NaNoWriMo: A Writer’s Perspective

It’s November 15th. Yes, I know… thank you, Captain Obvious… but I say that for a reason: It’s November. We’re nearly half-way into that lovely Writing Nightmare known as NaNoWriMo. Don’t know what it is? Click the link back there and the website will tell you all about the organization that hosts it, the event, the philosophy, and the craziness surrounding it. Want the Reader’s Digest version? It’s an event sponsored by a non-profit organization that encourages people to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for five consecutive years. I even “won” two of them. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with NaNo which ultimately stems from my published work.

There are pros and cons to this.

Let’s start with the pros. I polled my writer friends on Facebook awhile back, and I got some fabulous answers. Here are a few of the positive opinions I received:

Rie Sheridan Rose: “I love it because it gives me a deadline to stick to. I don’t always finish, but I have three finished novels and a first draft from NaNo, two of those finished ones published. I try every year since I started in 2003, but I don’t feel pressured to make 50k words if something happens in November. I think it is a great tool, and a good discipline builder, even if I’m not particularly disciplined.”

Lucy Blue: “I have to say, it’s a powerful motivator. I’m a very lazy writer; my usual pace is about a chapter a week. So far with NaNo, I’m averaging about a chapter a day.”

Vicki Locey: “I love it. It teaches discipline big time. Once you`re disciplined it`s amazing how much writing you can get done.”

Chris Garrison: “I love it for the deadline to keep me focused, and the focus to keep the novel in my head every day. That momentum is what makes it possible, and lends a breathless intensity to the resulting books. I love the reckless abandon of writing now, knowing I’ll have time to fix it later.”

Amber Kallyn: “I think it’s great to get people in the habit of writing, which can be used the rest of the year. Plus, it’s a fun community writing event.”

Helen Davis: “I’m just having fun with it. And joining the National Bandwagon means that my family and friends actually respect the time I spend on it. “I didn’t mop the floor because it was a NaNo catchup day flies a lot better than the truth “I was lazy and just wanted to play.””

Ali Justice: “You know I fully support NaNo, I have been doing NaNo for 3 years now, the first year I failed misarably the second I wrote the 50,000 words and loved every minute of it. It’s not all about Winning and losing though. Its about getting to know other writers, newer people finding out that they love writing, it’s about coming together as a writing community and thriving. It doesn’t matter if you write 50,000 words or 10 words. It’s just an outlet and I think it’s a great one!”

Now, my positive opinion:  The idea of NaNo is a great way for fledgling writers to learn the process of writing a book. It teaches consistency and determination. It gives new authors a support system and a feeling of belonging. It comes with its own cheering section and forums to discuss the process among like-minded people.

The key here is discipline. Any self-respecting writer knows consistency and discipline are what we need to get to the end of a manuscript.

As a general rule of thumb, I try to write 1,000 words a day. To accomplish NaNo at a reasonable pace, one must only write 1,667 words a day. There isn’t a big difference between the numbers, but in terms of writing a book, that additional 670 words is enough to cause serious damage. On a good day, I can write as much as 5,000 words. That’s a huge accomplishment for me.

Unfortunately, now that I’m an actual working writer, that’s where my love affair with NaNo stops.

The last few years have been hell on wheels for me in a personal sense. I know that doesn’t have f***-all to do with my professional front and the need to push out word counts and secure book contracts. It’s an excuse, but unfortunately it’s an unavoidable one. The majority of 2015 has been spent staring at a blank page, unable to think of a single interesting thing to write. This year, I have finished two short stories. That’s it. Two. We’re talking about less than 20,000 words of marketable material. And the idea of subjecting myself to the breakneck pace of NaNo for the sake of winning a badge to display on my Facebook wall makes me physically ill. I’m talking serious panic attack material here.

The pressure to finish can be constricting. For someone as competitive as me, it’s crippling. I’m the type who typically doesn’t want to start something I know I won’t finish, and the idea of strapping on a hefty word count every single day knowing my personal state of mind scares the Bejesus out of me.

You see, I don’t believe in writing for quantity. I believe in making each word committed to paper count. That’s not to say I don’t go back and delete whole sentences or paragraphs or sometimes even chapters. What that means is I don’t believe in writing words simply for the sake of padding a word count. When I write, I edit as I go. I think about what I’m writing. As an author, I’ve learned to self-edit as I go and make sure I’m really saying what I want to say as I put words on paper. I’m a relatively slow writer, but I’m okay with that. I’m writing for the love of the words, not the length of the book.

I even considered trying NaNo again this year just to get myself back into the habit of writing all the time, but the idea of physically signing up and showing the world that I’m doomed to failure made me stop dead in my tracks and walk away. I do, after all, have a newborn child and a three-year-old to contend with, and getting any sort of legitimate word count with my little girls around ain’t easy, folks.

So when it comes down to it… if you’re a NaNo fan and participant, great show and I wish you the best of luck for the remaining 15 days of this nutty month. For those of you like me… look me up and let’s talk. Perhaps we can find a better way to motivate ourselves and each other without fear of psychiatric committal.


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