Ready, Set, Stop! NaNoWriMo Is What You Make It

 November 4, 2016

The main criticism I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is that it encourages quantity over quality in writing. Writers are spurred on to spew out words as quickly as possible without regard for the value behind the words. And then, thanks to the ease of self-publishing, there is a glut of poorly written books with little to no copy editing, flooding the already crowded book market.

While there is some truth in this, that is not what NaNoWriMo is about. Writers are encouraged to write quickly as a means to quiet the inner editor/critic that sometimes gets in the way between us and our muse. What we do with these words once we get them on paper is up to us. Participants are also encouraged to revise and edit their work before sending them to an agent or publisher or self-publishing.

Ultimately, NaNoWriMo is what you make it. It is set up to challenge writers to create 50,000 words of fiction or non-fiction, but many writers use this time to revise and edit a previously written work, or may not aspire to a 50,000 word count, settling on a more manageable goal. They use the momentum of NaNoWriMo to help them achieve these goals. What’s important is that you are writing in some shape or form.

For me, my participation in NaNoWriMo this year has taken an unexpected turn. I had planned on writing the first draft of the sequel to the book I wrote in the summer of 2015. There were problems with this first book, but I hoped that through the process of writing the sequel, it would become clearer to me how to address those problems. An unexpected gift of a developmental edit of the first fifteen pages of the book gave me the insight I needed to fix the first book.

Rather than flying ahead with the sequel, I’m finding myself revising the first. If the revisions go quickly, I just may be able to catch the NaNoWriMo wave to start the second, but better to have a solid foundation from which to write the second by correcting the first.

So for me, it has been ready, set, stop.

There are no NaNoWriMo police to chastise me or give me a ticket for failing to do what I had originally set out to do. Instead there are words of encouragement from other writers who know all too well the vagaries of the craft. NaNoWriMo truly is what you make it!

How might you use NaNoWriMo to further your writing goals this year?

12 responses to “Ready, Set, Stop! NaNoWriMo Is What You Make It”

  1. I thought it was really inspiring reading your take on the month. We seem to agree on many things (especially the part about editing before publishing—you’ve got to give the story the best chance you can). I can’t help but also feel the energy of the month. Much like you, I’m not participating this year but am busy with rewrites. I still feel motivated reading all of the stories and updates from the blogosphere.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I plan on featuring your post on my blog page today. Every Friday I spotlight bloggers who have inspired me in one way or the other. You’ve done this for me today. Best of luck to you!

  2. We could use it the way you mentioned. Editing first editions. Also to ride the momentum. Because you know that you’re not the only one focusing on a novel, it pushes you forward.

    One can also make friends during this time and learn that there are people around you that are writing too and you can possibly meet up with them.

    Have fun writing either way!

      • You’re welcome.

        My friend just started a group on Facebook and learned that people start planning weeks in advance.

        His question was what happens during the month then if you started planning earlier. I told him that there’s enough to work on. He’s making friends ^_^

  3. “Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.” Mary Wollstonecraft. What I appreciate about your post is your focus on the simple principles supporting NaNoWriMo – “the importance of writing in some shape or form”. I admire people like you who participate in such a challenging enterprise. Good fortune!

  4. Great post! For me, I’m using the challenge to increase my writing speed and daily word count, however, something unexpected has happened. I met new people, enrolled in a mini-course by a teacher I found on the Facebook page. The extra writing I’m doing with her class is another bonus in the word count column, plus, I’m learning something valuable for future storytelling!

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