It’s that time of year again! *trills* Time where we live on nothing but caffeine and leftover Halloween candy while pounding out 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s time for NaNoWriMo.
This will be my fifth year participating in NaNo. Last year I wondered if it would be my last NaNoWriMo, but earlier this year I decided to throw myself back into the fray. Why would I swing between the two extremes, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, with a short list of the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo.
1) It’s friendly. Being a writer can be lonely, especially if you don’t have close friends who are writers. It’s a life that a lot of people don’t understand. NaNo is great because suddenly there are literally thousands of you racing for the same goal, and everybody can be a winner.
2) It diminishes the fear of writing a novel. This is especially true if you’re new to novel writing and the mere concept of a novel breaks your brain. And once you realize that writing a novel is an attainable goal, the whole world opens up.
3) It gives you a clear, concise goal. “I will write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting on November 1st. I will achieve this by writing 1,667 words a day.” Well, there you go. You know when you’ll start, when you’ll finish, and what your daily word goal is going to be. Contrast this with the famous “I’ll get to it someday” mindset, and you can see how NaNo makes it a little more realistic.
4) Motivation. NaNo is very public. You have an author’s site, writing buddies, and a progress bar. If you don’t want the entire Internet to see you fail, you’d better finish NaNo. That’s pretty motivating.
5) It’s a productive break from your current WIP. We all know that a change is as good as a rest. Perhaps you’re already working on a WIP, but a new idea keeps popping up. NaNoWriMo is a great time to put the first Work in Progress aside and write the guts out of your second one. You spend a month on the new idea, get it down, and then go back to your original WIP. Both projects get to breathe and you aren’t “trapped” with any one piece. Golden.
1) Quality vs. Quantity. While one of the main themes behind NaNoWriMo is to stop stressing and just write the darn thing already, the truth is that we want a little bit of quality in our work. I don’t want to write 50,000 words that I’ll have to immediately toss out because they’re drivel. Sometimes the writing can be really, really bad just because you’re trying to hit a word count, especially if you decided to write a 150,000 word novel in 30 days instead. Trust me, this does happen, and while I’m certain there can be exceptions, I haven’t seen a good 150,000-in-30-days novel yet.
2) Goodbye, Family. In order to write a good, coherent novel in 30 days, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time writing. Not only writing, but thinking and planning. You’re going to live and breathe this book for 30 days, and that means that you’ll have to disappear from your family for a bit more than usual. Spouses/significant others/Mom will have to pick up the slack while you’re busy, and it’s difficult for everybody.
3) The stress is astronomical. Really, it is. Writing a novel takes work, no doubt. Characters, conflicts, romances, gritty fight scenes. It’s difficult enough to write a novel, but then you put an extremely intense deadline on it, and it just ramps up the tension. Make sure it doesn’t kill you.
4) November is a busy month. That means that NaNoWriMo kickoff parties take place on Halloween night. A lot of us in the US travel for Thanksgiving and that really throws a wrench into both plans. I can’t tell you how many Thanksgivings I spent stuffing my face and then running to the hotel in order to pound out my word count. Oh, wait, yes I can. Four Thanksgivings. This will be five.
5) If you’re already a serious writer, it’s unncesseary. While it’s fun to get together and enjoy the meetings, discussions, and chats, I found it more helpful as a beginning writer. Now that I’m actively living a life in the arts, I don’t need the push that I used to. The meetings in particular eat into my writing time.
That’s my list of pros and cons. That said, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year because I like the comradery. I’m doing it with my friends, and NaNo has always worked well for me in the past. I’m looking forward to putting my WIP aside and focusing on a completely different story for a month. I also owe NaNo my gratitude for two other reasons: I wrote my very first novel with NaNo, and I found my agent based on a different NaNoWriMo story. It motivates me and I like the out-and-out literary brawl that NaNoWriMo becomes.
Are you doing NaNo this year? What do you think are the pros and cons?