J J Hanna
The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo
It's November, and with November comes the wonderful and heart-wrenching word sprint that is NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a time where writers all over the world commit to try to write 50,000 words in the span of one month. This is accomplished by writing 1,667 words every day. Writers self-report their word counts and get nifty little charts to help them visibly see their progress and stay motivated. If you're interested in learning more, you can visit their page here: https://nanowrimo.org/.
There are people on both sides of the fence for NaNoWriMo, so I'm going to go into their arguments and then explain my goals for NaNoWriMo this year.
You write every day. This is one of the most important things a writer can do to develop their craft.
It's important to get words on the page. In the writing industry we often say, "You can't edit a blank page." It is vital to get words out of your head and into some form of expression.
You can explore writing from different standpoints. If you normally plot your novel to the extreme, you can experiment with sitting down without a plan and letting your ideas run for themselves. If you normally don't plan, you can try creating an outline and going from there.
50,000 words is a novel, but it's a short novel. Most genres have different average word lengths. If you've reached 50,000 words and you feel your novel is done, the story is complete, you can move into the editing stages. If not, you can keep going and it won't be the end of the world. The genres I write average 75,000 to 130,000 words. 50,000 is not going to get me all the way to the end of my book.
You can try a different type of writing entirely. If you always write fiction, you can try nonfiction. If you always write novels, you can try to write 50,000 words worth of short stories. It's a compact time and challenge in which you can explore.
The novels produced require intense editing. The nature of the writing, where you write to meet a word count and you just want to get words on the page, produced really bad writing. Worse than normal writing. You'll repeat yourself, you'll misspell words or character's names, and because of the intensity of the challenge, you won't be able to fix those right away because whatever time you have to write must be put into pushing the novel forward.
Writing 1,667 words a day is really hard. I had the privilege of hearing an author named Allie Pleiter speak about how she manages time and makes commitments to finish books on time. Her method, "the Chunky Method," suggests that each writer has a specific "chunk" that they can churn out in one sitting. For me, that word count is approximately 600 words. This means that for NaNoWriMo I need to sit down to write three times to reach the daily word count without straining my creative juices. That's a time commitment. (To learn more about Allie Pleiter and her books, check out her website: http://alliepleiter.com/thechunky_method.html.)
NaNoWriMo concludes with saying, "If you reach 50,000 words, you're a winner! If not, you lose." The community aspect of NaNoWriMo means that you can easily compare your writing success to that of your writing friends. If all your friends "win" and you give up six days in because your life is crazy and you didn't have time to write 10,000 words, let alone 50,000 words, it can become easy to wonder why you ever thought you were a writer at all. Don't let that stop you from trying, though. Only 600 words written is still 600 words written. If I wrote 600 words every day, it would take me only 125 days to write the first draft of my novel. As far as creating books goes, that's really good.
Lastly, some stories take more time to percolate in your mind than others. If a story isn't ready to be pushed out into the world, if your characters aren't developed enough to communicate with each other, if your plot consists solely of two characters bickering for 30 pages, NaNoWriMo will only help you to explore, not to create something you might be proud of some day.
Should people do NaNoWriMo? In my opinion, yes. But I say that with the caveat that not everyone has to do NaNoWriMo the same way. Last year, I was a "Winner." I wrote the 50,000 words in a novel that I decided afterward needed to be split into a trilogy. I've been working on that trilogy for the past year, and have finished the first draft of book one, and am halfway through the first draft of book two. This year, rather than having my goal be to write 50,000 words just to have written 50,000 words, my goal is to finish the second book. If that means I don't write 1,667 words every day, so be it. My goal is to write every day, not to write 50,000 words by the end of the month.
So use NaNoWriMo as a tool, not as the end all be all of your writing career. If you finish, congratulations! You wrote a novel! Celebrate! If you don't, don't be discouraged. You still did something amazing in sitting down to write and at least give it a try.
Have your own thoughts on whether NaNoWriMo is something to do or not? Connect with me on social media, you'll find the links at the bottom of this page.
J. J. Hanna is attending Taylor University for a degree in Professional Writing. She has published multiple devotions and book reviews and is a beginning comic artist. She published her first book, Existence, in 2015. Look for it on Amazon.