Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo… And Why You Shouldn’t

That title suffers a bit from multiple personalities, doesn’t it?

I know some people are on the fence about whether or not to do NaNoWriMo, and that’s a bad place to be because sitting on a fence is very unhealthy for you. Guaranteed hemorrhoids is all I’m saying. And then you have to go to the doctor and explain that. “Why the hemmorhoids?” the doctor asks, shrugging. “Sitting on a fence again,” you say. And then he chides you for your indecision and then has to shoot your butthole with a laser –

Okay, that’s probably not how they get rid of hemorrhoids but it’d be cool if they did. I mean, c’mon. Lasers should be involved in more things, not less. Except maybe buttholes? Hm.

You know what? I’m driving way off the road here, so let’s get back onto the asphalt.

Here, I will give unto thee reasons to partake in National Novel Writing Month…

…and reasons to avoid it like a hot cup of gonorrhea.

Ready? We begin.

Why You Should Partake

• It will teach you discipline and diligence.

• Writing every day will teach you a lot about writing, good and bad.

• Writing every day will teach you a lot about your own writing habits, good and bad.

• It’s goal-oriented. Writers live by deadlines.

• It’s geared explicitly toward finishing your shit, and finishing your shit is about the only single piece of writing advice you can really, genuinely count on to be true.

• It’s also community-driven — writing is quite explicitly an individual and often lonely endeavor, but this has the spirit of a creative word orgy. You come into the room, put your keys in the basket, lube up the ol’ story-makers, and start writing like a motherfucker. Community in this regard is a good way to feel less alone. It gives you shoulders to cry on, minds to bounce ideas off of, and ink-stained hands to high-five. It’s the closest you’re gonna get to a bunch of writers just humping the sweet hell out of each other, unless you’ve spent any time at Harlan Ellison’s love ranch.

• I don’t know that Harlan Ellison has a love ranch, I’m just making that up. I’m clarifying this because Harlan seems like the kind of guy who would hunt me for my pelt if I angered him.

• But, I am saying that if anybody has a love ranch, I could believe Harlan Ellison has one.

• That or just a room where he sometimes goes to yell at cats. About how they’ve failed him.

• I think I need a love ranch.

• Okay, getting back on track now in 3, 2, 1 –

• Modern writing careers — successful ones, anyway — are increasingly predicated on producing a lot of content quickly, and, well, this is a good way to practice exactly that.

• It will help you take your Internal Editor and drown him in a mud puddle. Writers have to, have to, have to grow comfortable with writing shittily. Shit happens. Shit also washes off. Put differently, it is sometimes necessary to write badly so that you can edit and rewrite and turn bad writing into good story.

• This is a very good way to sprint through and create a zero draft.

• Treating it like a month-long writing exercise instead of The Future Of Your Writing Career lends this a strong mindset that creates bonafide self-instructional value.

• Gamification works wonders for some people in terms of motivating action.

• Being a writer is about writing. Full-stop. Partaking makes you a writer. End of story.

• Time isn’t going to wait for you and you’re going to die someday so, fuck it. Write now. Not later. You might be dead in December. Maybe the world will blow up. But that story inside you? It’s ready now. So, fire up the ol’ wordithopter and fly yourself to the distant land of Bookopolis.

Why You Should Run Far Away

• Actually, maybe that story inside you isn’t ready now. Maybe those brownies aren’t done baking yet and if you try to rush it all you’re gonna get is a goopy pan of chocolate slurry. Which, admittedly, also sounds delicious, so if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m going to go slather choco-goop all over my body.

• Back now. I am delicious. Mm. *licks self*

• A month is not a lot of time to write a book and most people take longer than that to write one. Let’s be honest, it’s setting a fairly unrealistic pace to complete a book. I write fast like a squirrel with a Roman candle shoved up its fuzzy nethers, and even I can’t finish most books in 30 days.

• The win/lose condition through gamification can be toxic — to speak frankly, writers often have issues with depression or anxiety, and this really doesn’t help. (I speak from experience on the latter. For some reason, NaNoWriMo amped up my anxiety rather than dampened it. No idea why. I don’t get that way with deadlines, but this made me feel really agitated when I tried it years ago.)

• You have a pace, and maybe this isn’t it. A story takes the time that it takes. Maybe you write it in two weeks. Maybe it takes you two months or two years. There exists no “one schedule fits all.” Acting like that is a good way to feel like a giant fail-flavored crapsicle.

• Further, for some, writing every day is a boon. For others, a bane. Again, trying to conform HOW YOU WRITE to this one pattern can be like trying to headbutt a square peg through a circle hole. All you end up with is a throbbing headache and a feeling of shame and worthlessness.

• Sometimes doing something different from what everyone else is doing is clarifying and valuable. Writers are not particularly good at following orders, I find. In fact, every writer is basically ten ferrets. You can’t control one ferret, much less ten. Ferrets will not be commanded. FERRETS CARE LITTLE FOR YOUR NATIONAL FERRET WRANGLING MONTH (NaFerWraMo).

• Put differently, this month is very much about comparing yourself to other writers, and engaging in uniformity. And comparing yourself to other writers and trying to conform to their habits and their schedules is a very good way to feel very bad.

• November is a dogshit month to accomplish, well, basically anything. At least for me. Forget it, Jake, it’s Holidaytown. The way the holidays are around these parts, the festivity shit-parade kicks up around Halloween and doesn’t stop stomping down the road until January at the earliest. Plus, right at the end there you get Thanksgiving — so, instead of 30 days, you kinda have like, 20-25. And then if you have kids they usually end up with a whole week off, and if you’ve eaten too much turkey and potatoes you probably lose a day on a recliner — bloated and serene.

• Fifty thousand words does not a novel make. I mean, by most expected metrics.

• Sometimes writing crap is good. Sometimes writing crap is sad-making. And this isn’t just writing crap — it’s extruding crap quickly. Speed is the essence. The finish line is king. At the end if what you have is just a handful of wet shit, how will that make you feel?

• NaNoWriMo focuses overmuch on writing, but here’s the dirty truth — writing is a crass, mechanical act. It is a necessary part of the process, but it’s just pure craft — it is fingers going pok pok pok tap tap tap on the keyboard until a giant block of prose is regurgitated. But if fails to focus on story. Story is why we write. Prose is secondary and supportive. Story, character, theme, all that stuff isn’t background. It’s great and it’s glorious and it’s why we come to the page, most times. (Sure, some folks come only for writing, but I think most people come for the narrative and the ideas presented by that narrative.) Story only exists in permanence when we transcribe it, and writing is one crucial method of transcription — but make no mistake, that’s all it is. Transcription. By focusing so much on that, something threatens to be lost.

Reminder: 30 Days In The Word Mines (And The Gonzo Bundle)

Last year I wrote and put out a book called 30 Days In The Word Mines — and the goal of that book is literally to take you through thirty days and, every day, give you a little something to think about. It’s motivational, philosophical, and practical advice all in one, and every day is different. Some folks told me that it fared them well day to day through NaNoWriMo and beyond, so that’s cool. If you wanna check it out, you can find it at Amazon, B&N, or buy it direct from me here.

Alternatively, if you want it as part of a larger bundle of writing-related e-bookery, then the eight book gonzo bundle is $20 — or $15 if you use coupon code NAPLOYONOMO by 10/31.

90 comments

  • I’ve always wondered whose idea it was to have NaNoWriMo in November and if they clearly aren’t American, because November is the wind-up of our holiday season. That being said, as a current fence sitter, this is a lot of good points I’m going to have to mull over (I don’t want lasers shot up my ass).

    • The creator is American and IIRC the rationale is that if you can do 50k in November you can do it any month because November is full of commitments for most Americans.

    • Blame it on Chris Baty, the originator of NaNoWriMo and author of NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! Here’s the quote from his book: “In 2000, I moved National Novel Writing Month from July to November to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.”

        • Indeed! January is the perfect crap month. No holidays, shitty weather, family commitments are out of the way, even most workplaces take the entire month to crank back up to full speed.

          I’ve never done NaNoWriMoBetterBlues, but I’d definitely choose January for it. I’d imagine there would be a psychological benefit too. Start the new year off right, try to carry the habit of consistently writing through the rest of the year, etc.

          Yeah, November blows for this. January is where it’s at!

  • Me: “Do you expect me to talk?”
    Doctor: “No, Mr. Bond! I expect to treat your hemorrhoids!” * fires up laser *

  • Last year’s NaNoWriMo is how I started writing Malus Domestica (189,000 words). It’s a questionable task, for sure, but no one says you have to stop at 50,000 words at the end of November! It can be a good way to push yourself into starting something new.

  • I’ve decided not to do Nano this year. I have done it 4 or 5 times in the last decade and it just seems to leave me with a pile of wordage that I can’t bear to look at again.

    I am going to take my first Nano effort and edit and add to it. Although it was done 10 years ago and has some stupid stuff in it I still think there’s the bones of a decent story there.

    It’s a love story, come historical novel and I shall devote a set chunk of time per day to working on it. If I make myself do 2 hours a day with the alarm set I can bash it into a 2nd draft.

  • These are all good points, Chuck. I’ve been on both sides of this here fence, and I’ve seen all of the pros and cons you’ve mentioned. I continue to love NaNoWriMo mostly because it encourages EVERYONE to write during the month of November, and that spirit is totally magical. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, the best time to attempt one is definitely during November — holidays and all — simply because of that exciting spirit of embracing your dreams and saying “fuck it” to any negative thoughts and just going for it. I mean, if ANYONE can do it, then why not you?

    I’ve failed many NaNoWriMos, too, because my projects either became too big to handle, or because I got swamped with work, or just got bored. All of that can certainly happen. But is that a reason not to go for it? Hell no! At least you got started with something, and maybe you discovered it wasn’t really the thing you wanted or needed to be working on. Failure can teach us just as much as success, right?

    Even if I “lose” this year, I still like to tackle a project every November, just to see what happens. You win some, you lose some, you live, you learn, it’s all part of the learning process.

  • I think it really depends on your goals. If you feel you need a kick in the pants and want to develop the discipline to write every day, then NaNo can probably help you with that. 50K really isn’t a whole book. And let’s be honest, you’re writing a first draft at best. No one completes a ready to be published book in a month. Not likely anyway. And in terms of pressure, you create your own pressure. The only person you’re ever really competing with is yourself, not other writers. They don’t write your stories and you don’t write theirs. For me, the idea of NaNo is to have fun, challenge yourself and not to take it or yourself too seriously. The idea of community and perhaps making a couple of new writing buds, also has a appeal. I’m going for it because it aligns with my own editorial schedule and writing goals. But I have tried it before, having no idea what I’d write and didn’t finish. So maybe that should be the determining factor. If you have a project you;re ready to write and at least have an inkling of how that story should go, NaNo can give you the motivation and inspiration you need. If you’re just jumping in without a clue of how you’ll proceed, it could be a very disheartening experience.

    See you there. :D

  • The last half of the article summed up exactly how I feel about National Novel Writing Month. Never never never! Not even if you paid me a billion dollars and promised immortality.

  • I think that was the problem with me last year: the story was not ready. I had no idea what was going on and it was really discouraging. I think I’m ready now, after an entire year of thinking about it… Too bad I have a huge ass final exam in December and I can’t let my mind wander around right now. But after nailing that motherfucker (and leveling up to Awesome Translator), I’m going to write the hell of my story!

  • (I’m totally going to pay the $15 for that bundle sometime today.)

    • November is a dogshit month to accomplish, well, basically anything. At least for me. Forget it, Jake, it’s Holidaytown. The way the holidays are around these parts, the festivity shit-parade kicks up around Halloween and doesn’t stop stomping down the road until January at the earliest. Plus, right at the end there you get Thanksgiving — so, instead of 30 days, you kinda have like, 20-25. And then if you have kids they usually end up with a whole week off, and if you’ve eaten too much turkey and potatoes you probably lose a day on a recliner — bloated and serene.

    Eh, with a laptop and some… *ahem*… “alone” time on the “majestic throne.” I’m pretty sure you could hit the 1,556 (or so forgetting the average) word-count-for-the-day during that last push. The problem for me, two years ago when I tried this (and won) was the fact that while I hit my word-count, it was very mechanical and not very “flowing.” I’m not sure how to describe that. Basically, I could write and while I knew what I wanted to write. It just didn’t feel “good” to write the 1,557 words at a clip. Like you said, everyone varies. But as far as the last few days of the month, totally do-able if you shut a few people out and don’t take the entire day. (Or conversely, do a HUGE BUNCH OF FUCKING WRITING DURING THE START OF THE MONTH to where you only have to do… 1-300 words on the 31st and BAM! “You win!”. This is the “reverse NaNo” method. But that’s certainly brutal for most people)

    • Fifty thousand words does not a novel make. I mean, by most expected metrics.

    This is true and why I wish they’d drop the “No” part. It should just be “National Writing What-the-fuck-ever-you-want Month.” But I guess NaWriW-T-F-Y-W-Mo” doesn’t flow.

  • I agree with this. I’ve succeeded, I’ve failed, I’ve skipped it, I’ve had friends beta a story to help me edit who asked “what were you on when you wrote this” and so much more. It’s fun for me, though. I use it to practice deadlines and get me in gear for some of it.

    You make a great point about 50k not being a novel. Most novel length books as we see them (If I remember correctly) are around 70-90k depending on genre and other varying factors. There’s a lot to take into consideration when plotting, planning, and writing a novel.

    Personally, I spend anywhere between 1 and 6 months planning my NaNo novel (if not more) and then I spend that month writing the novel and then a few months editing while I’m plotting another novel. My things overlap in that sense, but all the worlds and characters are different to their own extent. Organization is key for many. Like trap doors for sending papers or notebooks (or bodies) to certain doom.

  • I participate in Novel Writing Year. It’s not based on the calendar year. The clock starts on the new one day I publish the old one. Then again, I’m a self-published hobbyist hack, so the bar is low.

  • Great post, Chuck! I’ve been doing NaNo for the past decade, and I cheer for all the “do it” points. As for the “run away” points, I hear them all, but I have to say I disagree about the comparing to other writers. It’s more like running with a buddy: to run farther or faster, run with a buddy. It’s more about cheering each other to the finish line than matching up with them. I don’t pow-wow with other writers on the forums, etc during NaNo because, well, if I’m on the computer, I should be adding to my word count, right? In any case, I think you hit the main points for both sides of the fence. *no lasers were harmed in the filming of this comment* :-)

  • (Joelle, you could always volunteer to be a Nanowrimo Municipal Liaison – it’s herding cats, which is kind of close!)

    As a longtime Nanoer (12th year) I agree with all of the above – it isn’t for everyone, same way planning or pantsing or writing every day or not writing every day isn’t for everyone. That said, everyone is welcome to join us even if you don’t want to do the goal of 50,000 words – there’s threads for all kinds of rebel projects, and even a thread for folks not doing Nano at all that still enjoy the forums.

  • .. and for some, the fun is in the challenge… the fun is in the fact that – if you’ve got a full time job, and bills to pay, and laundry to do, and Thanksgiving commitments — 50k is doable, but it’s an effort. IMHO, you don’t WIN Nano, you DO Nano. And in doing Nano, you might get to 50k, or you might not. And you might learn something about yourself in the process. And if you have fun, or if you learn something about yourself, or if you meet new friends… then you’ve won.

  • Is it sad that I think of Thanksgiving weekend as a gift to writers doing NaNo? I find that if I’m behind on my word count, I can use those four days (well, three — the Day Itself is lost to the tryptophan coma) to shut the door and write like a demon. Of course, I don’t have little kids anymore, and I also don’t have people coming to my house for the weekend. Nor do we travel anywhere.

    I’ve skipped NaNo a couple of times (including last year) but I’m doing it this year. We’ll see how it goes.

    (Hint: Camp NaNoWriMo might work better for people who just want to try it out. It’s in April and/or July every year. You set your own goals, and you can team up with others or be a curmudgeon with your own private cabin.)

  • What a great post. I own a ferret – so that’s a win.

    I did Nano once (completing 80k in a month with a FT job and singing commitments). However, I should say that November happened to fall in the crazy year of my writing the last four books in my series (400k words). This year, while I want to take part in the mass consciousness of creativity, I feel I should put my efforts towards editing my YA series.

    I tend to think that Nano is a good exercise to do at least once – especially when you are still working on that first book. Even if it’s a supremely terrible book, finishing a draft of a book does wonders for your psyche.

    • “Finishing a draft of a book does wonders for your psyche.” I can’t agree more, i found that when i got to the end of my first book i felt some pride that i managed to do it. I recently started on book 2 and while I will admit the same bright eyed, bushy tailed excitement of doing something for the first time has gone, I do look at this book and understand and (hopefully) preempt the areas that caused issues first time round.

      Winning or losing maybe what its all about for some people. But just a book only has to touch one reader to have done its job, if Nano shows the door to what writing is about to someone who doesn’t yet know then there is a merit in that.

  • Great post. Love the surreal invective – as usual. Made my day. I’m not doing the ‘month’ thing (I’ll not use the acronym, I’m bound to get it wrong) but it feels like I’m doing that pace of work anyway – editing a non-fiction book, nearly finishing off a second, nearing the end of my novel’s first draft, completing the outline of the next novella, judging a horror writing contest with 56 entries (only 100,000 words) and starting a short story next week as part of a blog-posting – oh, and that reminds me – another blog posting to do. So, maybe that single hour of sleep is over-rated. One day I’ll do the ‘month’ thing. Just not this year.

  • October 27, 2015 at 4:13 PM // Reply

    You know how they treat hemmorhoids? They wrap little tiny rubber bands around them until they’re starved of blood and shrivel up. Not even joking.

  • Congrats me! I passed the ADD test with flying colors!!!

    I’m gonna probably start a new drug next week – not Adderal. This drug? Well, turns out the therapist’s son-in-law writes for the NYTimes Sunday magazine. The son-in-law was having breakfast with Michael Chabon, who asked the son-in-law if he’d ever tried X drug (I forget the name because ADD). “I take this drug at 5:00 a.m. and I’m writing straight until 11:00 a.m.,” Michael Chabon said. The therapist uses it when he’s gonna have a long day. “So it’s not cocaine?” I asked. “No. But it will give you a lot of energy to help you focus on tasks throughout the day. It’s not an amphetamine,

    We both found my instant boner a little embarrassing.

    Fuck NanoRimo. Long live short attent

  • I’ve done NaNo every year since 2008 and I’ve only failed once – the other years I got words onto a page and that qualified those years as winners, even if the stories weren’t finished. The year I failed, I didn’t even manage to start a new document – my teacher training left me without any time to have fun (and I always have fun doing NaNo) so despite the plot in my head, nothing got written.

    To be honest, I think the two camps (April and July) are probably better times for sustained writing achievement, but being British, we don’t have Thanksgiving – Guy Fawkes barely qualifies as a holiday in my eyes.

    This year, I took your advice and outlined the story I am going to be working on… and I’m cheating a little – I’ve already started writing it! But I tend to do 2,000 words a day, rather than 1,667 they way they recommend.

    My writing motto is – if it isn’t fun, don’t do it.
    Doing NaNo and not having fun makes it far too difficult.

  • I am going to do NaNoWrimo to get that first 50k draft done, so I can then add to it, then rewrite, edit, polish, and stop procrastinating. So I think what I really need is that extra motivation:) I have no hopes of finishing November with a finished novel (not by any means). But those 50k words…Oh yeah! They’ll be happening!

  • I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009, and it was the single best thing for my writing career I’ve ever done. Strike that – I wouldn’t have a writing career if it wasn’t for NaNo. Before that, I’d never finished a single book, I kept chewing over the written parts again and again, and I’d lose steam. Writing for NaNo forced me to get past my inner editor and give myself permission to suck. You can always go back and fix it later, but you can never fix what you don’t write. Once I learned the trick of that, there was no stopping me. I finished that month at 99,500 words and my first completed first draft. I’m heading into NaNoWriMo this year to write my 28th full length book. Now I do a version of NaNo every time I write a book, powering through the first draft in a relatively short period of time without stopping to second guess myself. I encourage everyone to try it, at least once, to see what you can learn from it.

  • My first NaNo was my first attempt at even coming close to writing a novel. I bought No Plot No Problem, created a few characters and walked them through 50k words of I have no idea what it was. I “won” and bought myself a discounted copy of Scrivener. Yay. That “novel” was the mess you’d expect it was from somebody who had only ever written short stories before that. It was dreadful, hopeless, and yet wonderful. I proved something to myself, even if it was only “I can write crap too!” I printed it out (in Courier 12-pt so it made a massive stack!) took a picture of it, and promptly tossed it.

    NaNo is a great way to prove something to yourself, kind of like running a marathon or giving up a food for Lent when you’re not Catholic. But these days I don’t really enjoy doing it. The LAST thing I need sitting on my desk is another first draft that I can’t muster the energy to revise, and frankly I’m self-disciplined enough to set and meet my own deadlines without the rest of Facebook watching my word count ticker. I’m doing it this year because I’ve got a YA thing I want to experiment with, but after that I think I might be done with it.

  • October 27, 2015 at 6:03 PM // Reply

    Don’t forget there is one advantage to doing NaNo, and to having during a major family holiday:
    “I’m sorry, I need to shut myself in this room and write. I’m behind on my word count!”

    (Note: I love my family. I also love my down time. This works for me).

  • This is my first year of NaNoWriMo and this is the problem with me: I take AGES to write a book. I mean, how in all fuck am I going to write a book in a month when it normally takes me 4 months or more to normally write a book? It’s not every day I can get in and write some of the book… I can’t switch on my muse like a light switch and what I write doesn’t flow every time.

    Also, when I’m writing a book, I’m a complete zombie once I’ve finished a writing session. I don’t want to be around anyone. I’m the most anti-social person to be around when I’m writing – yes, I turn into the absolute hermit crab my folks turn up at my house and wonder if I’m still alive (it gets that bad).

    So, exactly how in the hell is this going to work when I have other things in my life going on like paying bills, weekend volunteer work and my ordinary life going on? How do other people fit it in?

    • I’ll speak for myself here, but as with pretty much anything else in life, it’s about setting priorities. If it matters to you, you’ll make time for it at the expense of things that are maybe not so important.

      There are times (rare ones) that I say, you know what, there’s too much going on today, I’m going to give myself a pass from banging out words. And sometimes I stick to that, but other times I start to itch, and I end up staying up late or waking up early the next day to make up the “work” I missed.

      Simply put, you fit it in wherever it fits, and if it doesn’t fit, you use your vacuum-powered time-and-obligation-eraser and you cut a hole for it to fit.

      Or you make like Elsa and let it go. The world won’t stop turning if you don’t NaNo.

  • I’m too busy writing to do NaNo. Seriously, I have 2 or 3 books running in parallel, and I have a backlog of stuff to edit and publish or submit. The idea of gnawing on one bone for the whole month is about as appealing as strolling naked through a spring forest glade, picking up ticks and thorn scratches with not a morel in sight.

  • Great read. I am back at the keyboard after about a 2 1/2 year break. this was extremely helpfull. think I ma going to check out your book. Looking for something to jumpstart me again. maybe finish some stuff or sell what i already have. first, though, I should just write!

  • October 28, 2015 at 2:15 AM // Reply

    Need a jumpstart to clear my brain of cobwebs… I got yr thirty day book to keep me company…have never done this before, even though I have scads of writings stuffed everywhere around the house…Need to see what I can unplug…no expectations, just the thought: What’s gonna Happen? Wish me luck, sir…

  • I probably will do it. There’s no way I can finish a novel but I can probably write 50,000 words of the next one. Enough to get me acquainted with the new characters. The last two I’ve had November to write. We don’t have thanks giving here but we often have half term in the first week of November so nano is often 15 days for me, too. :-)

  • I’m of the mindset that doing the NaNoNo is a waste of time. Unless you’re the kind of type A person that thrives on churning out stuff at a phenomenal rate. I believe if you’re gonna write, write. Don’t wait for one particular month to do it. As you say, everyone’s writing style is different, and some of us are slow on the draw due to family/life/work/physical limitations.

    More power to those who do it, but it seems to me that those who do, already churn out quality stuff out to begin with and this is simply another, “Ha! look what I can do!” to brag about.

  • I think that if it motivates you to write, that’s fantastic and great and I’m not going to argue with anybody who gets a push from jumping into the NaNo-flavored water.

    But if it’s the *only* thing motivating you to write, then maybe ease off the stick a little bit. It’s one month out of the year; if you only get hyped about 1/12th of the possible time you could spend doing something, then maybe that thing is not a thing you should be focused on.

    I’m writing almost every day anyway, at a much more manageable pace that despite its non-NaNo break-neck-itude already takes away from family and work time just about as much as is healthy. So you won’t find me doing anything differently this month, except maybe giggling at the flameouts and silently chiding those who *do* finish to go and edit the pile of word-vomit they’ve hacked up.

  • Cautiously puts hand up.
    It seems a lot of the negative comments on Nano are from career/published/experienced writers, people who are on a different track to people like myself with different pressures and rhythms to writing.
    For me and many of the thousands of wannabes, Nano provides a platform to give it a go, permission to try. It is my annual effort in being creative, my chance to explore words with immutable deadlines. I love being given the freedom to churn out words that string together into something sensible. Is it bad, probably but every year, I grow my skills through my fellow Nanomites and the advice given so generously by other writers.
    I don’t want to ever take it so seriously that I don’t enjoy the sense of community and achievement. November is a part of my life that I look forward to the most because of the cameraderie and sense of achievement in writing a complete story.

  • I work at a doctor’s office and am pleased to report that we do, upon occasion, treat hemmorhoids with a laser. I call it the Butt Space Gun. You’re welcome.

  • I’ve been torn on this year’s NaNo and ultimately feel I’m not going for it. I’m in the middle of a WIP that I don’t want to abandon or diversify from in November is the main part (nothing says I can’t just latch it into the NaNo machine.) The rest is, I have threeor four full first drafts done that I really should look at again and see if any of them are good to keep going or just things I’ve moved on from. I suspect two of them are very much good to be continued…the rest? I dunno. Maybe I’ll just make NaNoWriMo my own version of NaNoEdMo

  • Luckily, my pace is faster than Nano (I need a t-shirt that says that). I usually aim for a 100,000 word novel, because as you say, 50,000 just doesn’t do it. I am working on a fourth in a series this Nano, and the first three are around 125,000, so that’s my Nano goal this month. And why not? I can still do 5,000 words per day and reach that (allowing for Sundays off and those days that I can’t quite reach my quota.)

  • I’ve done NANO since 2009, and I do it for two reasons:
    1. I tend to be an over-thinker, and being focused on completing an insane word count goal, rather than focused on picking the idea apart until it dies on the construction bench, is the best way I can think of to “finish my shit.”

    2. Even when I finish my books, by the time they are done I decide that I hate them, and that they are not worth revising. Amazingly, writing faster–i.e. focusing on the joy of creating the story, rather than picking apart the details–results in first drafts that I actually love, and am excited to revise.
    So, for me, NANO is a wonderful way to focus my energy as a storyteller, and avoid unhealthy second-guessing and cognitive distractions as much as possible–because you don’t have time to get distracted when you have a 30-day deadline.

  • 1) GONORRHEA HOT CUP is a terrible Capt. Beefheart album.

    2) God damn it, Wuck Chendig, but I think I may have to do NANOWRIMO this year to kick me back into writing again after a wee brain break. Herm.

  • I have a lot of respect for anyone who decides to try to do NaNoWriMo, but I won’t be one of them. I’m slow, and slow gets me there eventually. But kudos to those who brave the deep November waters. Good luck!

    Oh, and my favorite part about this post?

    “• Sometimes doing something different from what everyone else is doing is clarifying and valuable. Writers are not particularly good at following orders, I find. In fact, every writer is basically ten ferrets. You can’t control one ferret, much less ten. Ferrets will not be commanded. FERRETS CARE LITTLE FOR YOUR NATIONAL FERRET WRANGLING MONTH (NaFerWraMo).”

    Cause ferrets make everything better. :P (My hubby is a sucker for all things ferret, so I had a blast reading this bit of Beard Wisdom. Heh heh heh. :)

  • You are completely deranged in a most wonderful way. Your points about the positive aspects of NaNo are dead on. The end result of rushing out 50k words? Bonfire. A very small bonfire.

  • I’m a bit late to this party but I thoroughly enjoyed this article and just wanted you to know. I’ll be trying for 78000 in November, but I have a fast pace when it comes to drafting. Probably adds to the slow lethargy of editing, but I do what I do.

  • I’m a bit puzzled here. Finish a rough draft or finish a book in 30 days? I can’t finish a book in 30 days [we don’t want to talk about editing nightmares and second guessing yourself which screws up your plot and… well lots of editing woes.] But a rough draft? Yeah. I can do one in 30 days as long as I know where I want the story to go. I average about 75000 words a month so NaNoWriMo is a bit slow for me. And that rough draft is with Alpha readers reading each chapter as it comes off the press.

    I can’t finish it in 30 days IF I have no clue what I am doing [call it pantsing.] It can be as simple as two cops meet and fall in love. Old flame shows up and wants one back. Serial killer complicates the entire thing. And they all live happily ever after. I can run with that.

    Once I have that it is all “What happens next?” Each scene is what happens next to get them to the end. It’s simple really. [or not… I’ll get back to you on that in a few years]

    NaNo did me a favor. It taught me to shut up the inner editor that kept me from writing. I owe them that. It’s a big one because it kept me from writing. Now if I figure out how to quiet it down while editing, I’ll be doing even better. She’s a bit neurotic, judgemental and overly critical with strong borderline traits. Sounds just like my mother but that’s a different therapy session [and might be why she’s a she not a he.]

    NaNo taught me that my speed is about 72,000 to 75,000 words a month. Any more and I get sloppy. Any less and I’m bored and lose interest. It taught me I MUST have a loose plot to follow at the least and an idea of some of the rocks I want to throw at my characters but it NaNoWriMo didn’t teach me I needed rocks to begin with.

    After that? It’s a fail for me. Puts me in mind of a bunch of 7th graders putting on Shakespeare for some reason. Well, unless they offer some really good prizes in which case, I’ll shoot off that 50,000 just to collect.

  • God, November is the worst month. I don’t have local family so the holiday isn’t really a problem (we usually spend all of Thanksgiving morning holed up in Starbucks) The biggest thing that’s a concern is the Christmas baking, which I’ve learned to start early, because I have to get it in the mail and get it out to family. So stuff that holds up in the freezer always ends up on my list.

    I really can’t emphasize the community aspect enough, though. My whole social calendar for the year revolves around NaNo. Without exaggeration. Pretty much all of my friends are fellow WriMos, especially since we moved. My drinking buddies/book club/critique group consist of our two MLs, our other ambassador, and a couple of other die-hards. I would find a way to do NaNo even without the structure of the 50K goal, because it’s simply the most I get out all year.

  • Not only are there festivities but if you are in college November either means Finals week or studying like a crazy person for finals week.
    This, too, will cause additional stress to your word flow during the end of NaNo.

  • This will be my 12th year doing NanoWrimo. I started in 2003 and I never looked back. I started late that year and I still won. I also got it published. :D I agree, it’s not for everyone and I’ve lost more times than I’ve won, but for me it’s the adventure of writing and creating that keeps me going.
    My 2013 novel went on sale september 30th and as of yesterday it hit 309 Sales. So yeah, I’m happy… even if I loose.
    What you guys probably DON’T know is that there is a Camp NanoWrimo held in April and another in June *I think, don’t quote me on it* You can find the link here:
    http://www.campnanowrimo.org

  • I read this post and signed up for Nano. It’s day 6 and I am at 9197 words. At this rate the stats say I will be finished by December 3rd, 2015 so I need pick up the pace a bit. I am running 2 websites, working a job, and have two kids. I am already trying to think how I will get any writing done when the kids are out for five days at Thanksgiving. Methinks there will need to be some 5 thousand word days to make it. I have written about my experience so far on my blog here: https://offworlders.com/nanowrimo-path-taken-have-i/ where I blame, errrr, thank Mr. Wendig for convincing me to get involved.

  • I haven’t done NaNoWriMo before, but I started out with some short stories this month, and I have about 60,000 words so far on those plus another 20,000 for the novel I’m working on. I never understand other people’s word counts. Last year, I wrote a 75,000 word rough draft in 11 days. Then, I took a week off, and then took 4 more days to edit it. It’s being published soon. That’s about standard for me– 5-10,000 words a day while I’m working (as a teacher) and more in the summer (8-12,000). Is this unusual?

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