Monday, 10 November 2014

Why I said No No to NanoWriMo



For anyone who stumbles upon my blog and doesn't know what NaNoWriMo is, here is a short description taken from the horse's mouth:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

'On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.'

I thought fleetingly about a novel. In fact, I fleetingly think about my novel every day. I started it in the summer... it reached three chapters and then stopped. It stopped because I was too busy wring magazine stories, my serial, a Writing Magazine article and putting together my short story collection, Room in your Heart.

You would think that NaNoWriMo would be perfect for me then - the push I needed to get up earlier and go to bed later in order to write the novel alongside everything else. Why then did I turn away from the yearly event that could have seen its completion? I considered it - I really did, so why eventually say, "NoNo" to NaNo?

It was simple really. When I taught English to my year sixes (could it really be nearly four years ago?) I would often get them to highlight key words in a text or on the questions of test papers. I did the same thing. Let's look again at the definition above. The words that stand out for me are highlighted: Fun and seat-of-your-pants.

I'll look at 'fun' first. I am lucky that I don't have a 'proper job'. I can be flexible when I write and try and balance my writing with other things (dog walking, my choir, Zumba and FitSteps and my dance classes) not forgetting grandma duties! I love my writing time simply because it is not forced on me. I realised that if I gave up some of the things that balance my writing life (even if only for a month) I would be a very sad writer indeed, probably bored out of my mind and with chronic back ache. Not a lot of fun in any of that!

When I looked at my calendar, I also saw that the first weekend of NaNo, I had a theatre trip in London with my mum on the Saturday and a charity tea dance on the Sunday. I could do these things or write an enforced 1,667 words or worse - do these things and have to make up the word count later in the week. I could feel myself getting stressed before I had even begun.

The other key word was 'seat-of-your-pants'. Now, don't get me wrong, I love that word. I plan my articles meticulously, but when it comes to writing fiction, am a pantster. So what's the problem? Well, the 'seat of your pants' element for NaNo is to just write... anything! Although I often start writing with just the seed of an idea, I cannot just write and write. I edit and change as I go and when I have finished, there is very little I change (I am talking short stories here). If I felt I was just writing words for the sake of it, I would lose the will to write.

I have heard of writers who have been jubilant to have completed their 50,000 words only to have their manuscript languish in a drawer because they know it was rushed and needed complete re-working or they were sick of the sight of it. Many people plan their novel meticulously before the beginning of November to give it a better chance (a very good idea) but one which wouldn't work for me being the aforementioned panster!

So now you know why I didn't join the thousands of writers taking part in NaNo this year but of course this is just my own personal opinion and what is not right for me, will be perfect for other writers... and who knows, maybe one year I'll join in.

So, I will finish by wishing everyone taking part good luck... and a comfortable cushion!

45 comments:

  1. A very good overview of this crazy writing month, Wendy - and good reasons for not doing it! I'm giving it a miss this year as I have too many bits and pieces to finish, but I did enjoy it one year as it got me writing consistently every day for a month (I know I should be doing this all the time).

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    1. I don't think I'll ever manage to write consistently every day, Rosemary - much as I'd like to.

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  2. I have done it in the past, to motivate me to finish a first draft, but now find the pressure off-putting. I do a sort of unofficial version, aiming to up my word count for the month, but don't give myself a hard time if I don't manage it :o)

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    1. Now I do like the sound of that, Karen - much more manageable and real.

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  3. It wouldn't be right for me, either. I've never tried it. I possibly would have a go if I didn't have a day job. No No to NaNo - love that phrase!!

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    1. Ha ha - yes, Kath, I should be a writer!

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  4. I've not done it yet. Don't think I will because I have so many other commitments like appointments that I wouldn't reach that word count. I am doing my own version this year. Instead of writing one day, typing it up the next etc I am just writing the story from start to finish then move onto another story, doing the same and not typing it up. I will know the word counts of the month when I get to type them up.

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    1. That sounds a good idea too, Julie - I suppose if NaNo gets us a little more motivated to write more (even if we don't do it through the official channel) then it can only be a good thing.

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  5. I'm with you Karen. I know that's not the way I want to write and that it wouldn't work for me, feeling under pressure and producing something way below perfect. I like to edit as I go and usually end up with a finished piece that has taken more time to write but doesn't need to be gone back over again and again. But hats off to those who do it and get benefit from it!

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  6. I personally love Nanowrimo, and wouldn't have written seven of my novels without it! But I know that it is not a good fit for everyone. My motto is - if it works, use it, if it doesn't find something that does :)

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    1. Absolutely, Michelle, and well done for all those novels!

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  7. I so agree with you and feel so much better about not even considering doing it. Life's too short to stuff a mushroom, so 50,000 words. Never!

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    1. 'Life's too short to stuff a mushroom'... that has to be my favourite saying ever!

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  8. What a lot of good sense, Wendy. Some people thrive under pressure and some don't! You have to do what's right for you don't you.

    I was so interested to see you edit as you go - considered by some to stifle the creative flow. I've always edited as I've gone because, if I know something's wrong, that stifles the creative flow until I've gone back and sorted it!!

    Again works for some, not others

    Good luck to all those taking part though - you're amazing x

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    1. It's the way I've always written, Sue. Glad I'm not the only one.

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  9. It's a big fat nono to nano for me as well Wendy. I did it last year, and almost crippled myself with stiff neck and back, and tension in all parts of the body. I did get most of the ideas for my novel down though, and came on a shortlist with it. I've still to properly complete it though, and I will one day. I would never do nano again though. It's insane. Good luck to all who have entered into the crazy world of nano though.

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  10. Do you think that maybe you have to do it in order to confirm you'll never do it again I wonder, Susan.

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  11. I recently made myself write 500 words a day until I got a novella finished, and that was doable.

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    1. That definitely sounds manageable and a lot less stressful, Kate.

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  12. I'm totally with you, Wendy. I loathe deadlines, and never plan. But like you, I tend to edit as I go along. I think that comes from writing short stories, don't you? NaNo would be my ultimate nightmare.

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    1. When's the next novel, Frances? I need to read it!

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  13. I'm with you, Wendy. Having successfully 'done' NaNoWriMo in 2011 and saying NEVER AGAIN ... can I be next for the 'I'm saying NoNo to NaNo' Tshirt?

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  14. I love the name - NaNoWriMo - but not enough to tempt me to do it. I'm a butterfly and a regime would stifle me. Now I'm off to stuff a mushroom. The quote about it is from Shirley Conran (Superwoman).

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    1. I love the name too, Lynne - and I never knew the mushroom quote came from there.

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  15. NoNo month for me as well. However, completed NaNo last three years and ended up with three more draft novels. But they need editing, and even though retired, I have as many time problems as before. And my health can't handle stress. Instead I cheer from the sidelines as friends attempt NaNo.

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    1. Three draft novels doesn't sound bad at all, Roland.- now you just need to finish them!

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  16. I can totally see your point of view Wendy. For me to do NaNo, I would have to spend the entire first 10 months of the year planning and preparing for the dark days to descend. Scary images of chains and shakels in the dungeons at Warwick Castle spring to mind. No, thank you. :)

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    1. That should read "shackles" - oops

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  17. Thanks for this post Wendy, you make a very good argument! It certainly isn't for everyone, I am struggling with the 'no looking back' and the pressure of writing a certain amount of words a day. I am WAY behind!!

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    1. The words 'struggling' and 'pressure' say a lit to me Sam. Good luck with it though.

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    2. I agree, Sam. 'Don't look back' is the hardest advice to follow... but it does mean you press on and I do find it satisfying to produce so much more than I normally would. As for being way behind - join the club!!

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  18. Thanks for this post, Wendy. I was feeling guilty (and wondering if I was the only person in the world not doing NaNo this year..) but now I just feel relieved! And not guilty at all...

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  19. All very good points :) I have stuck to my intention of allowing myself this month to mainly write fiction and not worry too much about getting paid (for which I usually rely on non-fiction, together with editing and proof reading). But I haven't managed to write every day (failed at the weekend!) and a tendon problem in my hand means the 50,000 word count can probably take a hike too!

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    1. I like the idea of setting aside November to achieve certain goals, like you have Alison. I'm all for quality over quantity and for me NaNo would me a giving up the first for the second.

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  20. I've done NaNo in the past and I'm glad I did. I might do it again. Not doing it this year though.

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  21. Well said. Where's the mindfulness?

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    1. Only someone who had done NaNo would be able to answer that, I suppose

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  22. I said YEA YEA to NaNo - and on day 16 I'm on 500 words. I really need to write more.

    x

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    1. Not sure whether I should be saying well done or not, Suzanne!

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  23. A bit late commenting, Wendy - have been writing my NaNo novel! ;-) A great post where you have listed all the questions I asked myself before registering. I think it was Patsy who said she'd recommend doing it once and I did decide to give it a go this year. My reason for registering is that I hope to get back into my novel and not keep stopping to write short stories as I have been doing. To date, I have written 23,967 words which is a miracle for me (the other 9,000 words had taken me 18 months!) I may regret it when I come to editing!

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