Friday, November 25, 2016

On NanoWriMo, Pressure, Pacing, and Uniqueness

Can I share a rather unpopular opinion?

I don't like NaNoWriMo.

Shocker, I know. My Twitter feed has been full of it all month. Many of the blogs I follow make much of it. I'm surrounded by NaNo excitement. But I don't like it.

I get nervous, frankly, to consider writing 50,000 words in a single month, a month that happens to be a very busy time of the year for me. I have other things to focus on. And my one pseudo-attempt at NaNo resulted in a whole lot of stress and major burnout. I prefer not to repeat it.

On NaNo

That being said, I know many people really enjoy NaNo and get a lot out of it. That's great for them. I would never want to say that someone else's writing success is a bad thing. I just get tired of hearing only one opinion. All I hear is: "You've gotta do NaNo." or "It's the best thing ever." But I never hear the opposite. I never hear that it's okay not to like NaNo. I never see my own opinion reflected back at me. So I decided to do it myself.

NaNoWriMo Stresses Me Out

It's true. The mere thought of trying to write 50,000 words in November is daunting. Couple that with the fact that November is one of my most stressful months all around, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I know I can't be the only one who deals with that. With school being my main focus right now, I have plenty of stress in my life already. Trying to add anything else, even something I love as much as writing, is unwise for me.

Something I think we have to recognize as writers is our bodies' limits. We are not invincible. You can only go so long without sleep before you're hurting yourself. You can only place yourself in the deep headspace of a novel for so long before your grip on reality slips. Maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but it's true.

hustle-and-bustle-1738072_640One of the things I worry about with NaNo is that, perhaps, it pushes young writers to go too far beyond their limits. Everyone's limits are different, of course, and I'm not saying we should place a one-size-fits-all mold on every writer. I just think it's important to recognize that writing is a drain on the body, mind, and soul. Writing at an accelerated pace is even more so. Not a bad drain, necessarily, but a stressor for sure. It has to be kept in perspective.

I Don't Appreciate Putting Out Junk

Let me preface that with this: my writing process kind of flies in the face of conventional wisdom. I have read more than once that a first draft is a trash heap – you're putting out a bunch of junk so you can sift through it later and find some gems.

But I can't write like that.

Now, I don't dispute that my first drafts are far from perfect. They have many faults. Why else am I redrafting Raiders' Rise after creating a 120,000+ word behemoth? First drafts are full of mistakes. But I can't write a sea of sludge that I have to make some sense of later. I have a friend who did NaNo last year, and when she came out of it at the end, she couldn't even figure out where to start making sense of her draft. The story didn't work; she could hardly recognize what she'd put down.

The same experience would drive me into the doldrums. I'm a very deliberate writer. I usually handwrite, always reread previous sections before adding more, and typically edit slightly while typing. That's my process. It works for me. I put down plenty of scenes that will later be cut, but I rarely write through confusion. Usually, I will iron out problems as they come up, rather than pushing through them. The thing is, that's how I do it. I'm sure plenty of writers have success writing a first draft that is largely junk. If that works for them, cool. But it creates chaos in my mind, not the peace I need for writing.

I Have to Protect My Writing

Deadlines are a good thing. I'm not disputing that. Professional writers work on a deadline all the time. Learning to write to a specific mark is a good thing for any aspiring writer to learn. For some, I'm sure NaNo is a training experience. For me, though, I can't rush my writing or I will hate it.

still-life-851328_640I love writing. Creating stories, crafting beautiful sentences, communicating meaning. It is one of my great passions. But at this stage in my life, it can't be my main focus. It can't. God put me in college, and that's where I need to put my energy. That doesn't mean I don't write. It just means I can't write all the time. If I tried to do NaNo in the midst of all my school craziness, I would be forced to focus too much on my writing. And I know for a fact that, in all the hustle, I would weary of it. I can't do that to myself.

So, for now, I write at a pace that I enjoy. I blog consistently. I write for school. And every now and then, I get to work on my novel. For now, that's enough.

Everyone is Unique

NaNoWriMo is a huge deal. It has become such a big part of writers' calendars each year. And I know that it is an amazing experience for many of those writers. NaNo is meant to create a community and a challenge for writers. That is awesome and I fully support the success that results from it.

But every writer is different. Every one of us has a different process, a different reason for writing, a different goal. You can't force a one-size-fits-all approach to everyone. That applies to anything – plotting, writing, editing, and, yes, NaNo. I think we need to recognize that.

I celebrate with those who have achieved success this month in their writing, whatever that success looks like. I sympathize with those who feel disappointed with their results. It's okay, ya'll. That's life. Whatever the case, I wish you all the very best as November draws to a close.

What do you think of my ramblings? Do you agree or disagree? Have you taken part in NaNoWriMo? What was your experience? Tell me about it in the comments; I'd really love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I kind of like it when NaNo comes around, and I can hear about everyone's amazing stories. There are times when I'd like to give it a try. But you make a good point about everyone being different. I like to work on more than one project at a time, and in little pieces each. I don't want to try NaNo without first getting comfortable with the concept of finishing one project in a great burst.

    1. Thanks for throwing in your thoughts, Blue! I appreciate hearing different perspectives on it. I can definitely understand that method. I usually won't work on multiple novels at once, but I do like having different kinds of writing going on at once.


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