NaNoWriMo is officially here. For those of you who consider yourselves a part of the writing community, you are no doubt intimately familiar with this literary calendar landmark. For those of you who have yet to hear of this wonderful event, NA-tional NO-vel WRI-ting MO-nth happens each November. It is an official event organized by a not-for-profit of the same name which challenges participants to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Launched in 1999 in the United States, the program now sees nearly half a million scribblers around the world take up the gauntlet, and make use of a wide variety of ongoing strategies, tools and resources to achieve a full-length novel. It doesn’t have to be a good one, or a coherent one, and you don’t have to try to get it published if you don’t want to. NaNoWriMo is meant as an inspirational online community event to get the world writing.
I love NaNoWriMo. I love the spirit in which it was created, and the spirit in which my fellow writers enjoy it. I love that people who might never have thought they could write find out that they can, and I love the buzz and energy surrounding it all over social media. That is why I’m a little chagrined to admit that… I don’t do it. In my decade-plus of being a published author, I have never once accepted the challenge of throwing myself into NaNoWriMo.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t think you should. So let me tell you why I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, but why I think you might want to.
1. My writing process doesn’t align
I’ve been honing my personal process as an author of fiction novels for many years now. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. In the course of writing a manuscript, I find revision to be essential. The cyclical nature of draft, first edit, second edit, line edit helps me solidify in my mind what is going on and who my characters are. It roots me firmly in the story so that I become invested in the world I am creating, and by the time I reach the last chapter, most of my preceding chapters are completely finished so that my novel is never in a state of complete draft.
NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, requires a strong push forward. Its focus is word count and production. And while this method doesn’t work for me, it may work for you if you haven’t yet found your perfect writing process and want to try something new. Or perhaps you work at your creative best when you have room to change course, which NaNoWriMo’s linear mentality allows for. Maybe you have never written a book in your life, don’t have any idea what your writing process might be, and just want an excuse to plow through your first ever manuscript. If any of the above are the case, NaNoWriMo might be for you.
2. The deadline is too stressful
There is a reason why I don’t enjoy high octane thrillers. I am a wimp when it comes to suspense. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, and I don’t like the feeling of losing control. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a stay-in-my-lane kind of gal. I find deadlines to fall into that category, and when it comes to writing, I know what having a deadline feels like. It ain’t fun. So for me, NaNoWriMo creates an unnecessary time burden that makes me tense and unhappy, whereas my current writing process is enjoyable, structured and predictable… even if the finish line is perpetually TBD.
But clearly, high octane thrillers have their established place in pop culture, and deadlines work well for many. If you’re someone who needs a looming end to light the fire under your butt, then NaNoWriMo might be for you. The 50,000 words in 30 days requirement can be a powerful motivator to keep moving forward, to sit your keester in your chair and write.
3. I did not have the chance to use Preptober wisely
For those writers who regularly participate in NaNoWriMo, Preptober (or, using the month of October to prepare) is a time-honoured tradition of outlining, organizing, and even meal planning to make sure that they have the time and headspace to write. My October never goes like that, unfortunately. As a content writer on the other side of my career, my calendar is pretty stuffed. Finding time to sit down and prep for writing is not something I often have the luxury of doing when I’m swamped with the actual writing bit. True, this is a good problem to have. It just means that Preptober is realistically off the table for me at this point in my writing career.
But maybe you’re not a content writer. Maybe you have the time and space to spend October ensuring that your November is a success. That is a wonderful thing to have if so–kudos to you! Preptober is a time of getting your ducks in a row so that you can throw yourself into NaNoWriMo with little concern for all those periphery demands until you surface on December 1st. So if you spent October outlining your new novel, working out plot points, roping your family into stepping up on the laundry and the dinners and the child-chauffering and whatever else you’ve got going on in your life, then you’re all set for NaNoWriMo. Cheers!
NaNoWriMo has been going strong for a whopping 23 years now. Like all traditions, it has evolved from how it was when it was first introduced to the world. Today, I hear lots of authors talk about RebelWriMo, which is kind of cool. This encourages writers, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, to follow a kind of hybrid process, or to use the motivation of the month as inspiration to find your own path. I absolutely love this concept. If the rigidity of 50,000 words in 30 days is something that you don’t think you can, or want to follow, then consider being a rebel this November, and use the month to write your way.
Are you doing NaNoWriMo, writing friends? What do you think?