You pretty much can’t avoid NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November. And with just three days left of October, it’s time to decide if you’re in or out.
Whether you’re an author yourself, or just someone who knows one, you see that acronym pretty much everywhere soon.
If you haven’t, the general point of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Yeah, it’s not quite a novel, but we won’t split hairs over word counts here.
Many bloggers and writers have already written about NaNoWriMo but if you’re doing it yourself, you might already be at that “What am I doing to myself?” stage.
So why should, and shouldn’t, you do NaNoWriMo?
It’s entirely up to you! You’ve only got three days to start planning but it’s not too late to get a move on. That said, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons first.
1) PRO – You’ll get a huge chunk of your book committed to paper (well, Word).
Sometimes working up the motivation to write can be difficult, but once you’ve started, the momentum carries you along.
Not only that, but the very fact you have a word count target and a deadline is a brilliant reason to actually sit down and write.
50,000 is not enough words to make up a novel, but it could easily give you a novella. And you can just keep writing in December until you hit your magic word count.
I originally wrote what became The Stolen Ghosts in 2008 during NaNoWriMo. It’s undergone substantial changes over the intervening decade so don’t worry if your November effort doesn’t get ‘finished’ straight away.
2) PRO – NaNoWriMo forces you to organise your time more effectively.
You might struggle in your non-NaNoWriMo year to find time every day to write. But during November, you have no choice but to actually plan your time.
It’s the only way you’ll manage to rack up 1667 words a day. So you’ll learn how to balance all of your commitments and pull the words out of thin air if you really want to.
You can come up with whatever schedule suits you best. So whether you’re writing 3500 words every other day, or in four blocks of 425 words each per day, you’ll know how to fit the words in.
3) PRO – You’ll also learn whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.
Previous attempts at NaNoWriMo taught me that I can’t write it I have an idea plotted to within an inch of its life. Basically, once I’ve plotted the idea I feel like I’ve already written it, so I lose interest.
If I try pantsing, I wander off down too many blind alleys and I lose interest through confusion.
My writing flows so much better if I have at least a rough idea where I want the story to go before I even start. I make it up as I go along between identified major plot milestones.
Likewise, you’ll learn the best way for you to get an idea out of your head and onto paper. You’ll also figure out what methods work best for you.
It’s all great practice for setting up your writing schedule after November.
4) CON – You don’t have the luxury of going back to fix continuity errors.
After all, you don’t want to accidentally lower your word count, instead of increasing it!
Make it work for you – I write and edit as I go. That means I often start a writing session by editing the last thing I wrote. So many writers tell you not to do that but you’ve got to do what works for you.
During NaNoWriMo, that’s a lot harder to write and edit, so it forces me to keep moving forward. ‘What’s next’ becomes important, instead of getting hung up on what’s already happened.
If you know something needs to be fixed, add a comment using tracked changes. Or highlight the passage in a specific colour so you can amend in December.
5) CON – Sometimes you really will have to force the words.
Not in the mood for writing? Tough. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, you’re not able to take a day off. If that creative well runs dry, then you just have to keep going.
It’s either that or risk running behind on your word count.
Make it work for you – If you find you’re not in the mood to write, skip ahead (or sideways) to a scene you DO want to write.
There’s no commandment that says you have to write in the right order.
6) CON – You may also have to put aside other commitments to actually complete it.
It doesn’t matter what else you have in your life. If you’ve decided to tackle NaNoWriMo, then you have to at least make an effort to see it through. Depending on what your commitments are, that can be really hard.
Make it work for you – Just remember that this is the one time of year when you’re ALLOWED to put your writing first. So don’t see it as a chore – make the most of it!
Whatever your reason for doing NaNoWriMo, you’re bound to get something out of the experience. And if you’re not doing it, you’ve learned enough about your own habits to know it doesn’t work for you!
Over to you! Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
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