November 1st is just a week away. Writers, you know what that means! NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is here. If you are unfamiliar with this caffeine driven, slightly manic event, it’s an annual internet based project that invites writers to create 50K words of a novel during the month of November. If you’re thinking about writing a book, this event can help you kick start the process. Having participated in the past, I have some thoughts to share about NaNo.
What are the pros?
You’ll enjoy community support.
For the month of November, we’re all in this together. It’s fun and energizing to know that writers across the world are participating in the event. NaNo is its own writer support group. Local branches schedule community writing times in libraries and coffee shops. There are online forums and writing challenges. Words of daily encouragement appear in your inbox. It’s helpful to have the momentum of a group behind you as you embark on writing a new novel.
You can kick-start a project.
While 50k words doesn’t really hit the appropriate count for most adult genres, it still a huge chunk of content. If you’ve got an idea you want to flesh out, start writing. At 50K words, you’ll have a good portion of the plot worked out by the time November ends.
You’ll create a strong habit life.
In order to hit the word count by the end of the month, you’ll have to create an aggressive daily writing habit. The arithmetic is clear, even for us artsy types. To win NaNo, you’ll have to write over 1600 words per day – more if you want to take a day off during the week. On some writing days, hitting 500 words feels like a daunting task. NaNo will push you out of your comfort zone, and force you into a higher word-count habit.
What are the cons?
It’s really stressful.
In my experience, this is the only real con of participating, but it’s a big one. I’m productive as a writer because I schedule enough hours of daily writing time into my calendar. Whether I hit 500 words or 2000 on a particular day, for me, it’s about creating the time, not requiring myself to reach a number. NaNo definitely pushed me, but it also made me anxious. It didn’t mesh well with the habit life I work with, and the content I produced required much more editing than my usual first draft work. So, all in all, I don’t think I really saved any time in terms of overall productivity.
And don’t forget…
Whatever content you create during NaNo is truly a first draft, and it may even be rougher than your usual work because you’ve rushed your process. Likely, you haven’t even finished the novel at the end of the month, but at least you’re on your way. That’s great. Keep on it. If you did finish something, step away from the project before you do anything with it. It’s going to need work, so give yourself a little distance. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’ll be able to edit and get it into better shape.
If you’re thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo, go for it. At the very least, you’ll learn which habits work for you and which don’t, you’ll come out with a lot of words, which hopefully can be molded into usable content, and you’ll develop a community of writer friends that will last far longer than the month of November. You may only want to participate once, or you may decide that the stress is worth the results and enter year after year. Good luck and happy writing!