#IWSG NaNo to Go

It is, with a rush, the first Wednesday of October and therefore an Insecure Writer’s Support Group post is necessary. Unfortunately, faced with this, I realised I’m so busy that I don’t have much else to say. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere, where this time of the year is known to be slowing down, allowing for more effort towards our writing, those like me down under find ourselves trying to cope with end of school terms, summer holidays, and barbeques (hey, I didn’t say it was all tough). And at the moment a heatwave.

But of course – next month it’s NaNoWriMo. Now that I can write a little about.

Previously (was it really four years ago?) I’ve been successful at spitting out words during National Novel Writing Month. The challenge to write 50K words is normally easy for me. And this year, in June, I joined Camp NaNo to finish off another 50K on my WIP.

So saying all that, I actually don’t believe that NaNo is a totally great concept, at least for me, and here’s why –

  1. Perhaps all the commaradarie and rah-rah forums and peer pressure does help some people, but I’ve joined some forums for my local chapters, added in 150,000 words to the group wordcount and never been thanked for my efforts. Different groups operate differently, such is life. So predicting each year that you are going to get all the support, social life, write-ins and incentives and good-for-you’s to produce a novel in a month is paramount to setting yourself up for a failure, if that’s all that is motivating you to write during the month.
  2. I’ve watched as a large percentage of the groups I’m in go quiet over the month, wordcount drops, life is rolled in as an excuse and then they just vanish. And some of those wannabe writers have turned up the next year to fail again, a glutton for wordcount punishment and peer failure.
  3. The organisers admit that most of the words we spit out in marathons like NaNo are going to “be crap”. How can that be a good thing, when you think about it logically? Statistically, not that many novels started in a November NaNo have actually gone on to be published. At this stage in my own writing career, I’m trying to not do crap, it’s a waste of my time.
  4. On the face of it, NaNo and similar word marathons are made for pantsers – people can go in, write without an outline, heck – they can copy and paste the same sentence 10,000 times, and still ‘succeed’ if so inclined.  I’ve always needed a rough outline, so that just moves the onus of writing prep-work onto the prior month for me. NaNo becomes not simply a month of hard effort, but at least two. On the beneficial side to this, I win something from my prep-work in that I don’t have to go through (quite) as many rewrites and edits in later drafts than the true pantser does. But then you get down to the ultimate question – how many 50K novels are written during NaNo that are never opened up later to rewrite or revise?
  5. 50K does not maketh a novel. For my genres it barely makes half a novel. No wonder the month is difficult – I start with the sexy stuff – the dramatic beginning, and then three weeks later, just when I’m stuck in the duldrums of middle-novel syndrome where everything slows down and dies, I succeed and win something, and it all stops.  Yet my novel is stuck in limbo-land. The event should perhaps be renamed NaNovellaWritingMonth, because I understand novellas are trending upwards lately thanks to e-shorts and the like. But it would be helpful if there was an emphasis on finishing the story in the first place.

We get what we get out of it. This year’s badge has some statistics on it – 30 days, 50,000 Words, 300,000 writers. In respect of the world, that’s a whole heap of writers NOT doing NaNo this year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions more NOT doing it. So if your decision is to not do NaNo, it’s a solid and dependable and justifiable decision, shared with many other writers, even if you don’t have a nice shiny web-badge like I do.

But if you are going to attempt it (I don’t like that attitude – say you’re going to do it, or not, attempting is a copout, I would never pay out $4 for a caramel latte just to face it and say I will attempt it). But if you are going to do it, then there are plenty of pundits, teachers, advisers and previous winners out there with advice ramping up this month on how to survive NaNo. Some of it’s good advice, I know.

You may be thinking from all the above that I shouldn’t be doing NaNo myself. It appears to go against everything I work with as a writer personally. There have been years where I’ve decided not to do NaNo that year, for various reasons. There was one year I joined in solely to benefit from a discount code for participants for a particular writing software package I wanted to try out.

But the challenge has a lot of benefits for the writer, and the one I am using this year as I participate is the fact that signing up (and wearing the badge) to NaNo makes my own goals more public. Having the possibility of people watching me fail is a driving incentive to do what I said I would do – add 50K to my next WIP, and win a little badge.

I wish those who are doing NaNoWriMo this year all the success and gains that you may wish for. Happy writing.

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