Nano, I shouldn’t.

Well, at least not this time around.  Are you going to do Nanowrimo this November?  I am not and I think that it’s a good thing.  I successfully hit the 50k mark last year and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge but I am not entirely convinced that doing it again will do anything other than confirm that I am able to write a decent amount of drivel everyday for 30 days.  Been there, done that and I know I can do it again.

Now, I am not saying that Nano was not beneficial – I have done it twice now – the first time I failed dismally not even reaching the halfway mark and the second I made it with a few days to spare.  The first time was just a waste, started on a whim with little or no idea what I was doing and zero commitment to the process.   The second, came around just as I had decided to make some dramatic changes in my life, including wanting to formally become a writer, and it served as a great way to prove to myself that I was capable of writing regularly at pace and more importantly cementing my commitment to myself by doing it.

I did enjoy the process and meeting other local Nanowrimos was one of the highlights of the process – you cannot really enjoy Nano on your own – go meet the locals.  Although it was great to realise that the Mac Book wielding ad exec, mountain biking queen and scruffy architectural student sitting across from you are equally as mad as you are, I had hoped to meet fellow writers with whom I could have established a more lasting bond that would extend past the 30 days.   That was unfortunately not to be – likely due to the fact that we were all stressed juggling real life and Nano and my general lack of open approachability – read grumpy old fart.   It was probably also related to the simple fact that us writers are a contrary bunch and trusting others, even with the same dreams, is perhaps not our strong suit.

The on-line forums and general banter was another aspect of Nano that I found particularly beneficial – especially when you are struggling or just need a pep me up.  I never did the word challenges that some nanos did but I found it motivating to see how your “friends” are doing.  There is only one issue – it can be a procrastination crutch – remembering you need to write rather than spend hours in the forums is hard some days.

Unfortunately, that’s where the benefit of Nano ended for me.  Churning out 50k words that actually made sense could perhaps be viewed as furthering the learning process and in that I will concede some benefit but I soon realised that what I had written was perhaps worthy of a D from a distracted high school English teacher.  Maybe a C- if I got him on a good day and sent him an alcoholic care package beforehand.   In the months that followed, I still wrote more on the same book, perhaps not at the same pace, but I soon realised that what I had written had turned into some convoluted mess best (and kindly) forgotten in a dusty shelf or archived away in Dropbox never to be seen again.

Nano helped me realise;

  • that I am not a pure pantser and need to outline far more than I was used to – in fact, I figure I need to outline down to the chapter by chapter level – perhaps not the journey but definitely the starting and end points for each.
  • that I needed to think about my characters and who they really were before throwing them in the deep end.  I have neglected my creations to the point where they are shallow and missing the proverbial arm or leg when it comes to making them believable and more importantly, making the reader react in an emotional way to them.
  • that I probably need to consider adding “something” to the overall themes rather than just writing for entertainment value – i.e. action movie.  Since the last nano, I have realise that the books I like include subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) themes and that my work to date is devoid of anything resembling an overall idea or message.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking about writing a 1984 type novel but I need to include something to give my work a little more depth and feeling that could touch a reader subconsciously.
  • that I can write crap fast but there is not much point in “just writing”.
  • that I am not alone in my delusions of becoming a writer.

I am not saying that I do not recommend Nano – it’s definitely something I would suggest a new writer attempts – it’s a great way to work to a deadline (over and over each day) and it’s a great way to prove to yourself that you can.  It forces you to schedule your life to write (something that I still struggle with).  For someone more established (not necessarily published), it may help you stretch your limits or introduce you to someone just around the corner.  It may be just what you need to push that ‘almost finished’ novel into “first draft done” stage or give you the motivation to start on that wacky idea that you are not really sure of.  The nice thing about Nano is that everyone there is in the same boat and no-one judges you.   If you have never done Nano before, I recommend it.

As for me, I am not going to do it this year.  I will probably donate and say hi but I am not going for gold this November.

For those of you attempting it.  Good luck and stick with it.  Do not give up and remember that you need those 1667 words per day or the mountain starts to get bloody steep – don’t assume that you can have catchup weekends, weekends are for getting ahead of the curve not making up lost time.  Don’t bother with worrying about how some of those Nanopros rack up 120k words – just worry about your own – in fact, don’t worry about anything and don’t choose November to write finals or give up chocolate.  Get someone you trust to reset your facebook / twitter/ pinterest login and promise to give it back to you 1 Dec.  Oh yes, and throw your critic to the wolves for the month… I promise he will survive – the poor wolves however, might not.


ps. Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

pss.  Here are a few Nano related posts I found recently:


2 thoughts on “Nano, I shouldn’t.

  1. Pingback: Writing More, Faster: 5 Tips for Writing Like a Pantser… A Guest Post By Julie Israel | The Literary Syndicate

  2. Thanks for sharing my guest post on Kristen Lamb’s blog! It sounds like you learned a lot about your process and what does and doesn’t work for you during your NaNo attempts. Eh, I’d call that a different kind of “win.” 🙂

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