No, this is not a screed against Nanowrimo. It’s not about how literature is dying, or how Nanowrimo is the devil, or how agents hate us writers who dare to try writing 50,000 words in a month (pro tip: no they don’t).
I’ve been watching writers around me prepare for Nanowrimo this year, and I made the conscious decision not to participate fully. I’ll be doing write-ins with my husband (who’s participating in his own way) but I won’t be in it to reach 50k. Why?
Nanowrimo is a tool. I first discovered it in 2004, when I was just 17, and won that very first year. I haven’t won every year since, but winning and losing Nanowrimo has taught me a lot of things:
- It taught me that I can try for goals that I thought were impossible – and make them.
- It taught me that sometimes you just keep pushing, even if you hate your project
- It taught me that monthly goals are better for me than daily goals
- It taught me that writing is a community rather than solitary experience
- It taught me that completely pantsing it sucks*
*okay, okay, just for me. Sheesh.
I learned a lot about my strengths in terms of storytelling while trying Nanowrimo – largely due to getting stuck on my novel thanks to the aforementioned pantsing. I owe a lot of my writing journey to Nanowrimo. In fact, the thing I learned the most while doing Nanowrimo is what made me determine not to do Nanowrimo anymore.
Put your hand up if you’re sick of hearing ‘Don’t edit! Just write!’ Sorry, but I am.
I understand the philosophy behind it. If it works for you as a writer, then I love that it works for you. But it doesn’t work for me. Writing an entirely sucky first draft, that I know is sucky, makes the suck pile up until I can’t face it anymore. This is one thing I discovered in my Nanowrimo journey. The suck became so much that I couldn’t remember the good anymore, and I felt no desire to excavate my project once the month was over.
Conversely, once I started editing as I went, I found that even though it took longer to write my book, I felt more of an attachment to it once it was finished. I could face the suck because I also knew that some parts were less sucky, and some parts were actually all right, and some parts still made me cry.
Editing as you go is anathema to the Nanowrimo way. And, of course, some people get stuck editing the same scene so many times that they can’t move on to creating a new one. If that’s your problem, Nanowrimo is good for that. But if you have the opposite problem, you’re not alone. Nanowrimo’s not for me either.
I wish everyone who’s doing Nanowrimo this year a great month full of incredible ideas and an ever-increasing word count. I’ll be participating in word sprints and haunting the forums.
Just don’t get mad if I go back and rewrite those words right after.