A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

NaNoWriMo – Help or Hindrance?

on November 3, 2014

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November 1-30. It started in 1999 as a motivational tactic for a group of young writers. It has since blossomed into a national non-profit organization. Today, there are over 300,000 participants who all agree to write at least 50,000 words by 11:59 pm on November 30. According to their website: “Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”

The good about NaNoWriMo:

1. It encourages adults (and youth) to write. During the first couple of years of homeschooling, my kids absolutely hated writing. This would have been a great tool to use with them. Since I found out about it last year, I have used their tools and resources to nurture a love of writing. My daughter now writes fan fiction – and loves doing it. I am still working on my son.

2. It creates inspiration. At the beginning of 2013, I had a dream of writing. It didn’t have to be a novel. I had already written several short stories. A friend of mine introduced me to NaNoWriMo late that October. I signed up that November and wrote my little heart out. As hard as I tried, I could not finish that novel. I just cannot write crap intentionally. I have to revise as I go. Then, I revise again. And again. I finally made it to chapter three. Yay me! That is still a far cry from a complete novel, but I digress…

3. It helps my depression. Up until November, I was depressed and had no energy. I normally love to read and write. But, the depression had a strong hold on me that year. NaNoWriMo and my friend J helped me out. I signed up and sat down with J. We put together an outline for my novel and I began to write. I talked with the NaNoWriMo community and I had a goal. I tend to become obsessive over things and this was no exception. I wrote like a gal on fire. I still revised like crazy. I re-wrote more than I wrote. But it was all good. I had purpose and I was ecstatic.

The bad about NaNoWriMo:

1. It encourages bad writing. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to simply write. This allows a lot of drivel to make its way to the page. Revision usually culls the crap. But, revision is not encouraged. Participants are told to simply write – anything. Some writers become so obsessed with meeting the 50,000 word deadline (and, thus, winning NaNoWriMo), that they forget all about revising.

2. It sets the writer up to fail. It encourages writers to write, write, write. This is good. Then, the writer finishes that novel and sends it off to a publisher. The publisher will either accept it or not. Rejection letters are a common thing among new writers. But let’s suppose that it is actually accepted by a publisher. Now you have a book out there that is not being read. So much emphasis is put on writing, that reading takes a back burner. What was the last novel you read? I think I may be the exception. I just finished reading my fourth novel in a month (and that is a bit low for me). Getting a book published doesn’t really mean much if there is no one to read it. For more on this subject, check out Laura Miller’s article at Salon.

3. It makes my stress/depression worse. OK, so I was really manic for a month. I didn’t finish my 50,000 words. I spent so much time revising that I felt like a failure. I had little to show for all my hard work. I had spent a month of writing furiously and I only had about 3,000 words to show for it. December saw me spiraling downward again. I felt so low – again. It has taken me months to really snap out of that feeling of failure and hopelessness.

I have thought long and hard about NaNoWriMo. Do I want to participate this year? I think I will but not to the extent of last year. I will not even register this time. Instead, I am just going to write a little every day (and revise, revise, revise). I will not try to finish that novel in a month. I will work on it. I still only have 3,000 words. But that is just fine with me. It will get finished eventually. I have my own goals in life. I have taken on a couple of freelance writing gigs. That is way more than I had last year. Since writing is my only income, it makes a world of difference. That novel is not going to pay my electric this month. So, I will work on it between actual paying gigs. I think it helped me begin my writing career but I won’t rely on it entirely anymore.

What do you think of NaNoWriMo? How has it helped you? Feel free to comment about your experiences with it. I love to be enlightened.

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4 responses to “NaNoWriMo – Help or Hindrance?

  1. Mosh says:

    I was hoping to do it this year and have signed up… but three days in I haven’t typed a single word. Much as this is something I intended to do ages ago, and NaNoWriMo seemed like a good “push”, I just don’t have the time to do 1-2 hours a day around work, website and kids.

    The push to write, write, write isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s easy to spend a huge amount of time editing and revising as you go, slowing down the creative process. Getting 50k words down is an impressive task, and the site does recommend editing afterwards – something they also offer help with.

    I guess it’s a chance to help you prove you can produce that volume of words. The next step is to start breaking that down into a sensible write/edit cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sonja says:

    @Mosh I hear ya. I would love to do one of NaNoWriMo’s all night write-a-thons. I too have so much to do that I don’t have the time for 50,000 words. If all I was doing was writing that novel, then maybe? I don’t know. Right now, I have a love/hate relationship with NaNoWritMo. I am glad to see you are writing. It’s a good thing.

    Like

  3. ejsmith3130 says:

    I think Nano can be a good thing if you have the right expectations of it going in… If you think you are going to have a publishable novel on December 1st then it is detrimental for sure. I am using it as a way to keep me accountable for writing my first draft. Essentially I write the scenes I had planned to hit for the day (whether they make it to the word count goal or not) and then do a quick read through or two fixing obvious mistakes, and then I move on for the next day. I do well within a structure, so so far it has been working for me. If I keep up with my scenes I should have a first draft done by the end of the month. I then plan to put it away for Christmas break and come back to it for edits in January. I think how useful it is really depends on your perspective.

    Like

    • Sonja says:

      I still spend more time rewriting everything I wrote. I am just not satisfied. It keeps me from moving on. I think my problem isn’t so much with NaNoWriMo but with my own sef-doubt and perfectionism. Thank you so much for the thought-provoking words! You really got my gears moving.

      Liked by 1 person

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