National Novel Writing Month is a highly anticipated event every November. Hundreds of thousands of people join in, and let me tell you, it seems to take the world by storm! I did NaNoWriMo way, way, way back in 2008. I wrote Monarch, and it was later published by Rhemalda Publishing in 2011. I just recently republished it on my own. NaNo was a good experience for me while I was doing it, but not so great afterward — which explains why I’ve never done it again. About 85% of my writer acquaintances and friends are participating in NaNo this year, making me question yet again why I’m not doing it. But, if you know me at all, you know I usually shy away from doing what everyone else is doing, so that’s one reason right there. Some better reasoning might be needed, though, eh? That’s why I’ve made a list for all those even questioning if they want to do NaNo or not.
1. If you don’t work well under pressure.
If you normally don’t work well under pressure, chances are that NaNo is not for you. I only work well under pressure when I’m getting paid at the end of the project (and no, possible publication doesn’t count), so that’s why Monarch didn’t work out so well when I wrote it in one month and then had to rewrite it completely from scratch later because it totally sucked. Basically, what NaNo gave me was a ridiculously in-depth outline. If you do work well under pressure and NaNo doesn’t stress you out, heck, you have nothing to lose. Do it!
2. If important family members aren’t going to understand or support you — resulting in resentment on both ends.
I’ve heard on more than one occasion fights and resentment breaking out because of NaNo, especially if a writer does it every single year and things like Thanksgiving, family gatherings, etc. are either completely ignored or shoddily attended or planned by you. If you’re putting your writing above things that should be taking priority, that’s probably a good reason to do NaNo some other month where there’s no big holiday, or simply refrain altogether and write at a pace that doesn’t force you to make decisions between word count and visiting family you haven’t seen for a long time. If your family and friends support you all the way, go for it!
3. If you’re a seasoned writer already.
Back in 2008 I had a huge problem with word count, so NaNo was good for me in that way because Monarch was only my third novel and I needed to learn how to write 50,000 words in a month. These days, though, if I’m seriously drafting, 50,000 words in a month is something I do over and over and over. It’s not a huge hurdle for me anymore, so NaNo seems like a totally pointless thing for me to do. I could do it, sure, but knowing I have to get 50k in a month — making it feel like a competition of sorts — will completely and utterly kill my creativity and ultimately my productivity. I just don’t find that fun like many authors do. If you’re a new writer, NaNo can do wonders, so you might want to try it.
4. If you haven’t done the pre-work.
Yeah, I’m guilty of this one. I jumped into NaNo with NO planning on Monarch at all. No research. No mulling over or marinating the story for a few months. Nothing. I just jumped in and went for it. That’s why I ended up with one of the worst first drafts I’ve ever written. I don’t think this is the best way to write — at least for me and anyone who values good, solid research and planning before beginning a draft. If you have done all your pre-work, or you like the pure discovery method, maybe NaNo would be a great idea.
5. If you don’t need a kick in the pants to start and finish a novel.
Let’s face it. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes. But I feel like a lot of seasoned writers don’t actually need NaNo as a motivation to write. If you do need a kick in the pants, maybe NaNo is exactly what you need to finally get that novel written.
The bottom line is that some writers do NaNo just for fun, and sometimes to relax from other more stressful projects. Some writers do it because they haven’t been able to finish a novel yet. Some writers do it because writing 50k in a month is a breeze and they actually set a higher goal of 100k or something. Take your time in figuring out if NaNo will work with your style and personality. If you love it, awesome! If not, you can join me in my lonely little boat while I watch and cheer from afar. Woot!