October 27, 2017

Is NaNoWriMo for you?

It’s almost November again and you know what that means!

It’s time for National Novel Writing Month. (Put those Christmas trees away, we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet.)
Ah yes, November, when hordes of writers decide that writing fifty thousand words in thirty days sounds like a smart idea.
I can’t tell you whether or not subjecting yourself to such extreme pressure is a good idea, but I can tell you that it’s doable. I’ve done. I’ll be doing it again.
Some of you are nodding and mentally yelling, “Yes! You go, girl!”
Some of you are side-eyeing me and thinking, “That’s all well and good for you, Margaret, but I’m not sure that NaNo is for me.”
You are right to be skeptical. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.
For example, there are people out there who have no interests in books whatsoever. It’s safe to say that NaNoWriMo is not for them. (I also highly doubt that they’re reading this blog.)
Then, there are the people out there who love books but think that writing one sounds like a huge hassle. NaNoWriMo isn’t for them either. Writing a book is a hundred times harder than reading one--it’s a gift and a curse. Be glad you can read without feeling the need to absorb every trick of the craft an author uses.
But some of you out there that have a story inside you.
Maybe the idea came to you a week ago.
Maybe you’ve been carrying it for years, building the world in your head as you plunk away at your day job.
Maybe you’ve even tried to start that story a time or two, but there have always been bigger things to worry about. Your computer fritzes and the transmission in your car starts making funny noises and you have to take care of that before you can even think about writing a book.
But you still have that idea.
NaNoWriMo is for you, my friend.
That story inside you? That’s worth something.
But only if you sit down and write it.
If you are anything like me, your brain just came up with some excuse for why you can’t possibly participate in NaNo this year. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to provide you with some ammo to throw back at that Negative Nancy in your head...
Excuse #1
Writing fifty thousand words in thirty days is an impossible goal.
Actually, it’s not. I know we’re all more comfortable working with words, but let me break some numbers down for you. To write fifty thousand words during the month of November, all you need is a little under 1,700 words a day. That’s not even a full college essay! Trust me, writing a novel is much more fun. And I’m betting once you into your story, you’ll realize you need more than fifty thousand words to tell it.
Excuse #2
I haven’t had a chance to plan out my novel yet.
Sounds like it’s time to make a plan then. Grab the nearest piece of paper and start jotting down plot points. Or forgo planning entirely. Some writers are plotters--they need at least a rough outline from Point A to Point Q or X or Z. Some writers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants the whole way. Some writers do a mix of both. November is the perfect time for experimenting. If you discover that plotting isn’t for you, the plan can always be thrown out the window (let’s be real, it usually is at some point anyways). If trying to wing it just confuses you, then take some time to create an outline.
Excuse #3
I couldn’t possibly find the time to write.
Maybe it seems that way, nut in my experience, writing time doesn’t just appear because you want to write. You have to make the time. And sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Try cutting out TV. Or going out on the weekends. Sit down with your spouse or kids or parents and negotiate so that you have extra time this month to write. Look at your calendar and see if you can’t trim out something. Search for downtime you could turn into writing time. Little bits of time add up fast.
Excuse #4
But I REALLY don’t have the time
There are some very legitimate things that rank higher than writing on your priorities list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap some of the benefits of NaNoWriMo. The biggest one is that NaNo gets you started. If really aren’t in a place to do a traditional NaNo, change it up. Halve the word count goal or eschew word count altogether and try for a certain number of hours or days of writing per week.
Excuse #5
I have another project I should be working on instead.
Yes, technically the goal is to write fifty thousand words during the month of November. But no one is going to shake their finger at you if you happen to use it as a month of hyperfocus for a project you’re already working on. That’s exactly what I’m doing this year. Instead of working on a shiny new project, I will be editing my current novel. Getting this story into shape so I can start querying agents next year is my number one priority this November.


Every year, I say the same thing: make November work for you. Whatever that means. The important part of this endeavor isn’t writing all fifty thousand words. The important part is just writing. As Louis L’Amour once said, “The does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” It’s time to turn the faucet on.


I’ll be focusing on NaNoWriMo for all of November, so if you’ll be WriMo’ing with me make sure you subscribe. For those of you not worrying about all that craziness, you should stick around too. A lot of what I’ll be talking about can be applied all year long.

Let me know down in the comments if you’re participating--or thinking about participating--this year. I’d love you know if you’re a NaNo veteran or newbie and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!

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