Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Don't Do NaNoWriMo

November is coming to a close, and that means National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is winding down. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is an informal challenge for writers to write a novel- 50,000 words or more- in a month. If you are successful you 'win'. If not, there's always next year.

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo. I am a slow writer. I have written two novels, and it takes me, on average, four years to write one (though mine are considerably longer than 50,000 words- 120,000 and 112,000 respectively). But I can console myself with the knowledge that no matter how slow I am, I still write faster than Donna Tartt, who has published three novels in the past thirty years; in an NPR interview Stephen King said he just 'wants to shake her'.

I laugh about it, but honestly, Donna Tartt is an amazing writer, and if it takes her a decade to write a book that satisfies her, more power to her. I would much rather have three great novels than ten lousy ones. I am only thirty-four. If I can turn out a novel every four years I should have a pretty good bibliography before I kick the bucket, since I don't plan on dying until I am at least ninety.

NaNoWriMo is a nice challenge for some people and I'm sure they have fun, but I swear all I see and hear this month are panicky complaints: “I'm so behind!” “I have to write 3,000 words tonight to catch up!” “I'll never catch up!” “I'm not going to make it!”

I have enough deadlines in my life. I've been writing long enough to know that giving myself an unrealistic deadline is not going to work for me- and since I have to write longhand, my process takes even longer than it usually would. Instead I use NaNoWriMo to make some more achievable goals: this year I finished the second revision on my newest book and have reached a certain point in my new novella (a sequel to “Hour of the Lotus”).

Some people do make NaNoWriMo, but I have to wonder how good the finished product it. Of course it's a roughdraft, and all roughdrafts suck, but personally I need time to consider my words. My roughdrafts still suck, but at least I don't have to rewrite everything. Which I would have to do if I attempted NaNoWriMo.

So even if NaNoWriMo doesn't appeal to you, you can use the month as an opportunity to make different deadlines for yourself. There's no point stressing yourself out over someone else's challenge; make your own that works for you. And if you do give it a shot, remember that ninjas won't come and kill your family on December 1st if you don't make it. There's always next year.

Good NaNoWriMo participants, and every one else too!