Do You Need Five Reasons Not To Do NaNoWriMo? Try These!
Too Many Books?
You already know all about NaNoWriMo, right?
Do I need to explain the concept or something? (Well, apparently for some people it's still a new concept. I'm going by the mate who called me up recently in order to tell me all about this exciting new writing competition! It's held in November! And everybody who writes a 50k word manuscript wins! Well, a phrase involving Sherlock and not relating to the BBC production springs to mind.)
But is doing NaNoWriMo really a good idea? What off-putting notions (or excuses) do you need to ponder, before putting hands to keyboard?
Can You Spare The Time?
Everything you spend on has an opportunity cost – ask any economist. What does this mean? Well, basically, when you're expending on one thing – whether it's time or money or little dried chickpeas (humour me) – then, once you've acquired your objective, the resource you expended to get it is gone. Gone! Not coming back! And you can't use it to buy a goat, a salt herring, a holiday in Rekjavik, nothing, nada, baby.
So the time you spend on entering NaNoWriMo... yeah, you got it, baby. That's time that's never coming back. Is it the very best use of a finite resource?
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Are You Going To Get Published?
Of course, not all – maybe precious few – of the entrants in NaNoWriMo expect to get published, or to win an actual glittering prize beyond the excitement of actually making it to the finishing line with their 50,000 words stashed away in an OpenOffice file.
But let's get real. There's a difference between expecting something – and maybe hoping for it. And it's natural for any writer to hope for that final validation of all their effort and struggle and sweated labour. Isn't it? But you're too smart to rely on it. And even if it happens – is NaNoWriMo a necessary part of your route towards publication? Think about it: you could produce a manuscript all on your own, at times and on a schedule convenient to you, and perhaps with rather less of the old sweat and tears.
Sure, some NaNoWriMo entrants have wound up with a professionally published novel to their name. Even in 2009, the figure was put at thirty-six of them, by L. Barack in the School Library Jounal.1 But think of how many NaNoWriMo entrants there are per year! It's a drop in a bucket, if not a drop in the ocean!
Does it land your manuscript with the amateur label?
Is there a stigma to the NaNo novel? Certainly there have been suggestions to that effect. Some publishers have reported a flood of submissions descending in a deluge, from shortly after the closure of the competition. Are all of these manuscripts going to be of publishable quality? Well, are most of most publishing piles of publishable quality? (And God knows, now that self-publishing has gone semi-respectable, and Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble etc etc etc are welcoming the self-pubbing hordes with open arms, the little bucket of NaNoWriMo manuscripts is positively dwarfed, in comparison to the great big ocean of SP novels.)
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Will it actually worsen the quality of your writing?
There's truth in the notion that it's better to have a manuscript to tinker with and perfect, rather than being stuck forever in the frozen anticipation of committing the perfect sentence to paper.
There's also no denying that producing a 50,000 word novel, in the space of 31 days, is a tall order. Editing isn't the point of NaNoWriMo, it's quite true. But it could still be argued that at such a rate of production of words, words, words, then the quality of those words must suffer – even if we're talking about a rough first draft.
Will you become a hermit for a month?
Well, really, this one is a given. Certainly the great aspect of NaNoWriMo is the social and community element that it affords. For many would-be writers, writing is a solitary, and maybe even a lonely experience. NaNoWriMo, though, offers encouragement and companionship – even cheering from the sidelines – galore, as you plough your way through words after words after words, in your attempt to reach that mythical fifty thousand word goal before day thirty hits you like a steam train.
But! There's more to life (and social life) than that which can be found on the interwebs! And what happens to your family and friends, while you're stuck in your hovel, relishing the literary life of a shut-in for a full month?
Well. I suppose they'll still be there when you come back. Won't they?
So, in conclusion... should you do NaNoWriMo or not? Hell if I know... but if you want to, why the hell would you hold back? What do old sourpusses who try to take the joy out of it know? If the prospect of a month's worth of over-caffeination, sleep-deprivation and a threateningly looming deadline appeals to you – along with your own cheerleading team going 'Yay you! Yay you!' from start to finish – then hell yes!
Don't tell anyone. I'm thinking about doing NaNo next year...
1. L Barack, Pen Ultimate: For Kids Who Take Part in National Novel Writing Month--the Acid Test for Would-Be Authors--It's No Guts, No Glory. School Library Journal, Volume 55 Issue 9 pp. 40-41. September 2009.
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