Don’t come after me, it just doesn’t work for everyone.
If you’re like me, you probably start hearing buzz from your writing community about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every year starting in September and October. I have countless friends who love NaNoWriMo and I have heard about it from countless sources over the years — everywhere from writing conferences, to blogs, to podcasts, to publishers — you name it.
If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it happens every year in November. It’s sort of like the writer’s version of no shave November (except kind of the opposite because NaNoWriMo is a heck of a lot of work!) For writers who participate in NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel manuscript (a rough draft, for obvious reasons) in one month. Ideally, participants write about 1,600 words a day and end up with something that resembles a story in one month’s time, and then can move on to editing and polishing the story after the month is over. If you’re really into it, there are competitions and community chat boards and Facebook groups, and tons (tons!) of resources online.
I know loads of people who have participated in NaNoWriMo in the past and had immense success. One of my friends who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo in years gone by has now self-published the book and it comes out this month (hear more about that on my podcast interview with her.)
For lots of people, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing that spurs them to write and has great results. For me, it causes stress, anxiety, and virtually zero productivity.
Every year, I contemplate if I should try it out once more. I tell myself that my first couple of tries I didn’t plan enough, or I didn’t utilize the online community enough. I try to come up with a plan, do my research, and ultimately decide not to do it. And that’s okay — NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. It never will be — there are lots of writers who successfully write a novel without the one month time crunch, just like there are many who love the thrill of writing under pressure. So why doesn’t NaNoWriMo work for me?
The pressure is too much
NaNoWriMo inherently comes with deadlines and loss of sleep (at least if you’re like me and have a day job that occupies your hours between 8am and 5pm.) Some people thrive under pressure and do well working under intense deadlines when it comes to writing. But that’s not everyone — and that’s okay! Maybe you’re like me and writing under pressure just isn’t your thing.
Slow and steady wins the race
For me, I do much better with a more laid back writing approach. I’m currently working on a novel, and I’ve written at least 3,000 words a week in the past month or so. I’ve actually been writing the most I have for quite a while the past couple of weeks, but it’s nowhere near enough to cross the 50,000-word NaNoWriMo threshold in one month. I’m personally okay with that because it fits into my life better and is sustainable. When I’ve tried NaNoWriMo in the past I ended up burning out way too early in the game to be successful. So I’m not worried about rushing anymore!
I’m more of a pantser than a planner
If you’re familiar with the writing world, you’ve probably heard these terms before — most writers either plan their writing down to the littlest details or fly by the seat of their pants and wing it as they write. I happen to fall more into the flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants category, and most writers I know who are successful in NaNoWriMo take the planning approach — they even call October Plantober, as in planning for NaNoWriMo a month in advance. I’m sure there are pantsers who succeed at NaNoWriMo year after year, but there is a bit of an inherent need for a plan when it comes to writing a novel in a month. It’s just not really my thing.
There are other reasons I don’t like NaNoWriMo, too, but these are the main reasons that it doesn’t work for me. If it works for you, by all means, write your heart out this month! But that’s never going to be me — at least not for the foreseeable future. Every year I feel a bit of a tug, a teensy bit of pressure, to participate in NaNoWriMo, and every year I feel stressed at the thought. Goodness knows we do not need more stress in our lives, so if that’s you, maybe you are even slugging through NaNoWriMo right now and hating it, then take this as your permission slip to write at your own pace and on your own terms. Leave NaNoWriMo to the people who love it, and move at a snail’s pace if that’s where you flourish. We all have our own different writing journeys and mine most definitely is not NaNoWriMo.