Oh No! NaNoWriMo … No Mo

Is NaNoWriMo for you?The other day a very close friend of mine asked me if I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo. In the writing circles, it’s inescapable to avoid NaNoWriMo during this time of the year. Outside of the writing circles, it’s an unknown.

I responded with a “Yep, heard of it, even did it one year. But, it’s not for me.”

I’m not one to tell others what to do and I can see where a solid month of writing can really benefit your project. If you have no other method to force yourself in front of your computer, then go for it. However, we have to consider … at what cost?

I’m not here to blast the concept. I’m just offering some food for thought … AND … a way to save your month before you even get into it.

When I look back at my experience, my writing time went down dramatically in the month prior to NaNoWriMo. Why? Because I had a built-in excuse that November was coming and I would write like crazy for a month.

So, what was I really doing? I was robbing from Peter to pay Paul as the old saying goes. Is it better to pound out 50,000 words in a month or hit a scheduled goal of 1,000 words per day? Only you can answer that for yourself. But, if you found yourself taking your foot off the gas pedal in October to guarantee you hit the numbers in November, you haven’t done yourself any favors.

Then there’s the issue of the 50,000 words. Except in a few situations, that’s not enough to draft a novel length tome. Look at the numbers. You need to be, at the very least, in the 70,000 range to feel like you have a first draft. What happens next? Are you disciplined enough to attack the remainder of the story and add another 20,000 to 30,000 words in short order? Do you stop and celebrate the milestone of 50,000 words, print out your certificate and say, “OMG, is that the holidays around the corner?” You save the draft in the 2015 folder along with six other partial manuscripts. Yeah, I have one of those, too.

Let me reiterate, I’m not here to bash your hopes and dreams of this year’s NaNoWriMo effort, but if you had set a goal of 1,500 words per day starting in October, you would be sitting at 90,000 by November 30th.

So, what do you do now? My suggestion … and I’m sure many of you are ready with the pitchforks and torches … is to take a day off. WHAT? Did I just say that?

Yes, take a full day off from NaNoWriMo. Tomorrow. Make it the National Day of Planning My Novel (NDPMN). I know, not as catchy, but hey, I grew up around the space program. Take a day and plan.

Plan where your story is going. Plan your result. I’m not getting into a pantser/planner argument here, but you still need to plan. Plan what’s going to happen after November 30th. Set a goal for completing that manuscript that is only, at best, 71% complete at the end of NaNoWriMo. Set a word count starting December 1st. Don’t sit back and relish in the fact that you hit 50,000 … look to the end result.

It’s up to you to turn your NaNoWriMo in to a success story. All the cheerleading and encouragement from the support groups turn to whispers on December 7th and are non-existent by the 15th. Take this years’ NaNoWriMo, grab it by the horns and show it who’s boss. Don’t become a statistic, become a success story. How? By planning what happens next. Finish that manuscript. Don’t rely on motivation from others, rely on your heart, soul and desire to complete the project. Take your NDPMN tomorrow. Make a schedule for December … then … knock it out of the park. We’ll see you in the published column next year.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

29 thoughts on “Oh No! NaNoWriMo … No Mo”

  1. I do NaNo and love it. Not so much for the sheer number of words to be written, as I average 5,000 words a day year round, but because I can help motivate others. I always finish what I start. Like you say, Jim, that is the key to it all.


  2. I’m with you on this one, Jim. Thus is definitely not for me. I can think of no better way to drive my marriage into divorce, my kids into estrangement and myself into the loony bin.

    But let me be another who will laud and support those who take the plunge. Good luck to you.

  3. Heresy! And God Bless you for it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Creativity and productivity are not the same thing. And despite what our oh so American icons of business would have us believe, quantity and quality aren’t either…

  4. You know what they say about two thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, right?

    “A good start.” 😉

    I look at NaNoWriMo the same way. It’s a good start. For people who think writing is some sort of slow, agonized process, who believe that a novel is some impossible goal they can never reach, NaNo is an awesome way to learn what it’s really about.

    But for a professional writer? It’s just a good start.

    Most pros I know these days do NaNo level word counts or BETTER, not just in November, but every month. And that ought to be the goal, of course, if your goal is to make a living from your writing. It might take time to GET there – but that ought to be the target.

    It’s important to remember that quantity and quality are largely unrelated when it comes to writing. If it takes you an hour to write a thousand words, then whether you spend three months to write a 90k word novel or a year, the outcome is pretty much going to be the same. (Well, not quite – I find that my writing improves much more quickly, and the drafts require much less editing, when I am writing more words per day compared to periods where I miss days and don’t write as much.)

    So yeah, NaNoWriMo is an awesome tool to encourage people to write.

    But for the would be pro or pro, EVERY month is NaNoWriMo. 😉

  5. I’ve done NaNo, won NaNo, and have gone on to publish all of my NaNo novels (for good or ill, lol). I have a lot of respect for the program, because it gets people writing who otherwise wouldn’t do it.

    But I agree with you, Jim, that it’s the follow-through after you print your certificate that makes the difference. This is gold: “Don’t rely on motivation from others, rely on your heart, soul and desire to complete the project.” Great post.

  6. #Iamwriting #NaNoWriMo because it is a good writing excercise. It won’t give you a polished novel but it frees your thoughts and is a good forum to discover your unique voice. Edit later at your own discretion.

    1. Thanks, Elisabeth. I agree that it can jump-start an engine that hasn’t been used in awhile. Finishing is the key!

  7. I discovered the hard way a couple of years ago that the NaNo process for me results in words that need about three or four times more revision and editing than words written at my natural pace (about 1000 words a day, not every single day, but most days). Which is really too bad because I adore the cheerleading aspect of NaNo.

    If you’ve never done it, try it and see what you think. If it works for you, go for it. But realize that your results may not be all you hoped they would be. Take the time in December to analyze what you’ve done (the process as well as the words) and decide whether NaNo is good for you personally or not before you commit yourself next year.

  8. Jim, I’ve never done NaNoWriMo because November’s a bad month for me. Too many holidays/busy days when I know I can’t write. For people who do it, more power to them. But, there’s too much going on for me to jump into this.

    1. RJ, I’m with you. I learned last year that November is a bad month. I can write and revise, but when there’s a deadline involved, there’s nothing but trouble.

  9. I haven’t written for NaNoWriMo. But in January of 2013, I learned of the American Library in Paris Book contest. In a nutshell, you have to submit a book with a “French connection.” By June 1. Oh, and it has to be physically printed. So I basically knocked out 70,000 words in three months, spent another revising, and then two weeks at the printer.

    In short, I made it. Did I win? No. (Of course, one of the other entries ALREADY had won a Pulitzer.) Still, I didn’t get second place so…

    But I now have another book to my name which, with some input here and there, is getting better, and in front of an agent right now.

    1. Whatever helps you put your fingers on the keyboard is typically a good thing. Good job Michael, best of luck shopping it going forward.

  10. I did NaNoWriMo once, and I share the feelings. I can’t write everyday but when I do I aim at 1500-2000 words. I’m writing my fourth novel. None of them came out of NaNoWriMo (50,000 don’t make the cut)

  11. I love it. When I participate, I use it as just another part of my overall writing. For me, it’s been a great tool to focus on a particular project or refocus my writing energy overall. Thanks for this, Jim. We’re all on our own path. 😀

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I don’t try to tell people that it’s not right.. to each his own. I just want people (newbies) to realize that it’s more than a one month project.

  12. NaNoWriMo does not appeal to me. I have colleagues with fabulous books ready to promote and they drop everything to engage in NanoWriMo during one of the best months to promote and sell books. I understand the excitement and camaraderie and the boost in morale and perhaps affirmation that one can WRITE. However, 50,000 words is book length. I think The African Queen runs about 41,000 words or less. And it is NOT a novella. It is a book–and I consider it a classic. I just do not want to stop my life to engage in a race to 50,000 words. On the other hand, I might be lazy. Pffft.

  13. I’m late for this discussion, but I’ll add my piece anyway. I was an advertising copywriter for 25 years, which meant constant deadlines, which had to be met. Perish the thought that I’d ever impose a writing deadline on myself now that I’m retired. So I’ll say no to NaNoWriMo thank you very much. Definitely not my idea of how to spend a month.

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