Three reasons to do NaNoWriMo (and why I’m not this year)

NaNoWriMo crest.For many people, November means Thanksgiving dinners; Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping (only in America can we make so many holidays that honor consumerism); and season-changing football games. For writers, November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when people of all ages and experience levels across the globe commit to writing a novel (traditionally defined by NaNoWriMo as 50,000 words, but you’re welcome to set your own goals) in thirty days. It’s a frenzied month of writing sprints and inspirational tweets and writers cheering each other on, celebrating every time another Wrimo wins. It’s a time of highs and lows, of loving and hating characters and plots, of writing until fingers cramp and staring at blank pages in frustration. To sum up, it’s pretty awesome.

But if you need more convincing, here are just a few of the many reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo:

  1. Fast drafting helps you turn off your inner editor. If you’re someone who will revise a scene to death before moving on, NaNoWriMo will force you to accept the less-than-perfect. You don’t have time to fix typos, let alone plot holes, when you’re writing 1,667 [or insert your own word-count goal here] words a day. NaNoWriMo gives you permission to change that one character’s name three times, or add someone new half-way through the book. It lets (forces?) you stay immersed in the story, rather than pulling back to revise or do more research. Yes, absolutely, revise and do research. But save it (at least the major revisions and minor research) for after November 30.
  2. NaNoWriMo comes with its own built-in community of cheerleaders, mentors, and supporters. There are NaNo veterans who will happily offer advice and encouragement. Published authors give written and video pep talks practically daily. There are NaNo forums to meet others who are writing in your category and genre, who could become future critique partners and friends. There are also NaNo forums for just about every aspect of writing, so if you have questions, you can easily get answers from thousands of other Wrimos.
  3. For those who want to make writing a career, NaNoWriMo forces you to write on a deadline. It’s not the same as having an actual deadline for a novel, because if you have a deal with a publisher you’ll have to factor in time to revise and get feedback from critique partners, but it will give you practice setting goals and budgeting time to write. You’ll have the added motivation of everyone else being on the same deadline. And even if you don’t reach your target word count on November 30, you’ll probably have written a lot more than you would have without pushing yourself.

So, after singing NaNoWriMo’s praises, why am I not participating this year? As great as I think NaNo is, I rarely end up drafting in November. I’m usually busy with family around Thanksgiving, and revisions the rest of the month. This year, I had a project I was going to make my NaNo book, but I felt ready to start it in October and didn’t want to wait. I’m still working on zero draft right now, so I won’t say much about it, just that it’s a contemporary YA that’s very different from everything else I’ve written. There are so many things about doing this that scare me, and I knew if I waited too long to start writing I’d talk myself out of it. So October is my own personal NaNo month, and then I’m going to go back and tackle revisions on an earlier project based on feedback from Pitch Wars mentors. (Yes, contests can be really helpful even when you don’t get picked.)

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it in the past? Any advice for newbie Wrimos?

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