It’s coming again: NaNoWriMo.* I’ve done it four of the last five years, and I’m going to do it this year. I’m already in the planning phase, getting all my characters and outlines and reference materials sorted.** Others don’t bother with that part, preferring to just wing it. To each their own, and my own includes colour-coded tabs and a box of index cards.
Those of you new to the idea may be wondering, like I did back in ’07, if you should sign up and take the plunge. There’s lot of opinions on both sides, and some of them are pretty damn vehement. It can be hard to decide, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll write two posts: one detailing the reasons you should do it, and one the reasons you should skip it. Then you can decide for yourself.
*Flips coin* Okay, here it is: Four Reasons You Should Skip NaNoWriMo:
1. You crumble under pressure. There’s a big push to finish, with a daily word count to meet. And if you get a day or two behind, that word count piles up fucking fast. If that’s the sort of thing that would keep you up at nights or induce panic attacks, you might not be suited to this kind of race. And then there’s the timing to consider. November is a great month to write for me***, but your schedule might be different. If your month is already packed to the gills with holiday prep, then piling more on top might give you that coronary you always wanted just in time for Christmas.
2. You think it’ll make you finally feel like a real writer. You may need therapy, not NaNoWriMo. Hitting the space bar 50,000 times in 30 days does not make you a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means. It doesn’t make you anything other than someone who finished something that was a certain length in a certain time. And, you know, good for you. But this is not the Blue Fairy that makes you into a real boy. That doesn’t exist. Sorry. You have to do this because you really want to and because you love to write. Anything else, including the search for legitimacy, will likely lead to disappointment.
However, it can prepare you for what it feels like to be a working writer and have to meet serious deadlines. You’ll get a front row seat to the rush and the slog, the days when you fly and the days when you’d rather set the computer on fire than look at it again. Maybe it’ll help you decide if that’s something you want to do for a living, or if you’d rather keep it as a hobby.
3. You prefer to work slowly. Everyone works at their own pace and in their own way. Maybe you’re one of those writers who prefers to pick every word carefully, examine it, and then place it exactly where you want it. Maybe a good writing day for you is 100 words. Or less. But everything you make is exactly what you intended it to be right out of the gate. I envy you that; no goddamn rewriting. It might take longer to finish, but when you do, you know it’s what you want. Long as you’re finishing, there’s no wrong way to write a book. And for some, the breakneck pace of NaNoWriMo might be less productive, not more.
4. You just don’t want to. People get….shall we say, drawn in by the enthusiasm of NaNo participants sometimes. We’re a zealous lot. All bright enthusiasm and too-direct stares. Join us, we say. You’ll like it. And you might. But don’t get sucked in by the peer pressure. One, it means you just got bullied by a bunch of fucking writers, which is embarrassing for all of us. Two, it really will be an endless slog if you’re not jazzed for it. And that will probably taint whatever story you were working on to the point of ruining it. If you think you might like it, then sure. But if you know that’s not how you work, then remember those old commercials: just say no.
Feel free to disagree, vehemently or otherwise, in the comments. And don’t forget to check out Friday’s post: Four Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo.
*For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly event in which writers get together and pledge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’.
**Mostly because I’m a huge nerd. I actually cleaned my desk Monday just to get it ready. And because it was getting to be an eyesore. But, hey, I found ten complete sets of dice in there.
*** Very good, actually, because it makes use of a month I otherwise loathe. November and February: worst months of the year.