We’re about half-way through National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, and every year there are more and more participants and more and more hype until you can’t seem to escape people talking about NaNoWriMo. At least, not if you’re a writer.
Personally, I don’t participate. Never have, and, to be frank, probably never will.
So, how does NaNoWriMo work? It’s easy.
Write 50,000 words in the month of November.
And there ya go.
NaNoWriMo is actually a pretty cool idea, and I’m impressed with how well it’s taken off. It’s an excellent way for the writing community to share what they’re writing, how much they’re writing, and give each other encouragement and advice. Even people who may normally struggle to find the motivation to write tend to get pretty pumped up about participating in NaNoWriMo, and sometimes that little extra enthusiasm can help them get past a bad stint of writer’s block.
I used to be in the makeup community (for those who are not aware, there’s a huge online community for people who like makeup and even use it artistically). And in the makeup community, we used to do little personal challenges. Things like “Project 10 Pan,” where we wouldn’t be allowed to buy any new makeup until we completely emptied at least 10 products, or “Shop Your Stash,” which required you to wear everything you own at least once within a certain time-frame before buying anything new. There were no prizes per se and no reason to do them except to challenge oneself and share one’s progress within the makeup community, which was usually pretty supportive. Many would get inspired and do the challenges for themselves after seeing others participate. It brought the community together and encouraged people to be more mindful of their purchases.
NaNoWriMo is a similar personal challenge. Can you write 50,000 words in a month? Have you ever tried? Maybe you can try it with others who are also taking the challenge.
But, NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone.
Some people simply don’t have that kind of time to write, even if they would like to participate. Some people are naturally very slow writers or people who need to edit as they go. Some people suffer from anxiety and get very easily discouraged or stressed, especially if they feel like they’re falling short of their NaNo goals and time is running out. Every year, towards the end of November, I start seeing Tweets, posts, and YouTube videos from stressed writers who are either tapping out or are emotionally distraught because they missed their goal.
If writing 50,000 words in a month upsets you that much, please don’t do it. It’s supposed to be a fun personal challenge, not a punishment.
I know there is a lot of peer pressure to participate in this event, but it isn’t mandatory, and you have to do what’s best for you, so don’t be afraid to bow out.
I don’t usually suffer from writer’s block. I write all year round and don’t need a special occasion to encourage me to do what I do almost all the time anyway. Though, I’d probably be pretty good at it. My personal record is 125,000 words in a month, but let me tell you – I. Was. On. God. Damn. FIRE! I average closer to 1,500 words per day (or per writing session), and that’s a steady enough pace to keep me on track with my many projects.
NoNo, in particular, just wouldn’t work for me right now. I’m actually not writing any novels this month, though I am writing a ton of blog posts, and I wrote two short stories, which, I’m sure does count but is well below the 50,000 words required for NaNo. I recently finished writing book two of my Convergence series, and right now, I am very hard at work on writing-related tasks and projects, but not on any actual novel writing. Things like editing, re-editing, and re-editing again, working with beta readers and reading their projects, getting ahead on blog posts (because when I do start writing again, this shit gets neglected), marketing research, short stories, and finalizing the plot outline for book three. All this shit is WORK! Very, very time-consuming work, and it’s work that has to be done, and it’s all work that’s a part of what I do as a writer. And, by happenstance, it’s all work that needs to be done this November (and probably a bit into December too). The sooner I get all that work done, the sooner I can get back to actual novel writing. Writing is only about 10-20% of what it takes to be a writer, there is SO much more, and right now, I’m in the thick of it.
But this is how it often is for me. I’m rarely not working on a dozen things all at the same time. I’m usually juggling writing my books with all the other aspects of being a writer, and the last thing I need is committing myself to a personal challenge that would, to be honest, get in my way more than it would help me. I already have a dedicated routine for how I write and how much work I need to do, so I really don’t need any special challenges to encourage me to get off my ass and get busy. My ass is ALREADY busy!