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?