November is inextricably linked to NaNoWriMo in many people’s minds. Perhaps you’re thinking of participating this year.
I’ve never participated, but last year I turned my attention to the idea and gave it considerable consideration. Then, I decided not to participate.
This year, as I approach November, I’m thinking about it afresh, and all the reasons I didn’t participate last year don’t hold in 2012.
Are you thinking of taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge, either officially or unofficially? Here’s a handy check list to see if you should say yes to the challenge, or pass.
1) I want to join the rank of authors who had their NaNoWriMo novels published.
This list includes: Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (a massive bestseller, and was long listed for the Orange Prize), K. Bennett (nom de plume of James Scott Bell)— The Year of Eating Dangerously about a lawyer who is also a zombie, and Sara Gruen—yes, THAT Sara Gruen.
This is a noble goal, and in fact that list of published books that began as NaNoWriMo projects is surprising long. And before someone jumps in and says that these are all well published, expert writers, let me point out that Morgenstern is a debut, so it can happen, right? Sure it can. Is it likely? Ummm, let’s move on.
2) I have a project that I’ve been working on/thinking about for a long while (months or even years)
Even writers who don’t use outlines put time in up front thinking about characters, situations, and other aspects of the story they hope to write before they begin writing. Planners can spend more than half the time it takes to create a first draft just plotting the novel. If you’re in the planning stage you might want to weigh the pros and cons of jumping into writing now. On the one hand, it might prove to be a creative exercise that helps you cement the direction you want the novel to take. On the other, it might prove to be a distraction. Know if you’re ready to jump into writing. For me, this is nearly a physical knowledge. My mind and body will not work together to type scenes before I’m ready to write. If I try, I only frustrate myself. It might be different for you.
3) I have already started writing and NaNoWriMo will keep me motivated.
This might seem like a no brainer, but take a moment to think it through first. Is your project sturdy enough to withstand an onslaught of words and ideas that come from NaNoWriMo? Are you able to write without edits for a month straight? Can you plunge ahead happily? Or does the writing feel more like hairline brushstrokes on the page?
4) I don’t have a solid idea for a novel, but I really want to muck around in words for 30 days and see how it feels.
5) I want to become a great writer, and one way to do that is to write every day.
Writers write. Yes, daily. Even between projects, writers are always pecking out words, sculpting characters, and jotting down insights, ideas, and effigies. But NaNoWriMo is not a path to becoming a great writer. It’s just a path to becoming someone who can write everyday. It’s a way of opening your mind and pouring words on the page, not a substitute for all the other steps, and the time and effort it takes to be good. As long as you know the difference, you’ll be fine.
6) Competition is good for the writer’s soul. I want to see if I can beat out other writers and hit the goal.
Some folks are born competitors, and if you’re one, then this reason might be the best one for you. Rise to the challenge, overcome the masses, and finish 50,000 words in 30 days. Huzzah! But many (most?) creative types are not only not competitive they run from the very idea. My suggestion is compete only with yourself—that way you’ll be comparing apples to apples. Set your word count goals for yourself and then try your best to beat them each day.
7) I don’t really care if the novel is good I just want to see if I can do it.
8) I believe that 50,000 words is standard for a novel.
Not so much. Romance books can be this length, as well as other genre novels, but for the most part, word counts are well above the 50,000 word mark. So why 50,000? It’s the lowest word count for a novel, and lets face it, if you can plonk down that many words, you truly do have something to say!
9) I believe I can write a terrible first draft that will require a great deal of editing, but that I can work with slowly over several months once NaNoWriMo is over.
Jump in. Because that’s very, very, very likely what you will produce: a terrible first draft. Maybe not more than an extended novel outline. And that’s a good thing. You will have produced something. Just don’t go into it thinking you’ll be able to write anything publishable. But you will have gotten some ideas down on the page, you’ll experience the thrill, the mind-numbing dullness, the pain, and joy of writing every day. And, with luck, you will have produced something that you can continue to shape, mold, edit, and work on to create a wonderful novel.
Are you thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you done it in the past? Let us know your thoughts, your experience, and any advice you have for those thinking of jumping in for the first time.