It’s NaNoWriMo time again, and participants in the November 1-30 event are not partying like it’s 1999. That’s because National Novel Writing Month is a much bigger party now!
Yes, the number of NaNoWriMo “entrants” who attempt to author a 50,000-word book in just thirty days soared from 21 during the event’s ’99 debut to more than 200,000 last year.
But is all that “socializing” with your computer worth it? Or is the NaNoWriMo experience like attending a party so wild that you end up keyboarding your novel with a lampshade over your head?
These questions naturally motivated Writer’s Relief to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the word-frenzy-palooza some of you have tried in the past, some of you will try in the future, and some of you are trying at this very moment!
The Pros of All That Prose:
1. Writing a novel in a month can be liberating because you spill out sentences without agonizing over them. There’s little time for writer’s block (or for eating; we recommend running an IV line from your kitchen). By November 30, your pages are in a computer file rather than only in your head. After that, your pre-masterpiece can be revised—as in, extensively revised.
2. It’s great discipline to write a lot each day, and composing a 50,000-word novel in a month means averaging 1,667 words per day. We asked some current NaNoWriMo participants how many words per hour that is, and this was their mathematically precise answer: “Leave us the heck alone! Can’t you see we’re busy?”
3. Writing the first draft of a novel so quickly gives you permission to “Take chances! Make mistakes!”—as teacher Ms. Frizzle puts it in The Magic School Bus TV episodes inspired by the book series. Taking chances and making mistakes can be good for a writer’s creative process. Besides, you don’t want to spurn the advice of a fictional character, do you? Do you?
4. Having a first draft completed, rather than only in your mind, makes it easier for fellow authors and others to critique your concept. Schedule that December writing group meeting now—and don’t forget to invite Santa!
5. After completing a novel in thirty days, almost any future writing you do will seem easier by comparison. Sort of like training with weights on your ankles before taking them off when it’s time to run an official race. (Taking off the weights, that is; keep your ankles on please.)
The Cons of All Those Consonants and Vowels:
1. While it’s good to quickly get a first draft into your computer, a novel that isn’t well thought out results in a revision process significantly more difficult than if the first draft had been better. If you want to make lemonade out of a lemon, the lemon needs to have some juice—and a structure (the peel!) to contain the juice.
2. If you’re already working on a novel, short story, poem, or other work, NaNoWriMo can be a distraction that takes you away from those endeavors. Decide what’s most important to you—and don’t split the difference by writing a 50,000-word haiku.
3. For those of you with a day job, family, or other responsibilities, the huge amount of time and energy it takes to write a novel in one month might get you fired (by your boss, spouse, or kids).
4. If you decide to go NaNoWriMo-ing, do you really want to be obsessing over your “speed novel” on Thanksgiving Day? What if the book is a real turkey?
5. Can your computer keyboard survive into December after all that incessant pounding? When November runs its course, you might be wailing this ungrammatical lament: “D’oh! MyCoWoNoMo.” (“D’oh! My computer works no more.”)
Wondering what to do with your NaNo book after you’ve finished it? Read this before you make your next move: After NaNoWriMo: Take The Next Steps To Publish Your Book Manuscript.
P.S. Drop by our blog again on THURSDAY! Carolina Quarterly (a great market for writers) will be giving away a FREE subscription to one person who leaves a comment. So keep your eyes peeled!