Are you a procrastinating writer? Maybe what you need is a 30 day writing marathon. Let me introduce you to… *drumroll* National Novel Writing Month! Taking place in the months of April, July and November, this hefty challenge might be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing.
But before you plunge into the challenge, make sure you’re aware of how NaNoWriMo can help you and hinder you.
First, let’s talk pros.
For any of you sitting on the fence as to wherever you should take part, here’s some reasons why you should:
1. Teaches You Discipline
This is the time of year were writers challenge themselves to complete 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Nobody finishes without discipline. The whole point of taking part is to commit to a writing goal, schedule your time, and push through the doubts and troubles. It’s a valuable skill every writer requires, one that, admittedly, I’m still cultivating. A few more NaNoWriMos might do the trick.
2. More Experience, Less Time
Believe it or not, the best way to get writing experience is to write. ‘Write everyday’ is a mantra you’ll hear often amongst seasoned authors and editors, and while there’s no absolute need to write that often, the more you practise, the better you will become.
NaNoWriMo means you get the experience of tackling a 50,000 word project in just a few short weeks.
Did you know you get discounts on writing software and other goodies as a NaNoWriMo winner?
I’m not getting paid to say that either. If you’re a first time winner, you can get a discount on Scrivener. You also earn little badges for achieving writing goals, such as hitting 2k, 10k, 25k and so on.
It could be the motivation you need to see your project through.
4. The Website Takes A Little Weight Off Your Shoulders
As well as badges, the website has other great features to keep you on target, such as:
- Progress bar
- Word count target calculator
How you use these features is entirely up to you. Personally, I use the timer to keep me focused for a 20 minute or shorter writing session. I adore that the site calculates how many words you need to write a day to keep on target, taking into account your previous days work. Personally, I recommend setting yourself your own session target, but it’s reassuring to have something to fall back on.
Then there’s the progress bar. When you start, it’ll be empty but you can’t convince me that there isn’t something satisfying about seeing it fill up as you go along. It might look a touch intimidating, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you fill it up.
5. Readily Available Pep Talks & Writing Advice A Click Away!
Speaking of taking the weight of your shoulders, did you know you have access to plenty of advice? You can find just about anything you need under Writer’s Resources, including a preparation course to get you ready before the event starts. Plus, when you sign up for NaNoWriMo, you get weekly pep talks sent to you to help motivate you to finish.
Sounds great, right? So what are the drawbacks?
Burnout is when you become overworked and stressed. At some point, every writer is going to face this. You want to write, but you can’t. Or you don’t want to write at all but you keep pushing yourself to which is just making you frustrated when every word you put on the page feels terrible.
Cramming all a ton in a rigid regimen is bound to give you burnout. It’ll hit you sometime after your second week, and when burnout hits, it hits hard.
7. You Can’t Work At Your Own Pace
It took me two years to finish a 100k story. I’m a slow writer, a perfectionist, and I like to edit as I go. I’m insecure, I struggle, and I bounce back. Writing isn’t always fun, but when it is, it’s the best thing there is.
Point is, some stories take time. Some writers need to go at their own pace. You can’t do this during a writing marathon.
8. Quantity Over Quality
The problem with trying to hit a 50,000 word count in 30 days is that becomes the only goal. Everything becomes about hitting that daily word count, no matter how good or bad those words are. Sad part is, you might just find at the end of 30 days that everything you’ve written needs to go straight to the recycle bin. Ouch.
9. Tripping Over The Finish Line & Falling Face First
When you reach the end of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to kick back and announce ‘I’m done!’ And why shouldn’t you? You’ve just achieved something great.
But you’re not done.
Aside from the editing (which I’ll get to in a moment) the chances of the story being done at the 50k mark is unlikely and if it is, there’s a good chance you’ve seriously underwritten.
Hate to poke a pin in your celebratory balloon, but when you reach 50k, the last thing you want to do is stop. Don’t stop until the story is done.
10. Editing The Thing
Those messy words you vomited onto the blank page? Yeah. You actually have to go back and read those, edit them, re-work, rewrite, and sadly, National Novel Editing Month doesn’t have the same appeal. Unless you’ve got a plan, looking back at what you wrote might feel like a giant waste of time.
So far, I’ve not worked out an post-NaNo editing plan. I’m more comfortable as an edit-as-you-go person, so these bulky documents fill me with dread.
NaNoWriMo is not the time for editing, and I’m in no way about to suggest that you should attempt to edit-as-you-go during this epic write-a-thon. Just remember that NaNoWriMo isn’t about finishing a novel, even if the certificate, cheery banners, and victory chants convince you otherwise. It’s about kicking off the ground, getting a lead, and finding your direction.
If you liked this, you can read all my NaNoWriMo posts here. Remember to like and follow for more writing content.