I have a confession to make: I regret signing up for National Novel Writing Month this year. I’ve always had slightly mixed feelings when it comes to NaNo. I love the community and the forums, and the word count trackers and stats can be really motivational. And of course it’s great for getting words onto the page and kickstarting a new project. But personally, I’m not really sure it’s for me.
Hear me out. The last couple of times I participated in NaNo seriously (back in 2011 and 2012) I realised a few things about my own writing process. First of all, I realised that when I worked at NaNo’s pace, I rushed, made mistakes and sacrificed quality. I’m not saying this applies to everyone but I really enjoy taking my time with writing – even if that means I only do 500-1000 words a day. At this point in my life, I hadn’t realised I was an outliner, so I struggled to get through my story and came away with drafts that were full of filler. I ended up putting them in a folder and never looking at them again.
This time, in 2016, I’m much more aware of my own process. I like to have an outline, but even that hasn’t made NaNo easier because I like to research as I go, too. Sometimes I even go back and edit things before I move forward. NaNo doesn’t really allow for this kind of process since you have no time to do so. I know this can be one of the benefits of participating, but when NaNo goes against your own process it’s hard. I’ve found myself feeling guilty, stressed by the word count graphs, annoyed by my tendency to get details right before I move on. I’ve been kicking myself for not keeping up, for falling behind, for pausing to reflect on my story or to research things that are important to my novel.
This is one of my key problems with NaNo, I think. We all have different processes. Some of us like to edit as we go, and that’s fine. Some of us have demanding lives and can only write 500 words a day – also fine. This post isn’t intended to say that NaNoWriMo is bad – I think it’s great if it goes hand in hand with the way you work! I guess I just wanted to tell everyone who is struggling, or feeling frustrated, that it’s okay. You don’t have to do 50,000 words this month. You can edit as you write, if that’s how you work. You don’t have to write every day. Sometimes it’s okay to just think.
As long as you keep working on your book, you’re making progress, whether or not you hit 50k by November 31st. Working towards your goals will always be an achievement.