NaNoWriMo musings, and a pep talk

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbConfession: when I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I was quietly horrified. (NaNoWriMo, if you’re wondering, is National Novel-Writing Month, a challenge where participants attempt to write 50k words during the month of November.) This was years ago, before I’d even started Isla’s Inheritance, the first novel I successfully completed.

There’s no doubt that jealousy was a factor—at the time, none of my ideas had progressed beyond random thought bubbles, and I had deep-seated doubts about my own ability to sit down and actually write a novel.

Past Cass was very insecure.

But the other factor for me was a fundamental misunderstanding about the point of NaNoWriMo. I hadn’t really internalised the fact that first drafts are generally, well, not very good, and so I objected that the results of these month-long word sprints couldn’t possibly be edited to be publishable in that time. (Most NaNoWriMo participants realise this too, although there are some that just send off their completed draft to an agent or agents on 1 December. If you’re thinking along those lines, DO NOT DO THIS!)

These days I think NaNoWriMo is largely a good thing.

For people that participate, there’s no doubt that it demands a certain level of discipline. Don’t feel inspired? Tough. Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. Can’t write today? You’ll have to write twice as much tomorrow to catch up. It’s a great way to beat procrastination. And for some people that motivation, the fact they’re being held accountable in public (on the NaNo website and by any friends they’ve told), can be just what they need.

Also, even as a non-NaNoWriMo participant (NoNoWriMo?), I’ve found the flurry of moral support among the writing community on social media both heartening and inspirational.

If you’re wondering why I say NaNoWriMo is only largely a good thing, rather than unequivocally, the reason is that the kind of frenzied writing required for NaNo isn’t going to be for everyone. For those people, I expect the best way to benefit from NaNoWriMo is to make the daily or weekly writing goal a habit, so that at the end of November you can keep it going once the pressure drops off. It doesn’t even need to be the 1667 words a day that NaNoWriMo demands. Even if you write 500 words a day, you’ll have a 90k word novel in less than six months.

And then you can start editing. 😉

Even though I understand it better, I still don’t do NaNoWriMo. Sadly, being a single parent that works full time means I can’t find the hours a day that this sort of writing would require. But these days I’m jealous of those that can take part. I do have a minimum word goal but it’s a paltry 2000 words per week—which means it would take me almost a year to write that 90k word novel. (I often write more than this in a week, mind you; that’s just the least I’ll accept from myself.)

To those doing NaNoWriMo who may be struggling, remember: if you don’t get to 50k by 30 November—if you get 40k or 25k or 5k—you haven’t “failed”. You’ve started a novel. Keep writing.

Go, you good things.

Cheerleader Eliza

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