Hello, and welcome back! It seems like forever since we last spoke…*cough cough*… But let’s not talk about that. Instead I would like to talk about this year’s National Novel Writing Month, or NanoWriMo as it is commonly referred to.
What is NaNoWriMo?
For those of you that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month long writing challenge that takes place every year in November. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, which works out to about 1,666 words a day.
With such an intense daily word count, the idea is that you are solely focusing on getting that crappy first draft down on paper. No rewriting. No editing. Those are things that come later. For now, you just write the story. And, if you’re writing 50,000 words in a month, a lot of those words are going to be crappy. And that is okay. It’s good, even.
Even if you win at NaNoWriMo (ie/succeed in writing all 50,000 words), you aren’t going to have a finished product at the end of November. But you just might have something that you can work with and edit into a finished product. Even if you decide not to take your draft into those next stages, there is an amount of satisfaction that comes with undertaking and completing this type of challenge.
It’s like running a marathon. It might be a painful process at times, and it’s going to be hard, but think of how full of accomplishment you’ll feel at the end. (Full disclosure… I have never actually run a marathon, so I am making some assumptions here with this example. One time I ran to catch the bus… does that count?)
I have never successfully participated in NaNoWriMo. I’ve done Camp NaNoWriMo twice. (Camp Nano is a slightly modified and more customizable version of the challenge that takes place in April and July). But I’ve never managed to complete regular Nano. Truth be told, I’ve never managed to start regular Nano. November has always either gotten away from me or I’ve talked (or lazied) myself out of participating.
So this year, I am going to attempt to run that marathon – the NaNoWriMo one that is. I can’t run an actual marathon, could you imagine?… Anyways. I am going to try my hand at Nano this November. But I’m going to take a bit of a different approach than is typical.
My Approach This Year
The most common approach, and the one the organizers recommend, is to start a brand new novel at the beginning of November. You can do some prep work, such as brainstorming, outlining, and character work, before November 1st, but the only words that count towards your goal are those written from November 1st – 30th.
The idea behind starting a new project is that you’re not weighed down by a partial manuscript and any of its problems and frustrations, which is a great idea. Especially since you can get some great momentum from that rush you get from starting a new project. I have not yet managed to finish a novel, but I know from experience that the beginning of a novel is the fun and exciting bit. The further you get into the process, the more difficult it gets, and the greater the temptation to quit becomes.
But that has always been my problem. I’m pretty good at starting writing projects, but I’m terrible at seeing them through to the end. This is why I’m taking a different approach to Nano this year.
This year I am going to continue working on my current work in progress. Because I’m worried that if I stop my current novel to work on something new for the entire month of November, I’ll never go back to it. For this reason, and others, I need to keep working on this novel. But I also want to attempt Nano this year.
So I’m going to challenge myself to write 50,000 words of my work in progress this November. If I succeed, this could get me either to the end, or almost to the end of the novel. And, at this point, that would be a much bigger accomplishment than maybe writing 50,000 words on a new story.
The added bonus of working on my current novel is that if I fail at hitting 50,000 words (something that experience has taught me is more than likely), I’ll still have made progress on my novel. That seems like a win-win from where I stand.
Am I stretching it?
So, the question is, am I cheating or missing the point of NaNoWriMo? I would say that no, I’m not… or at the very least, I don’t think I am?
The point of NaNoWriMo, from my point of view, is to spend the month challenging yourself to write, write, and write some more. You commit to writing your novel in the month and you sit down and do it. Even if the words are terrible. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is going to be a challenge whether I start at the beginning or in the middle of my novel.
The point is also to force yourself to write without filters, which is how I am attempting to write my current first draft. I’m still trying to figure out a process that works well for me when writing fiction, but I know that part of what has held me back is the fear of writing something terrible. I am trying to learn how to write free of filters and free of the internal editor. At the end of the day, you can’t edit the words you haven’t written.
From where I stand, my goals for finishing my novel line up with the spirit of NaNoWriMo. Does it really matter whether I write the beginning 50,000 or final 50,000 words during the month?
Am I stretching the challenge to fit my needs? Maybe. But I’m okay with that. Because a challenge is only useful it it actually helps you move towards your goals. If your goal is to get yourself to sit down and write, then the typical NaNoWriMo approach is great. This year, writing 50,000 words on a new story would not help me towards my goals. Because my current goal is to finish this current novel. Even if it’s terrible. And even if I decide to scrap it in the end.
50,000 words on a new novel might be beneficial in the sense that writing that much in a month is good writing practice, which is necessary if my end goal is to write, and publish, a novel. It might even be a good way to continue to develop a writing habit and routine. But practically, starting a new novel would be a very elaborate form of procrastination.
Now, I am all about the procrastination techniques, but I don’t want to write 50,000 words as a way to procrastinate. Even for me that is excessive. So I am going to tweak the challenge to suit my needs. I’m still going to try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and I’m still only going to count the words actually written during those days. But I’m going to be starting with a story that already has a beginning.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you participated in the past? If so, have you ever taken a different approach? Let’s chat about it in the comments!