NaNo: Pros and Cons

Above: One of my photo collages where I've manipulated the colors to look unearthly.

NaNo, National Novel Writing Month, is less than a month away. Have you ever taken part? Should you participate this year?

The goal for Nano is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. The words must be new, and you're not allowed to start writing until  November first. One can, however, plan.

But first, why do it in the first place? The 50,000 word goal means 1667 or so new words every day. That's an ambitious goal, especially if, like me, you have a day job.

The first year I did NaNo was 2010, and I decided to participate solely to overcome my phobia about writing science fiction. I'm a huge fan of the genre, and I've been reading since elementary school, so I could hardly claim unfamiliarity with the conventions. But I was intimidated by the world-building. In late September of 2010, I decided to take the plunge, and spent the next month mostly engaged in world-building. I spent a short amount of time on the plot: figured out my main character, his father, the father's boss, and several other characters who went out the window when I started writing. I had a page of plot notes, most of which, again, fell by the wayside once I started to write.

So I wrote the first draft, discovered a website with an awesome editing thing for January, signed up, spent from January through June editing, and actually had the novel accepted for publication. It came out in late July. I also wrote another novel for 2011 Nano, and yet another sometime in between. I'm still editing the latter two.

So what did I learn? Well, I had a heck of a good time, and I discovered that world-building wasn't as intimidating as I thought it was. I've learned something about my writing process. And I've learned that there's an awful lot to be said for simply showing up on the page. Is it at the top of my list of ways to improve my writing? No. Will I participate this year? I'm trying not to, as I want to finish editing the two I'm working on now. Will I end up heeding the siren-call of the new novel and new character I dreamed about a couple of nights ago? Only time will tell.

Margaret Fieland is the author of Relocated, available at major online booksellers and on the publisher's website

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Jim Hartley said...

I have never participated in Nano, and I doubt that I ever will. The problem is that it just doesn't fit my writing style. Nano wants you to bang out words and leave the editing until next month. Arrrgh! I'm an "edit as you go" type. If I see an error, or just something that needs improvement, I want to fix it NOW! Those uncorrected bits will rankle me, destroy my concentration on NEW words, just throw me completely off. I can't do it that way. Nope, no Nano for me.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Sadly I am falling so far behind with everyday commitments as it is that I shall not even be attempting Nano this year.
I succeeded in accomplishing the word count once, but failed twice so far. Like you, Peggy, I learned a lot and my writing certainly speeded up throughout the month.
For the first time too I relaxed and let the story grow organically and gave the characters free rein.
Very pleased with the resulting first drafts but still need to settle to editing.

Margaret Fieland said...

Annie, I hear you. I'm still editing two. I'm not ready to let either on go yet, but I'll need to cut them loose soon (for some value of 'soon').

Anonymous said...

I'll probably do it again this year. I better get some of the planning done, like very soon!

Karen Cioffi said...

I haven't done it yet, but would love to. This year's not feasible though - too much on my plate already.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I think whatever strategy helps one move forward is good. I've never participated in Nano, but I know it has worked for many writers.

Magdalena Ball said...

I'd love to do Nano - think it's a great way to draft a novel quickly - especially if you go into it with a really clean outline (bit of a cheat perhaps). I'm certainly not in a place now where I can neglect the rest of my life for so long and on such a concentrated basis, but maybe one day - kids are growing.

Debbie A Byrne said...

I'm participating next month, for the first time. I've been planning but I don't know how well that will turn out. I think it will be fun and I'll probably learn something about writing. Will I make it to 50K? I don't know, but I still think it will be worthwhile.

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