No-no to NaNo

NaNoWriMo - CopyI’ll be honest from the start – I am a slow writer. For that reason, I’ve resisted participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as it rolls around each year. The goal of NaNo is a great one – spend time prepping yourself for a writing marathon then enter the marathon and come out of it with more words on the page than you would have had otherwise. More specifically, the goal is to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month by writing 1667 words per day, every day for 30 days.

It sounds incredibly daunting and it is. However, there is logic within this madness.

I think of it like Christmas, which to me is the greatest time of year. I start planning early – like in the summer. By September I’ve prepared my gift-giving list and might have even started shopping. By October, I’ve planned the menu for Christmas day. By Thanksgiving, the day after actually, my house is decorated inside and out and during that following week, my family holiday picture is taken – kitties included. By the time Christmas day comes around, all that’s on my list is cooking and celebrating. The day itself is a marathon but I love it because all of the nitty-gritty has been tended to prior to the day.

So it is with NaNo. Plot your story early. Do your character charts or interviews, if you normally do those. Create your storyboard or dictate your notes into a digital recorder… whatever you do to prepare yourself before writing a new story is what you should do in the months or weeks before NaNo.

Then, shop. Stock the fridge and even consider prepping meals you can freeze so that during NaNo, you won’t have to worry about meal planning. Clean the house if a tidy house helps you focus on the story. Warn your friends and family that November will be a very busy month for you and you won’t be taking calls or receiving visitors during that month’s writing hours.

book by candle lightDitch the excuses and the inner editor at the door and give your muse permission to play. When November 1st arrives, you start. No looking back. No revisions, no self doubt, no research. Just forward motion. If you need to look into something further before you add it to your story, add a note saying you need to look into that further but don’t stop to do it now. Do it in December.

Write. Every day. You’d be surprised how, even if you were unsure where your story would go because of some unexpected blip, by staying in the story day after day, by immersing yourself in your characters’ lives, in their setting, in the action and emotion, each day’s writing will get easier. You’ll just know where to go with each new writing session because for this month you, too, will inhabit the world you’ve created.

It sounds wonderful. I so wish I could work this way. I wish I could complete even surrender1,000 words per day. However, knowing I have to, knowing that is what’s expected of me, stifles my muse. Performance anxiety, I suppose.

Even though the draft written during NaNo is for no one to see but me, I can’t bring myself to just write – or to leave “to be researched” notes in the text. I have to know NOW. I write linearly. (except for when I jump from Chapter 3 to write the final scene, then jump back to Chapter 4). What I write in one paragraph directly affects the next in a way that will not allow me to skip over details in favor of words on the page.

Since November 1st, I’ve written 4,000 words. My personal goal was 1300 words per day. By now I should be up to 18,200 words. I’m writing a novella so that would put me at the midway point. How wonderful that would be – which is why it was my goal.

The reality is very different for me. My process is different. I simply cannot write this way and trying to rework my process to fit the mold has only frustrated me. I value NaNo’s intention. I admire those who attempt it and stick with it – whether they meet the daily goal or not. But for me, it’s not an enjoyable or productive process and so I’ll be sticking to my agonize-over-every-word method of writing, wave at the NaNo marathoners as they zip past me and continue in my own way, at my own pace, and for my own pleasure. I know I’ll be among the last to cross the finish line but I don’t mind because I will cross it.

writingEmbrace your process. Whatever that may be. You should never be afraid to try something new, but neither should you be afraid to say that something new is not for you.

What has your experience been with NaNo? Thrilling? Daunting? Did your experience with it alter your ‘normal’ writing habits or did you revert back to your own process without looking back?


6 Responses to No-no to NaNo

  • No, NaNoWriMo is not for me either. There will be days when I write 2000 words that I can use, and there will be days when I write 200, rewrite the, rewrite them, and rewrite them again, just to toss the passage next day and start again.
    Everyone is different. Think how dull our books would be if all the characters were alike.

    • Yes! Exactly – there are days when the words flow as if I’ve known them all my life and days I wonder if I even understand the language. There are also days when the ‘writing’ process involves only brainstorming – even if I’ve brainstormed before. But you’re so right – how dull our books (how dull the world!) would be if all characters were alike.

      Thanks for coming by, Lil. It’s good to know there are others out there like me, happily dancing to their own music.

      Onward, I say! 😎

  • I’m up to 14,049 words for my first signup this year. Unfortunately I’ve been there since Monday, but it’s better than where I was in October. (Plus, they sell this awesome travel mug and I didn’t feel I could order it without actually participating…). I wish I could add from two books, because the novel I intended to write took a pause while I added over 6,000 words to another one. I guess NaNo’s motivating me.

    Kudos to you on the holiday prep, but that’s another thing I find to be very individualistic. It would make me bonkers to be surrounded by decorations this early. I’m a week-before type of gal, and I don’t start real shopping until December. Otherwise I spend too much and the clutter drives me nuts. Plus I like that last-minute crush — you should see our kitchen that last week! Nice post, Deb.

    • 14,00+ words?! That is awesome! Go you! And you’re right, no matter the lag it’s better than a few weeks ago.

      I know NaNo is about completing 50,000 words in one book, but to be able to add 6,000 to another when you’ve already added so many to the original is phenomenal. I think you’re right, NaNo has motivated you. I think that might really be the purpose of this. Not just to get the words down but to feel energized and ready to write more.

      This is like April Khilstrom’s Book in a Week class. I loved it. I modified it to fit my method but it was empowering as an author to feel so connected to my story – and writing every day does that. So kudos to you for those extra words – NaNo might not count them but I do and you should, too, IMO.

      About prepping early for the holidays… I know I’m the odd one out, I don’t mind. 😉 But as far as the last minute crush? I love that best because I can go to the mall or stroll the boulevard and feel that energy without having to wait on lines or hope I can still find that particular gift I wanted to purchase. Plus… I bake. A lot. For all my neighbors, in fact. So… that’s my real last-minute crush.

      The travel mug, huh? I’ll have to get a look at that baby…

  • I’d love to give NaNo a go another time. Signed up for it a few years ago but fell four days prior to the start of the event–injuring my left shoulder, left elbow (cracked it), and left hand in addition to left hip and knee. Needless to say, I was unable to write with an arm sling and intense pain. I’ve never felt in the “right” place in subsequent years–this year my new release being my “excuse” for opting out. 😥

    I’d do so much better with NaNo December. Oddly enough, the last month of the year is often my most prolific. Perhaps that’s because I look back on my goals for the year and it’s my last ditch effort to meet them. 😀

    Excellent post, Debora. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Holy cow, Jolyse! What a terrible fall you must have taken! But… if I may say, a new release is a FANTASTIC excuse for just about anything. lol. Super congrats to you!
      I wonder if you can have your own NaNo in December? No saying you can’t, right? Though, since it’s already a productive month for you, maybe just keeping at it is a better idea.
      I didn’t do well at all with NaNo this first time, but I am glad I made the attempt. It’s important to try other methods so we don’t fall stagnant in our own routines but it’s also important, I think, to reinforce the idea that our own routine or process is right for us. And who knows? Next year, NaNo just might work out fine for both of us. 🙂

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