, which is awesome.

To those of you doing NaNoWriMo and are diving hardcore into it: Great! Good for you! I hope something comes from all your endeavors, even if it’s only personal satisfaction.

To those who think they’re failing at NaNo or were too intimidated to even try: YOU CAN DO IT. Don’t let others’ goals, accomplishments, or word counts deter you. Get whatever you can out of it, regardless of what it looks like. YOU GOT THIS.

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What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo? Are you participating this year?

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