To NaNo or Not To NaNo…

That is the question.
Pros and Cons NaNoWriMo
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.

Pro: Community
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.

Pro: Encouragement
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.


Shameless self-promotion

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!

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6 Responses to To NaNo or Not To NaNo…

  1. Michelle Davis October 27, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    April, I’ve been competing in NaNoWriMo for a number of years. Have I completed the challenge every year? Heck no! Some years are bad and I have to stop after 1 week. But I try, and that’s the whole point for me. I have “won” 3 times, and those 3 times are what keep me coming back every year. Yes, I also have a large number of unfinished pieces. That’s the next personal goal – to get them finished. And I am going to try again this year as well. My fingers are crossed that I can cross the line by November 30.

    • April November 8, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      Michelle, I LOVE your take on this. It makes me want to give it a shot, even though I wasn’t planning to. Yes, even if you we don’t “win” we still get busy writing, and that’s always time well spent. But then there’s a the challenge of actually finishing something. I wish there was some way to set up a month-long challenge for that part. Good luck! I hope you make it across the finish line this year.

  2. D. D. Syrdal October 26, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

    I’ve done it a few times, “won” once (I also did Camp NaNoWriMo once, which I think was in April, and won that). I agree on all the “pros”, the community and encouragement were wonderful. Also it got me more disciplined to write more consistently beyond November. But, it is bad timing that month with the Thanksgiving holiday. I lose a week to cooking and cleaning. And yes, I have unfinished projects that I wrote just for NaNo that I will likely never get back to. This year I’ve just started a new job so I don’t expect to have the energy left over at the end of the work day to crank out the words.

    On the whole I think it’s a great experience, but I can’t always set aside time to start something new. I haven’t participated in a few years now. I do sort of miss it.

    • April November 8, 2017 at 9:20 am #

      Agreed, on all fronts. It is a great experience, but there are so many factors to consider. Good luck with the new job!

  3. Bryan Fagan October 25, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    I have yet to do the Nano. Every year I promise this will be the year and I always find excuses. I’m knee deep with my current work so fingers crossed for next year.

    • April November 8, 2017 at 9:19 am #

      The timing has to be right, or else it’s just extra stress. I’m skipping it this year too. Fingers crossed for next year here too.

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