NaNoWriMo, yes or no?

I have never officially participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. I did once write much of a novel between mid-October and mid-November, but not with any of the word count targets or social media fun. I am weighing doing it this year, but there are arguments for and against.

For: I can. I know that with any book, the hardest part is cranking out the first draft. It is much more pleasant and easy for me to turn something into something decent than to create the something in the first place. A stunt like NaNoWriMo forces you to get things down, rather than worrying about quality. Quantity can become quality later. November might be rough, but I will be thanking myself, as a writer, come December 1st.

The timing is also good. The baby comes in January, and while I can edit with a newborn, cranking out drafts is harder. My novel, The Cortlandt Boys, is in the process of e-book production (with a likely December pub date!) and Their Own Sweet Time (that’s the Amazon pre-order page!) comes out in May or June. It’s moving into the copy-editing/production phase as well. I still have another 2 rounds of edits to go on it, but they won’t be major at this point. So if I want to write another novel to play around with, then November would be a good time.

I also like the accountability aspect. It’s fun to be part of a writing group, and 400,000 writers (including a number of readers of this blog) will be participating. I can write a novel on my own, but I wouldn’t mind the social support.

Against: I’m busy. September and October have kind of kicked my butt. Granted, that’s because of the books mentioned, above, which are mostly done at this point. But I still have plenty of other projects going on. I keep a running file labeled with its starting date in which I have notes, rough drafts, etc. As of October 20 as I’m writing this, the file labeled October 5 has 25,000 words in it. In 15 days, I’ve done half of the NaNoWriMo equivalent, meaning I probably hit 50,000 words/month already. And that doesn’t even count the edits I make in projects with their own files (books, etc.)

I also don’t have a great novel idea. Oh, I know the book on NaNoWriMo is called No Plot, No Problem. I can figure it out as I go or I can figure it out in the days before November 1st. Nonetheless if I don’t have a story I’m dying to tell, this is going to make the whole thing tougher.

We will see what I wind up deciding! 

14 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo, yes or no?

  1. I suppose you can always start and then drop the project if you don’t feel like it’s working out right now. I love the *idea* of doing NaNoWriMo but – much like running another marathon – I just don’t see it happening in the next few years.

    1. @Chelsea – true, I could start and quit. I just hate doing that. I have quit things, many things, in life, but it tends to make me feel like a failure. And I am not sure I want to add a feeling of failure into things right now.

  2. I’ve done it one and a half times. 🙂 I finished a November one in 2012, and this year I tried to do Camp NaNo in July, but only got to about 20,000 words – mostly due to lack of motivation to keep it up.

    To hit 50,000, you only need to write about 1,700 words a day, which doesn’t really take that long. It usually took between 1–1.5 hours for me, and I think that’s an average speed.

    With the novel draft that I finished, I wasted the first half of the month putting writing off and ended up with a big word debt for the second half. I was determined to finish, though, so I made a plan for how many words I needed to crank out a day, and then used a version of a pomodoro technique to power through it. I did 30 min, 5 min break, 30 min, 15 min break, and repeated that at least once, more on the weekend. This July, I used the same technique and stayed on top of the wordcount. But then I just started missing my regular life and wasn’t attached enough to the novel that I dropped it.

    You could plan to write more on the weekends, which will make the weekday word counts even more manageable. I like your reasoning on why now would be a good time, so… go for it? My hesitant advice. 🙂

    1. @Meri – Good for you for finishing. And I wasn’t sure what Camp NaNoWriMo was, but that makes sense. A lot of people have more time/space in the summer for this sort of thing. I think it would not take me too long to write 1700 words a day. I bet I could do it in an hour. We shall see – I hope to make a decision this week!

  3. I think it would be really hard to do if you had nothing you WANTED to write. The talk about word count and words per day makes me tired just hearing about it – it sounds like a long, boring slog, rather than a motivating technique to get something you care deeply about onto paper. What if you worked on your next non-fiction book instead (assuming there is one), if you didn’t have novel ideas?

    I’m firmly in the camp of “if I do something this BIG, it damn well better be FUN”.

    1. I’m planning on participating this year and staying away from all the word-count fervor. Not very inspiring. I’m not into turning things into silly competitions and deciding that I’ve “failed” if I don’t meet some arbitrary goal. Goals are good if they motivate you. Goals are not good if they prevent you from even starting because you might not meet it.

      1. YES! I totally agree with this. It’s probably a personality thing, too. I’m just not competitive, and in general am fairly self-motivated (when I care about something). Having a bunch of other people do it doesn’t always help me.

  4. I’ve tried multiple years and only succeeded once. As someone who does not have writing as my main career, some years it is the only time of year I can force myself to make the time to write on a regular schedule.

    There are two camps of those that write during NaNoWriMo – those that plan and those that do not. I am a non-planner and just go wherever the story takes me. I really just let go and worry later about whether or not it is any good.

    1. @Cheryl – I think this is part of my hesitation. I gave up writing in a journal because I was already writing too much. Whereas at other points in my life it was a great outlet.

  5. You know how they say creativity is a muscle you have to exercise regularly? That is the value of NaNoWriMo. By publicly stating your intentions, you are “forced” to do something you want to do.

    I write every single day, just not novels — so I have found value in it. However, if you already NaNoWriMo regularly, then this is not an event for you.

    Not having a plot shouldn’t stop you: I spent the first three days in 2012 writing the beginnings of three different stories until I settled on one. It was a nice reminder that (a) I have LOTS of good ideas and (2) one captivated me enough to write a novel-length manuscript for it.

    For the record, I’m still deciding myself. The last six months have been awfully stressful, and the idea of making myself stressed for “fun” troubles me. Yet I may NaNoWriMo this year because writing for fun reminds me that it can be fun, not just work.

    If you choose to do it, you’ll have plenty of company, and that alone is reason to join the fray.

    Let us know what you decide to do!

    1. @Chris Fow Cohen – I suppose I could start a few different ideas or character sketches and see which most appeals to me. I don’t have a good sense now but I bet if I sat down and thought about it something would come to me!

  6. I’ve enjoyed Nano most when it’s helped me connect with other writers, particularly after I’ve moved to a new community. November is an odd month, always busy for me – so Nano also helps me set my priorities for what really matters (as opposed to getting my Christmas cards out by Dec 1st, which really doesn’t).

  7. I did it 2 years ago and finished. But I still haven’t polished that one. So I didn’t do it the following year because I didn’t want to have them stacking up, like a bunch of stalled cars.

    But I want to do it again this year because I have something I want to write about. It’s a short story that people have told me should be a novel–and I agree, but I never had the wherewithal to address it. I feel like I want to address it, that maybe it’s now or never.

    I think your last sentence is rather telling: “if I don’t have a story I’m dying to tell, this is going to make the whole thing tougher.”

    I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have a novel asking to get out.

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