First off, let me be clear: I love the idea of NaNoWriMo.
I wrote my first novel nearly ten years ago, and ever since I’ve had the desire to join in on NaNoWriMo. I at least wanted to try it once.
There’s an infectious quality to the writing community out there, after all. To work hard on your novel while knowing that so many other writers out there are drafting their own novels, too.
I think the program itself is fantastic, especially for writers to track their progress and get in as many words as they can in November. If I had never written a novel before, I’d probably make more an effort to take part in it, too.
The thing about writing that’s so hard is that often you don’t have any deadlines. And when there’s no deadline, it’s easy to lose track of your latest manuscript, it’s easy to push it aside to next month or next year, or the next decade.
NaNoWriMo gives you that much needed deadline. You need to hit 50,000 words of your novel by the end of November 30, and that’s a great thing.
Unfortunately, I’ve never actually taken part in NaNoWriMo. And I don’t think I ever will.
I would say there were three years, at least, where I felt like it was finally time to tackle NaNoWriMo. At least do it once. But things would always fall through for one major reason: school.
Since 2011 I’ve either been a student in November or teaching in November or both, and it just never seems feasible to write an entire novel at the same time. As a teacher, November is actually one of the busiest months of the year for me. I’m doing a lot in my classes before the Thanksgiving holiday, and by the end of November I’m grading the big final research papers.
I’m immersed in everything teaching this month, and it’s hard just to find an hour a day to revise my novel, let alone write something new from scratch.
This is why I’ve written many of my novels between mid-December and mid-January. At the college level, there’s this window of about four weeks or so where I’m not grading or prepping, and I make use of every single day to work on my latest creative project. Sometimes that’s a revision, sometimes that’s a new screenplay. And sometimes that’s the first draft of a new novel!
I wrote my latest middle grade novel last winter break, for example. I put in the final grades for my college classes, then the next day wrote Chapter One. When I finished the first draft in mid-January, I wrote THE END, e-mailed the manuscript to myself, then the next day began prepping my spring classes and working on my new syllabus!
Summer is also a great time for me to draft a new novel, again, because my teaching load is lighter. I find I do better work when I put all of my focus into one thing, not separating hours of my day to this and that and the other thing.
NaNoWriMo is something you should do if it works for you. If it helps you write your novel.
I’m lucky enough to have windows of time where I can write my latest novel with few distractions. Many of you don’t have that. You don’t have a four-week chunk of time to dedicate fully to your novel, whether it’s January or July or November, or whatever.
If that’s the case? Then absolutely you should give NaNoWriMo a try. After all, I do believe you have a better chance at completing your manuscript if you commit to it hard for thirty days straight, rather than just work at it in small doses here and there.
For me, I’ve written enough novels now to understand how to get them written fast and get them completed fast. It doesn’t have to be November 1st to November 30th for me. I can start working on a novel in the middle of a month, or at the end of a month. Whenever I start it, I give myself a strict deadline, and I make that deadline every time.
I could only see myself doing NaNoWriMo if I didn’t teach for a fall semester, and if I had no vacation plans for Thanksgiving. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll do it one of these years, but still, I don’t think I ever will.
Do it if you feel like it will help you. I’m excited for every single one of you attempting it for the first time, or the second time, or the fifth time, whatever it may be. Again, anything that helps you get your novel written is a great thing.
But at the same time don’t feel like if you fail NaNoWriMo you’ll never succeed as a novel writer either. There are eleven other months of the year, after all. There might be better times for you to write.
Do what works for you… and never give up.