What do I Get Out of NaNoWriMo?

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResNational Novel Writing Month is November. The idea is to pound out a 50,000-word novel during that 30-day span. Thousands of writers and aspiring writers participate in the event, including me. Each participant can tell you what they get out of it, and each answer might be different. For me, I get a first draft. Of the six years I’ve participated, each of those six first drafts still exist, and what has come of them varies, from book to book. One of them was polished and published. Another was polished (and polished) and is still looking for a publisher. One is darn near done. The second and third drafts fell apart on me at the end, and I’m now working on an ending that I think sings. Once that ending is done, I’ll be revising the rest of the draft. The two remaining first drafts are just first drafts, and rough ones at that. I have a full-time (plus) job, so getting to those will happen someday. Maybe someday soon. But I have those third and fourth drafts to work on, as well as a couple of drafts that weren’t born in November.

I also have a lot of fun. With so many people participating and cheering each other on (word count is published daily, if you enter it, and there are forums and buddy lists, as well as features sponsored by the organizing group), it’s hard not to have fun. The atmosphere is universally positive in my experience, and there isn’t any “real” pressure. You can win (50,000 words by midnight November 30), or you can not win (less than 50,000 words). I’m personally about 50-50 on that goal. Either way, I end up with the words I write, and I have the further fun of moving on from there.

Book Covers

Plus you get to brag about your story. There are places to share synopses or short descriptions, titles, even your idea of what the cover ought to look like. There are also ways to donate, to sponsor programs that encourage children to write, and to purchase merchandise that keeps the organization going.

Some people don’t like the reckless abandon of the blitz. I see their point. It all depends on your approach to first drafts. I personally benefit from letting go of my inner editor for a few weeks just to see what comes of it. Lunging for word count on a daily basis is the best way I’ve found so far to do that. The results are sometimes good, and I’m free to discard the results that are not.

I intend to participate again this year. It’s October, so I’m down to the short strokes of deciding how to spend my NaNo time. Last year was a tough choice, too. But it will be something. And if you also participate, you can certainly send a writing buddy request, and we can see how each other are doing on our word count goals as the month proceeds. Of course, if you’re looking for someone that always meets or beats the 50k goal, and want that sort of competition to keep yourself motivated, I suggest someone else. I’m more the cheering-you-on type, not the let’s-see-who-wins-better type.

But whatever your style, I encourage you to write if you want to. It’s fine to want to have written a novel. It’s more fun to have written a novel. And it’s the most fun to actually be writing a novel. That’s my experience. Let me know if you agree or feel differently.

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7 Responses to What do I Get Out of NaNoWriMo?

  1. I tried Nano a couple years, long long ago, and found it to be unproductive. On my own, I tend to average about 1,000 to 1,500 words a day every day. I could probably write more but I’m careful with my prose and edit as I go. I think it’s very much a “to each his own” scenario on whether it’s a good experience.

    Good luck!

    • J. C. Conway says:

      Melissa: That is a wonderful pace. If I were to do that consistently, I believe I would not give NaNoWriMo another thought. 🙂 But yes, it is definitely a “to each his own.” I have tried lots of things. Some stick. Some don’t. Other writers that have tried the same things have the same experience, but it is a different list of things that stick.

  2. MorganPaige says:

    I love NaNoWriMo, but have found that every year without fail, I hit the 30,000 word mark and just have the word mental road block. Do you outline every bit of your story before November rolls around?

    • J. C. Conway says:

      I have hit that same wall once or twice. Some writers do outline beforehand, and find it effective. It depends on your style–how you think, how you write, and how you find inspiration. I typically don’t outline in any detail, although I often have an ending in mind and a series of heart-clenching moments (some of which change radically because of new ideas as I proceed).
      There comes a time in the process where gears have to shift. Much of the month Ideas roll in that complicate the plot, characters come to life, tension builds. But then, somewhere close to that 30k mark perhaps, things have to start cascading toward closure. For many stories, that means they first have to crash down to a “can’t win” scenario for the protagonist where all hope is lost. Following that, the protagonist needs an epiphany (and often a lucky break) to roll into a final showdown/climax that wraps up all the complications the first half of the month created. In my experience (when the story works), this is when I often have to throw in some new fact. In those cases, one of the major tasks in the post-November revision is to rewrite the beginning so that facts necessary for the ending are a fair part of the story from the start.
      But I don’t force any of that upon myself. Some stories have to build more. At least one of my stories ended up at 110k before it was done. So I hit the 50k mark in November, which is a NaNoWriMo “win,” of sorts. But I had to keep writing for the next several months before I ended the story. After that, I revised down.
      I guess this is a long way of saying, “It depends.” There’s lots of advice on the NaNoWriMo site and in the forums about that wall and what can be done to face it. I try the advice that makes sense to me, and disregard the advice that doesn’t feel right. Failing that from time to time, I try something that doesn’t feel right, just to see if my gut has been misleading me. And if it’s still November, I throw carpal tunnel to the wind and keep typing (or voice activate my computer and keep dictating).

      • MorganPaige says:

        This is really sound advice. I know that sometimes I do end up over planning my stories, so that’s what usually ends up getting in my way. I say to myself, “well this has to happen!”, but if I’m being honest with myself, sometimes it’s best to just see where the characters and the storyline takes you. Hopefully this year I can better throw caution to the wind and just let the story walk me through it (after I get some more vertebrae into its spine). Thanks for the response 🙂

    • J. C. Conway says:

      If you want encouragement, my NaNoWriMo name is jconway.

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