Nailing NaNoWriMo: Or Not

So NaNoWriMo is under way and I’m sure all of you are demolishing your word count goals, right? Right? Well, for those of you who can answer in the affirmative, I offer you my congratulations.

But it has come to my attention that there are some of you who are struggling. You’ve already fallen woefully far behind in the race and it’s looking more and more like you’re not going to be able to complete things on time. It’s only a few days in, but already you’re thinking you bit off more than you could chew. 1,667 words per day? What kind of masochist would put themselves through that kind of torture?

If you’re in the second group then I’d like you offer you my congratulations as well.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Whatever, it’s not like it matters. I just can’t keep up with the rest of you speed demons. Maybe this writing thing just isn’t for me.”

Hey now, lets not hear that kind of bummery. Turn that frown upside down, fellow-writer. Actually, never mind, that sounds like it might hurt. Instead, why not flex different facial muscles in such a manner that the corners of your mouth turn up rather than down? Because I am about to impart precious nugget of writing encouragement.

Here’s the thing: not everyone writes at the same speed.

Some of you just aren’t “there” yet. When I started writing I set a goal of a thousand words a day, and those thousand words were tough. I looked at NaNoWriMo and thought, “What, are you kidding? 1,667 words every day? That…that’s impossible.” And for me, at the time, it practically would have been impossible. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Speed in writing comes with time and practice.

Some of you just don’t have the time. I know, I know, writers make time to write, and that’s all well and good, but I can testify that making that time is a whole lot harder this year than it was last year. Why? Well for one thing I’ve got foster kids now. Also, my wife isn’t working which means in order to make writing time sometimes I have to say, “No I don’t want to go down and browse though that awesome antique mall with you. Spending time with the characters in my novel is far more important than spending time with the woman I married in real life.” Add on top of all that the fact that I’m working full-time, and trying to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I can say to the writers struggling to find time out there, I feel your pain.

And some of you just aren’t cut out to write, 1,667 words per day. Which is fine. Not all writers are cut from the same mold. (For instance, I was cut from that black mold that grows on your walls, and makes you sick sometimes. Don’t bleach me bro!) Not everyone can be Steven King and churn out six pages a days. Somebody’s got to be James Joyce, and obsess over the correct order of words in a single sentence for hours. Can you imagine how he would have reacted to NaNoWriMo?

But no matter what type of writer you are, the most important thing to remember is that NaNoWriMo is a tool. It’s a source of encouragement and common energy among writers, a chance to set an audacious goal and fight to meet it. But not every tool is right for every job.

So keep on plugging. And if you can’t keep up with the rest of the speed demons out there, don’t get too discouraged.

Always remember: NaNoWriMo does not define you. One single month out of the year will not make you a writer. The true test of your mettle is what you do with the other eleven.

16 responses to “Nailing NaNoWriMo: Or Not

  1. The secret formula is: The more you write, the more you’ll be able to write. Not saying the more you write, the *easier* it is to write. You’ll be able to keep going even when it’s hard, because writing will become more important to you.

  2. You nailed the spirit of NaNo, IMO. 🙂

    If I wrote like I read, I’d have my NaNo done in a couple days. But alas, my fast reading doesn’t translate into fast writing. I write mincingly slow. Even so, I’ve stepped up my pace just a little from a couple years ago. How do I do NaNo? I work from home and don’t have kids demanding my attention around the clock. (I’m in awe of those who do, that’s not something I would ever choose for myself. Too stressful.) Granted, my own NaNo method isn’t applicable to probably 98% of WriMos, but it’s the only advice I have besides “Take Mr. Berg’s advice.” 😉

  3. I’m going to pass this on to everyone I know who is obsessing over NaNo! Funny – “Turn that frown upside down, fellow-writer. Actually, never mind, that sounds like it might hurt.”
    Oh so true – Nano is a tool and not every tool is right for every job.

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  5. I’m going to pass this on, as well! Day 1 I churned out 2,000 words, and was on a NaNoWriMo high, until work and paying bills (psht!) got in the way of my fast-paced writing. But you’re right – this is just a tool for writers, an extra little boost of encouragement in the long journey of finishing a first draft. Sometimes we forget that, and turn it into some sort of competition. Even if I don’t make that 50,000 word goal (but, I WILL, damnit!), at least I’ll have added around 40,000 or so to my novel-in-progress. And that’s still worth it.

    • Preach on! I’m definitely not trying to stop people from trying to reach 50,000 words this November. But if you don’t, don’t get discouraged. December is just as good for getting writing done. Consistency is the key.

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  7. Your post is uplifting to me who’s struggling with my NaNo wordcount. It’s the 50+ hours at work that keep increasing as the holidays approach that’s having me come home exhausted and get 700 words rather than 1667, and THAT’S when I’m feeling good. I am worried I won’t complete NaNo this year, but if I don’t, I’ll still have gotten necessary scenes and ideas out there that will help me with the project I’m doing for Warrior Writers. Thank you for presenting both sides to NaNo; I’m still going to strive for the end goal, but you reminded me the writing itself is what counts and I’m still making progress on that. Thanks Albert!

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  11. I absolutely LOVE this post! And not because I want to just find an excuse NOT to reach the 1667 word per day goal. But because – as I illustrated in my latest post, “50,000 words? i’ll get there …eventually” – my goal as a writer was never to keep up with the Joneses. I love the NaNoWriMo challenge as a tool for motivation. I am totally psyched that I’ve got nearly 8,000 words for a manuscript that I didn’t have last month – nearly 8,000 words that are leading straight to the ending I have in mind.
    So, I’ll keep on enjoying the scenery as I plug along.
    (I love that comment about James Joyce btw 😉 )


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