Everyone writes differently. Ask any writer, novice or professional, and you’ll get the same advice: figure out what works for you, and stick to it. For some people, this means eight hours of pounding away at a keyboard every day. For others, it means a couple hours late at night or early in the morning while the kids are asleep. For some writers it includes extensive outlining and months of planning before writing that first word, while others figure everything out as they go and then revise as needed.
Because I have high word counts most days, and because it’s an experience I think all writers should at least attempt, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It has been fun sharing this experience with novelists around the world, and my home region’s Facebook page always has something funny or encouraging when I check it. NaNoWriMo has pushed me several times to write “just 200 more words” that ended up turning into another scene (and over 1,000 words). And it has helped me write most of a first draft of my current WIP.
However, the pressure of NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words in a month (or in my case, before November 25, when I visit family for Thanksgiving) has forced me to make choices I regret just so I can say that I “won.” NaNoWriMo champions writing without restraint, ignoring plot holes and inner editors and all other obstacles in order to reach 50,000 words. While I think this is great for those writers who struggle to quiet their inner editors, I don’t think this is the best approach for me. When I come across a problem that I know needs fixing, I’d rather stop and fix it now, especially if it’s something that I know will affect the plot later. I find myself coming up with extra characters and scenes that I enjoy writing, but that I know I’ll cut in the first round of edits, simply to increase my word count. And I’d love a day to just sit down and figure all those details out … but if I do that, I’ll fall behind on my word count. So I’m powering through, but the second I hit 50,000 words, even though I know I won’t have a complete draft, I’m stopping. I’m stepping back, and I’m fixing what needs fixing before I try to reach the end.
So, while I think NaNoWriMo is perfect for plenty of writers, I don’t plan to participate again next year. Really, it’s not you, it’s me…