If you read blogs about writing, or follow writers on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the word “NaNoWriMo” recently.
In case not – NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month”. It takes place every November, where writers all over the world (256,618 last year) aim to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.
Maybe that sounds crazy to you. Maybe it sounds like an exciting challenge. Either way, NaNoWriMo – or NaNo – is definitely worth thinking about.
Although some writers are evangelical about NaNo, and others are scathing, I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe NaNo has huge benefits for many writers … but I don’t think it’s right for everyone.
So here are four reasons why you should jump on the NaNo bandwagon … and four reasons why you shouldn’t.
Why You Should…
#1: You Want to Build a Great Writing Habit
If you haven’t been writing much recently, or if you struggle to be consistent with your writing, NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to establish a strong writing habit.
Once you’ve written an average of 1,667 words per day for 30 days, you’ll find it much easier to keep going (even if you don’t carry on at such a breakneck pace).
#2: You Want to Make Serious Progress on a Big Project
Is there a novel idea simmering away in the back of your mind? Do you have a great outline for a book? Have you got a bunch of short story competitions to enter?
Whatever your big writing project is, NaNo is a great chance to make dramatic progress. Although the “rules” say that you should be writing 50,000 words of first-draft fiction, there’s no reason why you can’t use NaNo as an excuse to work on something else.
#3: You Want to Meet Other Writers
For many writers, NaNo is a social occasion. With supportive online forums, Twitter “word sprints” and local meetups, there’s bound to be an online or offline event that you can attend.
Writing is generally a solitary activity – and that means the writing life can be a lonely one. Support from other people who “get” writing can make the difference between quitting and staying the course.
#4: You Want to Put Your Writing First for a Month
Does your writing always seem to end up waiting until another day, despite your best intentions? It can be really hard to make writing a priority when you’ve got a family to look after, a house to clean, a day job to go to…
NaNoWriMo is an excuse to put your writing first. It’s only one month, so your partner / kids / cat can cope with a little less attention than they’re used to (and you can let the laundry pile up).
Why You Shouldn’t
#1: You’re at the Editing Stage of a Big Project
Last November, I was doing the final edit for my novel Lycopolis. My priority was to get Lycopolis ready for publication as an ebook … and I wasn’t prepared to take on a totally new project.
If you’ve got an almost-finished novel, book, short story collection or other major project, then you might want to hold off on NaNo until next year.
#2: Your November is Looking Crazy Already
Perhaps you’ve got a ton of work or personal commitments during November. (If you’re in the US, for instance, you’ll probably be celebrating Thanksgiving.) Although I’m all for big goals, there’s no sense in taking NaNo on if it’ll leave you feeling exhausted and stressed-out.
Again, there’ll be another NaNo next year … or alternatively, you can pick a month that suits you better and have a personal NaNo (perhaps roping in a few friends).
#3: You Like to Write Slowly and Carefully
NaNo suits writers who enjoy getting words down fast – never mind if they end up scrapping half their novel in the rewrite. This is how I like to write fiction, but it may well not be right for you.
If you’re the sort of writer who creates careful, meticulous first drafts that require very little editing, then NaNo probably won’t be a good fit for you. (If you do want to give it a go, I’d suggest setting a smaller word target goal – maybe 20,000 or 30,000 words instead of 50,000.)
#4: You’ll be Crushed by “Losing”
Last year, 256,618 people entered NaNoWriMo, but only 36,843 (about 14%) went on to “win” (that is, complete 50,000 words between 1st and 30th November). However keen you feel on Day 1, you may find that your motivation flags as the month goes on – or real life might conspire against you.
If you know you’d be really upset to take on a challenge and “fail” then NaNo probably isn’t for you. Again, you could still take part if you’re willing to set yourself a slightly less ambitious goal.
If you do tackle NaNoWriMo this year, best of luck!
I hope you have a wonderful time, and regardless of whether you end the month with 50,000 nwords, you’ll learn a lot about yourself as a writer – and you’ll have some great new writing too.
One quick tip: Don’t feel that you have to stick slavishly to the “rules”. If you want to write non-fiction, or redraft an existing novel, go for it. If you want to aim for 25,000 words instead of 50,000, that’s fine too. Just be clear with yourself what your target is … and then you’ll know when you’ve reached it.
I’d love to hear about your NaNo-ing plans for next month, or your NaNo experience in past years. Just pop a comment below…