Should You Do NaNoWriMo?

Aaaaand I’m back to my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule! Thanks for your patience during the downtime…

It’s that time of year again. Excited chatter is building across the Internet, preparations are being made, supplies are being bought. Yes, National Novel Writing Month is coming up.

You’ve probably heard of it, even if you haven’t participated. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November — 1,667 words a day. To support this goal, participants are encouraged to go to local in-person meet-ups or hang out on the website’s forums. The prize for finishing? A certificate and bragging rights — nothing more, nothing less.

But how do you know if NaNoWriMo is for you?

You might find NaNo to be helpful if you’re a writer and…

1. You want a kick in the pants to write more. NaNo can be extremely motivating, especially if you participate in the community aspect. There’s just something about knowing that thousands of other people are striving for the same goal — a magical writing energy. Something about NaNo enables writing time to appear out of nowhere. And if you don’t normally write at NaNo speeds, you might find yourself more connected to your novel.

2. You’re struggling with self-criticism (aka the Inner Editor). During NaNo, there’s no time to polish every line to perfection or question every plot point. If this strikes terror into your heart, don’t worry — you’re allowed to plan out your novel ahead of time, as long as you don’t actually start writing. You can also correct typos — just don’t get hung up on finding the perfect phrase. Learning to write through the Inner Editor can be incredibly freeing…and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be writing crap, either.

3. You’re struggling with motivation and burn-out. NaNo is a great time to experiment with a fresh idea or a new genre or technique. After all, it’s only a month, and you can get back to your real writing after it’s over. But you might just find yourself rejuvenated by trying something new.

You might also enjoy NaNo if you’ve never tried to write a novel and…

4. You’re afraid to take the next step. NaNo can be very freeing. It forces you to write without looking back. At the end of the month, you might have a mess, but you’ll still have raw material to work with. After all, you can’t edit a blank page. (Full disclosure: This was me in 2005. I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since, and I haven’t looked back.)

5. You’ve always wanted to write but can’t find the time or motivation. NaNo forces you to find the time. You might be surprised how many spare hours are hiding in your week. 1,667 words a day is an hour and a half to two hours a day, depending on how fast you write — and there’s nothing to say you can’t write more on the weekends, for example, if that’s when you have more free time. NaNo proves that writing a novel is doable.

6. You’re looking for a community of writers to cheer you on. NaNoers are very supportive. They tend to skew young, but if you’re on the older side and are a little persistent, you can still find plenty of new friends on the forums or at your local NaNo events.

You might not want to do NaNo if…

7. You already write at NaNo speeds or more. If that’s the case, you might still enjoy the community aspect, but you won’t get the rush of a special month when you do what you don’t normally do.

8. You already know that NaNo doesn’t fit your writing method. Maybe your natural writing speed is slower, or you edit extensively during your first drafts. If you’re comfortable with your method and you know NaNo isn’t a good fit, more power to you!

9. You just can’t fit it into your life. If your life is crazy right now, don’t push it. NaNo is great, but other things can be more important — your mental health, schoolwork, family, work, and so on. Maybe next year there will be space for a month that’s all about writing.

If you’re still not sure, why not modify the challenge? Here’s a post I wrote last year: 5 Ways to Make NaNoWriMo Work For You.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not?


23 responses to “Should You Do NaNoWriMo?

  1. AAAHHhhh…I can’t decide. I pushed hard (!) to finish a project last month, and now I’m re-working something that I’ll be pitching at a conference at the end of the month. I do have a couple outlines to play with, but NaNo? I just don’t know. I might try NaNo-light – start and finish a novella, and if it’s only 20k words, go me!

  2. That’s a tough one, Liv. On the one hand, it can be difficult listening to everyone else counting up to 50K while you’re shooting for a smaller goal (I did that one year). On the other hand, a 20K novella would be 20K you didn’t have on October 31, and you still get to ride the wave of everyone else’s energy! (Oh, and good luck with the pitch…)

  3. I was resigned to not NaNoing this year, since I’ll be editing. But then my (admired from afar) ML moved on, and the new ones are doing a SUPERHERO THEME. I wanna be an Avenger SO BAD!

    Damn them. >_>

  4. This was a great post describing the benefits of giving NaNo a try! I totally agree with every point you made. I’m in that pre-NaNo space right now of flip flopping between total excitement and total dread. Heh.

  5. I’ve never done it, but am pondeirng it this year. I confess the pace terrifies me. It takes me considerably longer than 1.5 – 2 hours to write 1700 words, although I’m working on this — and hence am tempted by NaNo as a means of forcing myself to try the technique. Totally on the fence at the moment. (If I did it, I’d continue on with the novel I’m already working on, which has way more than 50K left in it.)

  6. I never do NanoWri — I have huge issues with word count. If I write to meet a daily word count, I end focusing on getting the word count and not on making the writing good.

    Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

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  9. NANOWRIMO has helped me in the past. This year I’m declining to add the stress to my life.

  10. NaNo helped me write my first novel, way back when. Since that time, I’ve not needed it. Plus, November’s a pretty busy time of the year!

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  12. For me, NaNoWriMo is like when I used to try to read through the Bible according to a published schedule someone else made up. My A-type personality concentrated on hitting the daily deadlines rather than absorbing the subject matter. Pretty soon, I’m studying my nail polish even as my eyes “read” the lines.

    Besides *sigh* my inner editor is prone to red-nosed crying fits when I don’t let her correct my words as they fall from my brain to my fingers and onto the computer screen. She’s such a big baby!

  13. In the summer a lot of people modify the goals (for Camp NaNo). I just love it, and it perfectly fits my style as a “project” person. This year my 20 year old daughter is doing it, too – let the games begin!

  14. Thanks for all the great comments, guys! Sounds like most of you have a clear idea of how NaNo fits — or doesn’t fit — into your writing lives.

    Ellen, if this would be your first year doing NaNo, I don’t recommend using a novel in progress. I speak from experience — I did that one year and it really slowed me down. I couldn’t muster up the “wild abandon” necessary to get the high word count NaNo demands.

    I do recommend trying it as a way to learn to write faster, though! Even if you go back to more moderate speeds afterwards, you’ll likely learn something helpful to your process.

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  19. I’m doing it for the first time as a self-administered kick in the ass to my prissy, uptight, procrastinating inner editor. Now all I’ve got to do is decide which story to roll with…Eeek!

  20. Scarlet, that’s one of the very best reasons to do NaNo, in my opinion. Good luck and keep me posted!

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