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I’ll try (almost) anything once.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, to the uninitiated) has long intrigued me. Write an entire novel in a month, really?

Could such a thing be possible?

When I saw the actual word count required, it seemed attainable. Write 1,667 words a day–every day–and you will have enough by the end of the month to “win” NaNo. Since I’d recently written thirty thousand words in a single week, fifty thousand in a month was not a big deal.

Or so I thought.

It turns out I really don’t like having to write. I can set crazy goals for myself and meet them because they’re my goals. Yes, I chose to join NaNoWriMo, but there’s been several days when I either couldn’t or didn’t write.

I hate feeling that I’m falling behind.

And every time I visit the site to update my meager word count, I get to be reminded of how much I’m getting my butt kicked by almost every writing buddy I have.

No, it’s not a contest. But this certainly makes it feel like one. And if you lose a contest, by default you are a….

I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one.

I used to think I was a fast writer. Well, one of my writing buddies had over fifty thousand words written during the first week! Fifty thousand words in a single week. I can’t imagine ever writing that much in a week, even if I did absolutely nothing else.

So now I’m torn.

Do I quit, give up, admit that this was a failed experiment that’s making me feel cranky at best and miserable at worst?

Or do I stick it out, knowing that I may “lose” but at least I’ll have a partial manuscript?

I won’t abandon my book in any case. I’ll just ignore the NaNo time frame if I “quit”.

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? What do you think? Is writing a novel in a month a crazy goal?

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  1. Michelle D. Argyle

    I personally hate NaNo. It’s just not for me because, yes, it feels like a competition and I am not a competitive person — especially when it comes to something that is a professional job and not a freaking competition. But … that actually works well for a bunch of people, so it doesn’t surprise me that so many writers adore NaNo.

    I did NaNo once (with Monarch) and ended up having to rewrite the whole dang thing from scratch because I had been so intent on not losing. Sadly, I think in a way, I lost because I didn’t listen to my own instincts and quit while I was actually “ahead” in my storytelling. I just forced it all and ended up screwing so much up.

    The funny thing is that I’ve since written 50k in a month several times on other books — using my own timeline and schedule and not doing it in November. I actually take weekends off! And still manage to get 50k in a month and finish the book within 6 – 9 week (my books are usually around 70 – 85k). because I’m not feeling like it’s a competition.

    Anyway, that’s my experience. I hope you can figure out what will work for you!

  2. Elle

    NaNo is kicking my butt. I’m already about 12,000 words behind. I have a bunch of excuses but the fact of the matter is I’m not getting it done. Part is lack of BICFOK (Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) but the other part is that I can’t shut off the editor in my brain and I’m going back and fixing things as I go. Maybe it’s a memory problem – I’m afraid that I won’t remember the fix (or even the problem) but the time I get to the end. It’s been a real learning experience so far. I think 50,000 is out of sight but I hope to end with at least 25,000 words on my story. Good luck!

  3. Crystal

    This is a tricky one! I’d say that if you aren’t working on completing another manuscript, one that is going well, you should keep going with NaNo. At least by the end you’ll have a partial MS. However, if you are struggling with it, then I don’t think it would be a bad idea to let the story rest for a bit. Who says you can’t do your own NaNo in December?

  4. Lisa

    Holli…I’m not a “writer” writer but I do like to pen a few lines when inspiration hits. I tried NaNoWriMo a few years ago (5 to be exact). I had a schedule that would allow me time each day to tackle what I considered a major feat. Each day I doubted that I would finish. But I had cohorts to encourage me – on a running forum no less… we had a thread going for NaNoWriMo ;0) We would share our silly plot twists and methods of getting our word count up. I changed the colour of the font on my document to the palest of grey and turned off the automatic grammar/spell check so I wouldn’t get distracted by errors. And I just wrote and wrote and wrote…I won the contest (but then everyone who completes 50,000 words “wins”)…still I have my certificate and an almost completed novel that sits and glares at me each time I open my “writing folder”…;0)
    That said…NO it’s not crazy…and NO don’t give up…You may be surprised by what you end up with…
    It was an awesome experience for me.

  5. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for the comments, ladies! It’s great to get a wide range of voices and opinions on this one.

    @ Michelle: I can be a competitive person, and I actually thought this particular aspect of NaNo would be good for me. But I’m finding it discouraging in practice. I still write for a living, so I’m having to churn out thousands of words a day for work. There’s no way I can write 30K a week on my fiction projects right now. And that was just fine before, but now I’m disappointed in myself. If I’m going to keep going, I think I’ll have to distance myself from the “keeping score” aspect of it, at least for awhile. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

    @ Elle: Wow, I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’ve had plenty of time in front of the keyboard, but not the right kind of time. I’m finding I often just don’t feel like writing this book, probably because my other writing commitments are crazy right now. Your idea of taking what we can get from it is a good one.

    @ Crystal: Thanks for the positive comment. I probably will keep going with it, even though it’s frustrating the heck out of me. I’d love to say I’ve completed two novels this year. And I’m not one of those people who thinks it has to be crap because you wrote it in a month.

    @ Lisa – Of course you’re a writer-writer! There’s no fancy certificate you need to prove your right to call yourself a writer. You write, therefore you are as much a writer as anyone.

    Congrats on winning NaNo in the past! It is definitely an achievement worth celebrating, and it’s good to hear that it’s worth it in the end. I may just keep on going, all crankiness aside.

  6. erickeys

    I never tried it. I prefer shorter-form fiction at the moment. But if I ever set my sights on novel writing, I would probably try to get a draft done in one month. I’m not sure it would be November, though.

  7. Holli Moncrieff

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for commenting. Yes, November is a bad month for me. It’s the busiest month of the year for freelance on top of everything else, but that’s actually why I decided to go for it. I thought that if I could still make writing a priority, even with 20 articles due, I would never have an excuse not to write.

  8. Donelle Lacy

    I completely agree with Audrey. I hate Nano, and I’ve never actually participated in it. I think this is because I’ve always known NaNo wasn’t for me. I balk horribly at anything that puts too many restrictions on me. The biggest thing for me is the “thou shalt not edit!” restriction of NaNo. I also feel the same way you do, that I can’t write every day, nor do I really want to. And November is SUCH a busy month (well, really from Sept.- Dec. are busy months for me and my family).

    If I couldn’t meet my own crazy deadlines, if I needed a lot of online encouragement to keep going, if I only wrote maybe once a year and didn’t mind never touching my MS again after I wrote it, then I’d do NaNo. (ooh that was a rant, wasn’t it?)

    A lot of people seem to like NaNo. They use it as a tool to get their writing jump-started and that’s perfectly fine. But when the tool isn’t working for you, find another tool. Don’t beat yourself up. This isn’t a ‘fail’. This is a choice. Never torture yourself needlessly. Life has plenty of tortures waiting as it is.

    Whatever you choose, let it be a choice that makes you happy. Good luck!

  9. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks, Donelle. I’m still torn about NaNo, but I think I’ve decided to stick it out for now. It’s getting a little easier, and if nothing else I’ve learned to write through the pain. I don’t think I’ll do it again, though. Once is enough. Like you said, we put enough pressure on ourselves.

    I think their “rules” can be taken with a grain of salt. I don’t think I’ve ever read them. But I know so many writers who are stuck editing and rewriting their work that they never actually finish anything and submit it. For those people, the NaNo rule of not editing could be a breakthrough.

    In the end, like you said–it’s all about what works for the individual. I’ll celebrate my win and treasure that certificate, but I probably won’t do it again.

    Check out the picture in today’s blog post! Look familiar?


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