There’s No Way I’m Winning NaNoWriMo (and Why I Don’t Care)

There are far too many writers on Twitter complaining about how they probably won’t hit their 50K goal for National Novel Writing Month. Honestly, I am one of them.

Only, I’m not really complaining. See, this is the first time in three years that I even tried to participate. It has always seemed to me that those that take NaNoWriMo too seriously honestly see it as a competition. And I don’t think writing should be competitive at all.

Let me repeat. No form of writing should be a competition. Unless you’re angling for some fancy writing job and they need to see samples. Or you’re entering a flash contest for some sweet prizes. Or you’ve entered that Dark Crystal contest. Or…

Oh shut up. Anyway…

Say you DO churn out 50K in the month of November. In fact, let’s say you even hit 55K. This does not mean anything. Not really. I say this because that 50-55K could be really bad. Like really bad.So on the one hand, I guess it’s cool to be able to say that you wrote a novel in a month. But on the other hand, I think lots of people are going to question whether it’s any good or not because it was written in a month.

And this is where I start to have a problem with a big part of NaNoWriMo.

In 2009, I participated. And I hit the goal. I wrote 54,000 words. It was okay, I guess…but I wasn’t happy with it. Still, 50K words in 30 days. Mission accomplished. Only…not really. Because after that, I spent another two weeks on rewrites, then a few days on edits. Then I spent another month or so on more rewrites.

About five months later, I had the book that would become The Masks of Our Fathers.

So let me contradict myself a bit here. While I don’t really get into the competitive nature of it, I do see where NaNoWriMo is incredibly beneficial. Without putting myself into that fire, I don’t know that The Masks of Our Fathers would have ever been written. I reminded myself of that this year when I decided to give it a go.

As of right now, my NaNo project is sitting at slightly over 23,000 words. I am not going to hit 50K in the next 9 days. It’s just not going to happen.

But what this “failure” has done has re-introduced me to some of the motivations behind writing that I have forgotten over the last year or so. Such as:

Writing Is Not a Sprint, But More Like One of Those Ridiculous Tough Mudder Things. You can’t rush through writing anything. If you do, it’s going to be sloppy and the accomplishment you feel will be brief. Writing should be fun but grueling, too. It should hurt like a John Mellencamp song (so good).

Steal Time to Write. Much of those 22,000 words came in 10 minute bursts in the morning before I started work or at night when I should have been sleeping. Find a way to tell the clock that you aren’t interested in hearing what it has to say. Steal time any way you can.

Let the Story Show You Where It Wants to Go. One of the reasons this project is stalled at 23K is because the outline I had planned just isn’t going to work. And rather than forcing it to my stupid outline, I am letting the story tell me what it wants to be. All I know for sure right now is that what it wants to be includes Victorian plague masks and chewing gum. No, seriously.

So what have you learned from you NaNoWriMo experience? And are you one of those with a highly competitive spirit, or do you simply use NaNo to get pushy with the creative process?


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