NaNoWriMo Should Be NaNoWriYear

(This is an oldie but goodie from the old blog published November 1, 2008. Additional comments appear at the end. Feel free to leave your own.)

Today marks the first day for the tenth annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I want to wish everyone participating in it this year the best of luck.

I’ve never taken part in the program, but I did manage to write a 90k novel in three weeks – this was a few years back, in either September or October. And do you know what? It burned me out. I couldn’t write afterward for weeks. On the flipside though, it was that novel that helped me score my first agent, and while a publisher never picked it up, it got pretty good feedback from editors.

Still, looking back, that novel could have used more work …

Which brings me to yesterday’s post over at Genreville regarding the program. It’s worth taking a look.

Here’s my two cents: NaNoWriMo can be beneficial for those writers needing the excuse to sit themselves down in front of the computer and write. Because let’s face it, writing ain’t easy. We always make excuses not to do it – and with the Internet, checking e-mail and friends’ blogs and whatever else, time flies and then we realize there isn’t much time left to write so we put it off to the next day, and the next, and the next. But being with a program, with other writers helping to keep us in check, yeah, there’s definitely motivation there and less chance of falling behind.

However, I do agree with the Genreville post that the program might not be for everyone. After all, what’s more important – quality or quantity? We want to write well, make sure the words ring true, but it’s difficult (sometimes impossible) if there’s such a quick deadline. (Then again, nobody says that the 50k words you write has to be your final draft … or at least I don’t think so; I’ve never reviewed the official rules.)

I see NaNoWriMo kind of like making a New Year’s Resolution. Every year everyone promises themselves they will do this or not do that, but how long do they really keep it up? A few days, a few weeks, then that’s it. They say, well, I’ll try it again next year.

My question is: Why not renew your New Year’s Resolution EVERY DAY?

Just like: Why not work on a novel EVERY DAY?

Even if you commit yourself to writing 500 words a day (and really, what is that, an hour of work?), then you’ll end up with over 180,000 words. That’s basically two good-sized novels.

(Keep in mind, I’ve gotten past that whole writing-a-book-for-fun thing long ago; if you’re looking to make a career, write something that sells, you need to do what’s not just best for you, but for the novel itself.)

So whether or not you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (and if you are, more power to you), you need to ask yourself what’s more important in the end: quality or quantity. And then you have to ask yourself how you get to the one or the other. And then you have to do it. Whichever path you choose, good luck.


Okay, now a year later do I still agree with that? Yes. Obviously no first draft is perfect, and any writer who believes that is an idiot. But that's not the purpose of NaNoWriMo. The purpose is to get that first draft. But again, you have to put the book first, not the page count. Meaning, write as much as you can, but don't put too much emphasis on the word count. After all, it's not the word count that is ultimately the goal here. It's the novel itself. But you know what? I think I'm probably preaching to the choir. Can I get an amen?