To NaNoWriMo or No?

23/10/2015 Discussions, Writing 10

To NaNoWriMo or No?So, it’s coming up to that time of year again where thousands of hopeful novelists worldwide set themselves the immense task of writing 50,000 words in a month. It’s an incredible and extremely rewarding event, as I know from last year when I did my first National Novel Writing Month, AKA, NaNoWriMo (and you can check out a little excerpt of last year’s novel in this post).

I may not have won (I only reached 42,000 words) but I still feel like I achieved a huge amount, and I really can’t recommend it enough as a good way to get into a daily writing habit and make a good start on that novel that everyone supposedly has in them.

But this year I’ve been thinking really hard about whether or not to take part this time around. Whilst I achieved a lot last year, I felt like I also let a lot of other things slip throughout November 2014 (including this blog), and if I’m honest, I haven’t touched last year’s novel attempt since I finished NaNoWriMo. So is it really a worthwhile use of my time, or should I maybe set myself another November goal, like to write a different short story a week, or post more regularly on here?

To help me decide (before it gets too late and I end up jumping aboard the NaNoWriMo train two days before the start and with no plan like last year) I thought I’d do a quick post about the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo. Are you taking part this year?

Pros of NaNoWriMo

  • It’s motivating.

Having a goal, particularly one shared with millions of other people across the world, is certainly motivating if nothing else. Especially when all the Tweets start rolling in about how such and such is already on 12,000 words four days in, whilst you’re still hovering somewhere around the 4,500 mark and are already stuck with the plot.

  • It has a great sense of community.

NaNoWriMo has a huge, and incredibly supportive community surrounding it, which is one of the things I loved the most about it last year. From the official NaNoWriMo website where you can track you and your friends’ progress and chat via forums, to Twitter and basically every other form of social media, there’s so many ways to receive support from your fellow NaNoWriMo competitors, and get advice on your work in progress. Seen as writing is kind of a lonely pastime, taking part in such a huge writing event can really make you start to feel a part of something.

  • Freedom from editing.

One of the biggest things that slows down my writing is going back and editing as I go along. I can barely seem to write a sentence without having to go back over it several times, hence why a lot of the time I end up making very slow progress. However, with NaNoWriMo’s very tight 1,667 words a day goal there simply isn’t time for editing as you go along. You simply have to write and not look back, which is very freeing.

Cons of NaNoWriMo

  • It can feel like a lot of pressure.

One thing you learn early on in NaNoWriMo is that 1,667 words is a lot. Maybe it doesn’t seem it at first, and I guess there’s probably some super productive writers out there who easily surpass that word count every day anyway, but after a while it starts to seem like climbing a mountain on a daily basis. And once you’ve failed to climb one daily mountain, the next day’s is twice as big, and soon the task becomes too daunting and you start to feel burned out and uninspired. Eventually last year I fell behind to a level where I felt I could never catch up, especially as I had lost my grip on my plot and seemed to be meandering aimlessly.

  • It can become all-consuming if you let it.

This may just be me, but last year it seemed to become all-consuming. Perhaps because it takes me quite a while to write 1,667 words, I had to fit in writing wherever I could to try and reach the goal (which I guess isn’t a bad thing), but I found myself neglecting to write blog posts, or even read as much, which is something I really wouldn’t want to let slip this year. At the moment my life seems busier than ever, and I’m trying to find another job, so I really don’t want to feel weighed down by all the frantic novel writing I would have to start.

  • Reading it back can be a shock.

Whilst the ‘no editing’ aspect of NaNoWriMo is great for making progress with your word count, it can be a bit of a shock when you finally read back what you’ve written. There were two words for mine last year: utter drivel. It started out OK but gradually as I fell further behind and began to struggle meeting the daily word count the quality started to decline severely, and whilst I know that the quality isn’t the point in NaNoWriMo, at some points I felt it wasn’t really salvageable. I lost control of the plot and wrote myself into a bit of a dead end, and from there simply rambled so that I could meet the word count, so if I ever attempt to rewrite that novel (and I do intend to…at some point) I would probably only use maybe the first third of it. It was kind of a dent to my confidence to read something I had written and think it was so bad, although logically I know that very few people would churn out a decent draft of a book under this kind of pressure.

I’m still torn about whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m starting to think I probably won’t. What do you think are its pros and cons, and will you be taking part this year?

10 Responses to “To NaNoWriMo or No?”

  1. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I’m not doing it this year, partially for the reasons you listed and partially just because I have too much going on. I really want to just go back and edit the book I worked on last year (I did read my 50k goal, but my book isn’t nearly finished) – but I don’t think I’ll have time this November. Sigh. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

    • Laura

      Writing so many words a day is so tough, and if you have a lot going on it would be virtually impossible to manage 50k.
      I’m really hoping to go back and edit last year’s novel finally too, even if only the first bit of it is salvageable. Maybe editing the bit I like and plotting the rest could be my November challenge instead?

  2. Lola

    I am not writing books so I won’t be participating, but I already heard some authors who will join. I think the motivational and community pro’s are very important for most of them.
    I do participate in the Blog Ahead challenge this month where you try to end the monthw ith 30 posts more and it’s very motivational, so I can imagine NaNoWriMo must be similiar to that. Just by doing the challenge I feel more motivated to get those posts written. Although the pressure can be hard to or seeing how much better others are doing. Good luck with deciding whether to participate!

    • Laura

      Thanks! I hadn’t actually heard of that blogging challenge, so maybe I’ll check that out, although I imagine the level of pressure is pretty similar.
      Good luck if you do the Blog Ahead challenge this year!

  3. Renee

    I’m not planning to join NaNo in November. The 50K goal is just too daunting and I want to focus on my current WIP rather than starting a new one. I started writing my WIP during July as part of Camp NaNoWriMo. I didn’t even know they existed, but in April and July (I think) there is a different version of NaNoWriMo where you can lower the word count goal. I dropped mine to 20K and achieved that while still keeping the rest of my life balanced. I think I’ll try the Camp again next year.

    • Laura

      The 50k goal is really daunting, and I think because I tried so hard last year and still didn’t make it, it seems even more unachievable. Camp NaNoWriMo sounds a lot more chilled out, so maybe I’ll try that next year, when hopefully I will have actually got round to editing last year’s novel. Good luck with your WIP!

  4. Jee Ann

    Definitely joining it coz it’ll be my first time to do so! I don’t know if I can finish it, though, but I’d like to try 🙂

  5. Beth

    I’M DOING NANO!!! But I agree, the negatives are quite worrying. Then again, it’s my first time so I am SUPER EXCITED and pumped. Also, I don’t really use twitter, so I don’t have to worry about the competitive nature of things, and I’m a trained editor, so come re-write time, I should be prepared for the worst.
    This is not a helpful comment. Basically, Yay for NaNo!
    Beth x

    • Laura

      Yay for NaNo! Last year was the first time I had done it, and I really am glad that I did because it was a great experience. I just remember how time consuming it was, and feel like I have a lot on my plate this year.
      Best of luck with it though! If you’re a trained editor then I’m sure you won’t be quite as horrified as I was at the finished result (well, you might be, but you’ll know how to fix it which is good!).

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