If you really want to try to write novel in a month, I am not going to stand in your way.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to commit, sitting side by side (virtually) with thousands of other avid fictioneers, to pen a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days, starting at midnight on Nov. 1 with 0 words written.
Sure, a few of the impulses behind this zany idea are valid. For instance:
- It’s good to set goals.
- It’s good to create a specific timeline in which you commit to reaching a specific goal.
- It’s good to tell others your goals.
- It’s good to write daily, if possible.
- It’s good to try to find extra time to write even if you seem too pressed by other obligations to have much time for literary creation.
Fine. And the NaNoWriMo challenge may sound fun and possibly productive (at least in October).
But the problem: a madcap, caffeinated dash to write 50,000 words in 30 days and call it a novel is a bit foolhardy.
What is most likely to happen? After a week or ten days, the creative juices will flag. At about the two-week point, you’ll start to seriously get tired.
You’ll ask yourself, should I continue? Some will quit. Others will stiffen the spine, declare they are not quitting, superglue their posteriors to their chairs (or growl at anyone who approaches them in the coffee shop), and plunge along.
It’s just that few good novels are written in this way. I’ve always recommended NaNoWriMo as a good time to commit to writing more diligently. (As is most any time, but November is good, as the fall settles in and our gardens are done and we begin to look at what we’ve achieved this year and hope to accomplish in the near future.)
But make a realistic plan. Please.
Am I being too Midwestern? Too practical?
Here’s what I’d rather that you did in November, towards the goal of writing a good, readable, marketable novel:
- Commit to writing 500 words a day. (So you’ll end up with only 15,000 words. So what? What if that’s better than a 50,000-word mess?)
- Commit to finishing a short story each week in November. Four weeks, four stories.
- Commit to finding a good writing partner. Exchange serious plans, and support each other in a path that leads from here to a good novel, within any reasonable timeframe.
- Commit to anything that you genuinely feel will push your career forward, in a way that really helps and that doesn’t create a lot of bad habits and mediocre writing.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, you might also check out this challenge by Nina Amir to “Write Nonfiction in November!” (She suggests that you write and publish nonfiction all year.)
You are personally challenged to start and complete a work of nonfiction in 30 days. This can be an article, an essay, a book, a book proposal, a white paper, or a manifesto. WNFIN [Write Nonfiction in November] is not a contest. It’s an event held for you—so you get inspired to set a goal and achieve it.
That actually makes sense. Follow that lead, for your fiction or nonfiction. Set a good goal. Get inspired. Achieve it.
And enjoy your Thanksgiving . . .without sitting there with a dazed, distracted look, wondering if sending your hero over the Zylchix Mountains on a wild goose chase is such a good idea, but deciding you’ll stay up late and make it happen anyhow . . . because, hey, it’ll take thousands of words to do it. And it’s Nov. 28. And you need 5,000 words to hit your NaNo goal.
Just say no to NaNo. (And yes to more pie!)
If NaNo works for you, godspeed. May your fingers fly. May the Zylchix Mountains ever rise to meet your hero’s step, with the flowing wind of words at his/her back.
[For a few other articles I've written dealing with the NaNoWriMo issue:]