Better Than NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, takes place every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which works out to be 1,667 words a day. You “win” prizes such as discounts on writing software and services. There is no fee for entering, and you get to choose what you write. It reminds me a bit of the comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway? tagline: “where the game is made up and the points don’t matter.” The only person you’re competing against is yourself.
I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, as I have in previous years. As it is coming to a close, I am thinking of my personal takeaways from the event. I offer them to you as a way for you to decide if participation in NaNoWriMo is worth your time and effort.
If you are not already sitting down at the keyboard every day to write, you may find this sudden time commitment to be daunting. The average person types 35-40 words per minute, while professional typists are in the 65-75 wpm range. I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, despite the fact I haven’t taken a typing test since high school. At 50-55 wpm, it would take about 35 minutes to type 1667 words.
“Easy!” You think. Until you actually sit down to write. The trick isn’t just typing 1667 words per day, but 1667 words that flow into the next 1667 words, and the next. Having some cohesiveness and consistency in your story would be nice. Some NaNoWriMo-ers write short essays instead of trying to write a novel, which is perfectly acceptable. The idea is to get you into the writing habit so that after November, you continue to write.
The time commitment to typing does not include any creative processes you may need to do. There’s still story development, character creation, and even some research to do, depending on your novel. I can spend hours a day working on a single character’s description, habits, mannerisms, and backstory. That doesn’t bode well when I still have to write 1667 words for that day.
Quantity Over Quality
The required number of words for NaNoWriMo does not leave much room for editing. As I was typing this November, I would go back and read a little of what I wrote before. I made copious notes of things to fix during the editing process, some of which are minor and others are major. For instance, in one scene my main character has blue eyes and later on, she has brown. Not a huge deal; she just needs to pick a color. However, there was one part where someone dies and the cause was unknown while in another section it was a car accident. That is a significant discrepancy that affects the rest of the story.
Since NaNoWriMo’s purpose is to write as many words as you can, I am dreading the editing process. I know I am not alone, as many of my writer friends have related their similar fears to me. In my case, I am going to pull out each scene into its own document and edit. Don’t be surprised if half of what you wrote during NaNoWriMo gets scrapped during the first edit.
As a creative, I get burned out if I am not hearing the voice of my muse but I am still forced to work on a project. I often switch between projects, allowing one to rest and float in the back of my mind. When I come back to it, I have new ideas or a solution to something that was stuck.
With NaNoWriMo, I started out writing a single novel; however, the document turned into a giant mess with several short stories intermixed with the storyline. I got bored with it and needed a break although I was also determined to “win” this year. I can see the enticement to write a series of short stories or essays instead of a novel during NaNoWriMo. I may try that next year. Usually, after NaNoWriMo, I find myself unable to write much of anything, because my brain is overloaded.
A Better Way
Instead of writing 50,000 words in a single month, you choose your writing goal per week. You also have the support of other writers who have set their own goals. There are different levels of membership that provide support during the year, depending on your needs. The most significant benefit to this is that you set your weekly word goal based on your life. NaNoWriMo does not take into consideration life events that may throw you off course.
Regardless of when or how you choose to write, the only way you will become an accomplished writer is if you write and finish that novel, essay, short story, poem, how-to book, etc. Publication is optional.
Signups for the 365 Writing Challenge are closed for 2019, yet you can join the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook Group to get notified of the next event and get support for your current works in progress.