Fall in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The temperatures cool, the leaves start to fall, and the bugs die. The last is very important to my well-being. Haha. Seriously though, we get a couple sweet weeks of no bugs, and mild enough temperatures that you can still enjoy time outside.
I went for a walk with my sister last night, and the latter half the walk was in the dark since the sun sets so early now. But we saw a couple deer, lots of rabbits, and generally had a nice coffee walk in about 48F degree temperatures.
October is also NaNoWriMo prep month. It’s the month when writers who are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month plot their books, do their research, make character sheets, anything they have to do to write their book as quickly as possible in the month of November.
I participated once. And while I was a newbie writer at the time and that was probably more of the reason why I wrote a crappy book, doing so on a timeline didn’t do me any favors, and I’ll never participate again.
But that’s not the only reason. Everyone needs to make their own choices with their writing schedule, their publishing schedule, and what they want to accomplish, but let’s take a moment to go over a couple reasons why NaNoWriMo may not be an answer to a writer’s prayers.
- Craft gets lost.
If you have the motivation and skill to write 50,000 words in a month, you don’t need the the contest to spur you on. If you’ve got the craft thing down already, maybe craft doesn’t get lost when you write, and that’s great! But there’s always a question of quality when a writer who is new at this decides to participate. You don’t have time to think about how sentences sound, where your paragraphs are going, if your scenes are relevant to the story, what the theme of your novel is. Writing is already hard enough as it is, and putting a deadline on it makes it worse.
- Lots of writers will abandon a current project to start something new.
This is a tough one because not everyone writes to publish or query. I’m not the type of person who likes to have three different projects open. I adhere to writing and publishing schedule. It’s the only way I can make any headway at all. Dropping everything to start a new project to write for NaNo would derail everything I’m trying to accomplish. I get distracted by new things, too, but I try to keep that under control and finish my current projects. I don’t think I’d have as many books out as I do if I let myself write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I understand not everyone is hardcore about this writing thing as I am, and that’s okay. But 30 days of writing something new is still 30 days of time, and in 30 days I can do a lot that will actually move me toward my goal.
- It makes us question what a “book” is.
Let’s be honest. I mean, really and truly honest. 50,000 words, in most genres, is not a novel. It’s a good start to a novel, say, in high fantasy, or women’s fiction, but for the most part you can “win” and still not have a finished book.
If you have trouble with subplots and character development while meeting the ideal word count, I don’t recommend trying to write under a deadline. Not always, but you can run the risk of having a full “novel” in word count, and it being incomplete in other ways. This is especially important if you ever want to query this book. Fully-developed plots, subplots without loose ends, full character arcs, and a spot-on beginning and ending are all things agents are going to require to sign you and your book.
- You’ll probably have a lot of editing to do afterward.
This is a personal preference, of course, but I would rather spend a little more time writing and a less time editing after the fact. Editing is hard. Especially if you have to rip the book apart because you wrote yourself into a corner and there’s nothing that will fix it except scrapping the second half of your book, for example. Weaving character motivation and character growth into a book is hard enough as it is without having to go back and fix scenes.
- You shouldn’t have to depend on the NaNo energy to see you through a project.
Most writers I know who participate, participate because they like the energy and the camaraderie. It’s why they do NaNoWriMo camp in July. They like to write with the buddy system, someone who will hold them accountable. The problem with this, though, is that NaNo is only once a year (besides the camp that’s held in the summer). What are you going to do during the other 11 months the contest is not going on? Writing is a solitary endeavor, and if you don’t get your butt in the chair and put the words down, if you can’t do that without a competition, well, I don’t have to tell you your productivity is going to tank. In my very humble opinion, striving for your own writing success, be that publishing yourself on Amazon or other platforms, querying, or whatever the case may be, that should be your fuel. Not a contest.
- What could your book be like if you hadn’t written it in November?
We all have regrets when it comes to our writing. We write through sickness, or when we have a family emergency. Sometimes it’s what gets us through. I wrote through my divorce, I wrote (when I shouldn’t have probably) while I was healing from surgery. I wrote through one of the nastiest winters I have ever seen in Minnesota, and it happened to be the first winter I was a single mom. I have to admit, I write the best when I’m happy, when I’m not stressed out. When I can enjoy sitting at my laptop and not think about anything else but the story.
We often say “let children be children” but sometimes we need to let our “books be books.” What I mean by that is, you may be doing your characters and story a disservice by rushing them. What could your book be if you write it organically? We meet word counts every day, but I’ve never preached you have to write every day. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like it. To reach 50,000 words in the month of November you need to write 1,666 words a day. That isn’t too bad, in all reality. But I know for me, November is a packed month: my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. We may have snow by then. Then there’s Black Friday shopping if you’re inclined to get a head start on Christmas shopping. It’s not hard in November to realize you haven’t written for a few days, and you’re behind. What kind of book could you write on your own time?
I don’t see NaNo as some evil thing that writers shouldn’t participate in. I think it can be fun and motivational if used correctly. The month of November can be used to celebrate writing and books in general. There is a camaraderie just being a writer. We’re all in this together, and one month designated to writing doesn’t change the fact that we all enjoy writing every day. We don’t need one month set aside to enjoy it.
I create all year round. I’m involved in a lot of Facebook groups. I edit for my friends; I help them with formatting. I celebrate the writing and creation of books all the time. I don’t think a month goes by when I haven’t bought a book or ten. What I suggest you to do is harness how you feel in November and keep that momentum going all year round.
How do agents feel about NaNo? Here are a couple articles about their opinions. (Hint: it’s not a coincidence agents close their slush piles to submissions in December and January.)
How do you feel about NaNo? Are you going to participate? Let me know!