To NaNoWriMo, or not to NaNoWriMo?

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Every November, like clockwork, writers all around the world are pumped to crank out the required 50k words over the course of the month to win this challenge. Or, maybe they’re like me and frustrated with their own inability to commit. It’s a polarizing topic, and it can be fun if done successfully, but NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is certainly not for everyone. However, the allure of reaching the other side with 50k words added to your WIP is definitely an attractive prize.

Having never attempted this particular feat myself, I feel slightly inadequate commenting on it. But I know enough to share insights about the writing process in general, staying focused, and getting that word count up. Below, I’ll outline some of the pros and cons of the ritual, that way you can decide if it’s worth a shot or not. 

Pros of NaNoWriMo:

It’s a tangible measurement of progress.

I’ve heard of writers using different apps and programs to visually track their process, which is definitely a helpful perk! 

The “go team” mentality is a powerful motivator.

Writers can band together from anywhere in the world and share tips, struggles, and even keep one another accountable.

It’s a powerful habit-former.

It’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. Given that this challenge runs for a whole month, I would imagine that you might find it easier to keep writing consistently (after the inevitable burnout, of course). Here are some more tips on forming good writing habits: Top Tips to Establish Good Writing Habits.

Major bragging rights are up for grabs.

If you’ve attempted to write a novel, you’ll know that it can be a lengthy process that takes years. Getting that many words out in a relatively short amount of time is pretty awe-inspiring and totally brag-worthy.

All of these good things being said, I personally haven’t taken on NaNoWriMo for the following reasons:

Cons of NaNo:

It places an emphasis on quantity over quality.

Banging out 50k words seems less daunting when you’re focused on the numbers alone. But the quality of your writing may suffer – and understandably so. After all, who can write their best work with a clock ticking down their back? I know I certainly can’t. 

Anxiety could spike.

If you’re a type-A personality like me, you probably find that upping the ante on your own goals only increases hyperactivity. So I wouldn’t recommend telling all your friends you’re doing NaNoWriMo unless you know you can do it.

Pressure can choke out the best plot twists.

This is subjective, of course – some people do their best work in the pressure cooker. But as for me, I’ve thought up the craziest plot twists during long phone calls over the course of weeks. The nature of this challenge doesn’t accommodate those critical weeks of creative development. 

Rushing could increase plot holes.

I don’t relish the idea of going back over my work later to fix all the things I haphazardly patched up with bubblegum. Of course, that’s fine if you go into this expecting a very rough draft out of the ordeal. But for me, I prefer to have a more solid first draft. This way, the bulk of my editing is of the grammar and flow variety. 

Like most writing programs, NaNo is a very personalized thing that you have to decide about for yourself. What works for me might not work for you, and the reverse is true too. So I’d say, if you’ve noticed that you usually thrive pulling out all the stops at the last minute and enjoy the adrenaline spike, then go for it. But if you’re more like me and need time for your stories to develop, opting not to have to patch up plot holes later, I’d suggest leaving this one to the thrill seekers. 

Or, maybe you could join similar events with less of the pressure, like those writing sprints I’ve seen hosted by authors on Twitch or YouTube. Those have the accountability aspect of NaNo, but without the month-long commitment. If that turns out to be a good fit for you, there’s a good chance you’ll find this challenge is worth taking on after all. 

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