NaNoWriMo and Me

I would like to encourage any and all writers participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. You’re over half way there! Keep up the good work!

National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, is a time of furious creativity and productivity among writers. The goal is to reach 50,000 words on your project during the month of November. The official website contains a word count tracker, a fabulous logo, along with a network of writers and supporters. The deadline and the spirit of the event push thousands of participants to victory each year. If the writers don’t finish their story, they at least have a good chunk of it finished. I highly recommend the challenge, especially to new writers or writers who have trouble focusing on finishing a draft.

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But NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I completed the challenge in 2012, and again in 2013. The draft of the 2012 novel ended up around 75,000 words, though the second novel stayed at around 50,000. These were the first two stories I had ever completed, actually finishing a full draft and even going forward with some editing. I had an amazing time during NaNoWriMo, and the successive years of time-crunch creativity solidified my desire to become an author. When I hit the revision process, however, my motivation went downhill fast.

I came to realize that I had a difficult time working with these rough-cut first drafts. In the interest of saving time I had neglected to change material throughout the story as I moved forward. Character names changed, geography shifted, and I even switched from first to third person in the 2012 novel. Especially as a young writer, the confusion distracted me and made it more difficult to shape the words into the story it could be.

There were plenty of other mistakes too of course, mistakes that I now know are common among first novels. When I finished the second novel in late November 2013, I decided that I would not participate in 2014.

My productivity continued. I have worked on several projects since setting those first attempts aside. At least during the early stages of my writing career, I needed a well-worked first draft to prevent discouragement later down the line. That isn’t to say I will never try NaNoWriMo again. The forced productivity for the sake of competition with yourself really does help promote high word counts. As I progress as a writer and gain revision skills I may find that getting those first 50,000 words out of the way a great advantage.

Writing is rarely static, and what process works or doesn’t work at one point may turn out to be useful later. One story may require a process the writer never used before and will never use again. NaNoWriMo is a tool in my writing kit, waiting for the right story to come along.

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