That is the question.
For anyone who maybe doesn’t know about NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
As with anything in this crazy world, it has rabid supporters and adamant detractors. On the one hand, who wouldn’t be proud of completing a challenge like that? On the other hand, what kind of quality can really be expected when quantity is the only benchmark?
I’ve been a NaNoWriMo voyeur for a long time and last year, I actually went for it. This year, I thought I would share my take on the pros and cons of the challenge, for anyone considering taking the plunge.
Arguments For NaNoWriMo
Pro: More Words Written
Even if you fail to hit 50,000 words, you will write and odds are, you will write much more than you will if you don’t attempt the challenge. That’s a win.
It feels like a club. You can go to in-person meet-ups, or you can use the hashtag #NaNoWriMo on Twitter and meet all kinds of people all over the world who are right there with you the whole way.
In addition to the people (strangers, even) who will cheer you along, you will enter your word count every day and watch the little chart on the NaNoWriMo page grow. It is surprisingly satisfying.
Pro: Quiet Your Inner Critic
You will be writing too fast for your inner critic to get a word in edgewise. If you’re like most writers, you won’t be quitting your day job or passing you kids off for an entire month, so you’ll have to squeeze that writing in and do it fast, which is great for shutting up that little voice of doubt. Stupid voice.
Arguments Against NaNoWriMo
Con: You will not end up with a finished book.
Never mind that 50,000 words is not long enough for a commercial novel, what you have at the end of November will be a draft. Don’t fool yourself, it will need work, a lot of work.
Con: Bad Timing
November can be a tough month to put your writing first, especially for the parents out there. My kids don’t have school the whole week of Thanksgiving (WTF?). Family comes to town. You know how it goes.
Con: What if You’re Mid-Project?
The format of NaNoWriMo doesn’t really lend itself to those of us editing an existing project. As a result, I feel like NaNoWriMo encourages us to keep starting projects without ever getting any of them across the finish line.
Con: It’s hard.
I debated whether this was actually a con. I could also argue it as a pro – since pushing past what’s comfortable is always a good exercise. But ultimately, writing is hard enough. We don’t need additional pressure, self-imposed or not.
So tell me: are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it in the past? If you do it every year, do you have a pile of unfinished manuscripts? Drop some knowledge.
This weekend, I’m teaching a session on Scrivener at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena. If you’re in the area (or would like to come soak up some of our fabulous fall weather) check it out: http://novel.writersdigestconference.com/
And let me know you’re coming. I would love to meet up for coffee. Cheers!