Should You Do NaNoWriMo? Your Guide to Decide Whether Writing a Book This November is For You
Are You Crazy? A Novel In a Month?
As November approaches every year, writers and aspiring writers around the globe are faced with a daunting question:
Do I have what it takes to write a complete novel in 30 days?
November, you see, is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately (or disdainfully) known by wordsmiths everywhere as NaNoWriMo. Originally conceived by 21 San Francisco-area authors in 1999, NaNoWriMo has grown into a phenomenon with more than 300,000 participants each year.
In 2014, 40,000 authors "won" the NaNoWriMo challenge, which means they produced "complete" novels of 50,000 or more words between November 1-30.
In this case, "complete" generally means that they cranked out a story with a beginning, middle, and end, but without necessarily doing any kind of editing.
Maybe, but NaNoWriMo is a challenge that can really open your eyes to the untapped potential buried under the mounds of excuses you keep piled up in your mind.
Is NaNoWriMo right for you?
Let's find out.
Who Should Do NaNoWriMo?
Have you always wanted to write a novel but just haven't found the time or motivation to get started?
Do you have lots of great ideas for stories or books but find yourself too busy to write down your plot lines, let alone spit out an entire novel?
Or are you the type who often sits down to your keyboard, typewriter, or scratch pad to get started on your first or next book, only to gaze at the blank white screen for several minutes or hours before packing it in and surfing over to Facebook or your email account?
If you answered "yes" to any of these, then NaNoWriMo may be perfect for your situation, and here's why: NaNoWriMo gets you moving, with no room for excuses.
When you commit -- seriously COMMIT -- to writing 50,000 words in 30 days come Hell or high water or Thanksgiving, your life will change.
You will FIND time to write.
If that doesn't work, you will MAKE time to write, by scheduling it before you dedicate time to anything else.
Then, when you sit down for the 30 minutes that you've carved out of your Monday, maybe at 5 am just before the kids get up, you will write with an urgency that you've never had before.
You'll learn to start typing even when you're not sure what to write. While you type, your ideas will start to gel, and, before you know it, you will have pounded out 500 or 1000 or 1500 words.
What a way to start the day!
But, hey, if you're not looking for that kind of high, then maybe NaNoWriMo is not your cup of tea.
Who Should NOT Do NaNoWriMo?
Aside from those who don't get geeked by their own high word counts, there are others who maybe should NOT participate in NaNoWriMo.
For instance, if you already write several thousand words per week and have written a novel or two in the last six months to a year, then NaNoWriMo may not offer as many benefits for you.
If you're an extremely productive writer, right now, then chances are good that you have a solid process in place for cranking out copious amounts of words and good stories.
In that case, it is at least possible that introducing the constraints of NaNoWriMo to your routine could disrupt the good flow you have going.
Of course, it's also entirely possible that NaNoWriMo will make you even more productive or at least give you the chance to break up your routine and try something different. The community that surrounds NaNoWriMo could also be a boon to your pile of ideas, and maybe even your career, if you can parlay new contacts into new opportunities.
Still, accomplished writers probably have less to gain from NaNoWriMo than the rest of us, and may even take a step backwards from a month-long foray into the fray.
Other people who might want to avoid NaNoWriMo -- non-writers, burned out writers, dead writers, people with no imagination, those afraid of hard work, anyone unwilling to change their routine, comatose writers, fictional -- not fiction -- writers, anyone who has been allotted less than the standard-issue 168-hour week.
Otherwise, it's hard to imagine why any author would outright avoid NaNoWriMo.
Do You NEED NaNoWriMo?
Leaving aside the mundane idea of who should or should not do NaNoWriMo, and who might have the most to gain from the experience, let's make it a little more personal.
There are some of us in the writing world who need NaNoWriMo.
Seriously, NEED it.
Who are these writers?
These are the folks who perpetually refer to themselves as "aspiring writers."
They're the IT professionals or stay-at-home moms who have harbored a writing dream for the last decade or more but have buried it under their day-to-day doldrums.
They are the creative minds who feel guilty about taking time for something so "frivolous" as writing fiction.
They are, in short, anyone who fantasizes about being a writer but takes no action at all to make those aspirations a reality.
THESE writers need NaNoWriMo like no others.
No, they don't need NaNoWriMo like they need air or water or food. They won't die if they don't write a novel in November, or at least attempt to do so.
But their dreams WILL die, a little or a lot, if they don't do something to nourish them, and soon.
Setting and reaching goals, and feeding your deepest desires are critical to success as a human being, and writers who completely neglect their creative souls are courting personal disaster.
To channel Hemingway, they MUST begin to bleed on their keyboards before that creative blood stops flowing altogether.
It's later than any of us realizes.
What to Expect if You DO Do NaNoWriMo
So let's assume for the moment that you've decided to do NaNoWriMo -- you've found that you fit into the category of SHOULD do it, NEED to do it, or should NOT do it but want to tempt fate anyway.
What then? What's in store for you during November?
Everyone's experience will be slightly different, but here are some of the "joys" of NaNoWriMo that virtually every participant can expect:
- At some point, you'll realize you need to write 1667 words every day in November.
- Shortly thereafter, you'll realize that's a lot of words.
- After a few days hitting your goal, that target may not seem so daunting ...
- ... until you fall behind. Catching up is a bear.
- Sometime during the month, you'll wish you had done more planning.
- Some other time during the month (or maybe at the same time), you'll consider giving up.
- Your story will unfold much differently than you expected it to.
- Life will get in the way of NaNoWriMo.
- Thanksgiving will get in the way of NaNoWriMo.
- You'll feel great if you "win" NaNoWriMo.
- You'll feel lousy if you give up early.
- You will be stressed out.
- You won't want to see your book again until at least the New Year.
- Your first draft will be a hot mess.
- You will vow never to do NaNoWriMo again.
- You will come back next November.
There are plenty of authors and YouTubers who can give you a real flavor for what the NaNoWriMo experience is like, but one of the best is Katytastic. Her NaNoWriMo Survival video is below, and she offers up all kinds of book-related content on her channel.
No matter who you are or what your background, though, NaNoWriMo is sure to be an intense and difficult ride. That doesn't mean it's not worth the effort -- it just COULD be the nudge you need to finally start writing the way you want to.
Are You Doing NaNoWriMo This November?
About the Author
Adam Hughes is a writer and IT professional from central Indiana. Visit his website at AdamHughesWriter.com for free short stories and other writing tips, and to see what effect miles of corn fields can have on a man's fiction.