To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

fastest writerWith November a week away, many authors are asking themselves whether to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an annual event where we novelists make ourselves even crazier than we already are. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. In case you’re wondering, that comes to about 1,667 words a day. Assuming the writers don’t edit as they go, most can churn out that number of words in 1-1/2 to 2 hours. So it’s definitely doable. The question is, is churning out words a good goal?

For some writers, the answer is yes. Getting words on the page is arguably the hardest part of being a writer. Often we spend so much time on non-writing activities like research and plotting that we don’t spend enough time putting words on the page. For many beginners, just getting through the process of turning off their internal editor and writing from the heart is the biggest hurdle to cross.

NaNoWriMo can be a big motivator. Participants urge each other forward through forums and Twitter sprints. At the end of the month, most won’t have a publishable novel, but they’ll have either a completed first draft or a good beginning of one. That’s the first step toward becoming a published novelist.

For other writers, though, NaNoWriMo can work against their natural process. If I do writing sprints (where the goal is 1000 words in an hour), I end up having to revise so much that it actually takes longer than if I had worked at a slower pace and chosen my words more carefully in the first place. Plus, I like to edit as I go. It helps me see the shape of the scene or chapter as it’s progressing.

If fast drafting isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in NaNoWriMo. Maybe 50,000 words shouldn’t be your goal. Can you write an hour a day? Or 6,000 words a week? Figure out what will get your fingers on the keyboard in November, and commit to that. Also take advantage of the resources available on the NaNoWriMo website. Put some time into prewriting exercises, like those recommended by Alexandra Sokoloff. Or check out the story structure articles on Michael Hauge’s website. The important thing is to write—not to plan to write or to talk about writing or even to edit, but to produce new words at a steady pace every day. Ultimately, that’s what makes us writers.

We write.

(Photo credit: Image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski: 12frames.eu)

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About AndreaJWenger

Andrea J. Wenger is an award-winning writer and editor in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in the fields of creative, technical, and freelance writing.

Posted on October 24, 2013, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve never done NANO, Andrea, but I try to write every day and to get words on the page I can edit later. I agree that for those not used to writing every day, NANO can be a great way to develop a habit that will last. Are you doing NANO?

  2. I’ve never tried NANO either, mostly because I’m afraid the social aspect of encouraging my fellow NANOnites will take precedence over the writing, and then I won’t get any actual writing done. Did I mention I like to talk too much? 🙂

  3. I’m planning to do something for NaNo, Christy, but I haven’t decided what yet. I’ve got a WIP that’s about 30,000 words right now, so if I added 50,000, I’d basically be done the first draft. That’s a big incentive. I’ve still got some pre-planning work to do, but if I can figure out the opening, I’ll probably give it a try.

    Sheila, I’m with you about the social aspect distracting me. I spend way too much time on social media as it is. Maybe NaNo will get me into the habit of focusing on writing!

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