For writers, November means NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. In a nutshell, writers all over the world will put aside these next thirty days to write a 50,000 word novel. Generally speaking, this requires a writer to write approximately 1700 words a day for 30 straight days. The pressure is on to reach The End by November 30, so much so that many people plan in advance with lots of pre-prepared dinners, folders filled with outlines and character sheets, warnings to friends and family members, blacked out calendars, and I’d imagine reservations for a cave dwelling, if that were possible.
With so many people involved, it can be easy for a writer to get caught up in the hype. But let me inject some common sense into the NaNoWriMo hysteria. It’s not for everyone. It’s definitely not for me.
For one thing, I’m not a volume writer. I don’t set myself a word count every day. I’ve cited my reasons why in the past, but for those who don’t feel like scouring through my years of posts to find my whys and wherefores, in a nutshell, I prefer quality to quantity. 50,000 words of dreck at the end of a month doesn’t instill me with a sense of pride. A manuscript I can be proud of–regardless of whether it took me a month or ten months–does. Plus, writing for quality makes my editing process easier, it allows me to spend less time in revisions, and if you hire a freelance editor, you’re paying a lot less for your work to be amended in the long run.
Another reason I’m not a NaNo fan? Why November? Here in the eastern U.S., the weather is finally cool, and the fam is spending more time indoors. There’s football, family dinners, Thanksgiving, and the lead-up to the holidays. Of all the months to choose to closet yourself away from your loved ones to write your Magnum Opus, why on earth would you choose November? Pass, thank you.
Look, I get it. Some people need inspiration or a kick in the butt to get started or just to finish that manuscript that’s been sitting around on a laptop for months or years at a time. And NaNo’s a great excuse for those who need the “group therapy” method. But if you don’t want to or can’t participate, there’s no need to feel left out. You’re not odd or anti-social or crazy because your method is different.
Every writer has to find the routine that will work for him/her.
And if you really hate the idea of missing out on the companionship of NaNo, but really can’t commit, come up with your own smaller version that can fit your needs. Here are some examples:
1. A hundred words a day. Commit to writing 100 words every day for the month of November. That’s it. A hundred words. They can be stellar. They can be dreck. If you’re on a tear, write 500. If you’re struggling, get to 100 and reward yourself with something special. Just do 100 every day. At the end of the month, you’ll still be 3000 words (minimum) ahead on your manuscript, you’ll have participated in NaNo (to some degree), and your family will still remember who you are.
2. Be a NaNo cheerleader. Compile a list of your friends who are actually diving into the madness and be available to brainstorm or, if they live nearby, run errands for them. Not as much fun, but it could be appreciated.
3. Stay off the Internet until December 1.
If you’re participating in NaNo, good luck and may your fingers fly! But if not, that’s okay too.
Whatever you decide, just remember. NaNo’s not necessarily for everyone. It’s just one month a year. And eventually, the madness passes and life returns to…well, what passes for normal in our writing lives.
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