Writing is a solitary pursuit, for the most part. We create characters and plots in our heads, and while we can share ideas with others, the fact of the matters is that we have to write it down in order to truly get our visions and stories out there.
Which sounds easy, but often isn’t – after all, we’re the only ones that can truly say what we want…and how we want.
Often we’ll get swept into a brilliant piece of prose, the opening chapter or two of what we know will be the most epic story ever…and then it stutters and stops and we never look at it again. Maybe we get bored with the idea. Maybe we get stuck. Maybe we become afraid to keep going – after all, if we finish it, we’ll have to do something with it, right? People might read it. They might think it stinks. Maybe we just get too busy. Or we make excuses day after day as to why we can’t write today, but tomorrow? Oh, tomorrow we’ll have time and we’ll work *extra* hard.
And then tomorrow comes and the story continues to languish, because hey, we have *things* to do, right?
Sometimes writing is easy and the words just flow onto the page…but sometimes it’s hard. Forcing yourself to push past the doubts and trivial excuses as to why you can’t write is even harder.
And that’s where something like NaNoWriMo comes in. It’s a heady month of writing in groups – whether that’s online, the library or a local coffee shop. There’s something invigorating about knowing all of you are in the same boat, trying to work on the daily word-count and encouraging each other.
That being said, there are pros and cons that you should probably be aware of if you choose to embark on this month-long writing journey:
1) 50k does not a novel make. If you’re writing adult fantasy/sci-fi in particular, you’re looking at 90k at the lower end of the scale. YMMV depending on the genre, but just keep in mind you’re most likely not going to have a completed novel by the end of the month.
2) I tend to liken this sort of fast-paced writing akin to “Dirty Drafting.” In general, you’re not going to have time to go back and edit – and that’s fine. Editing at this stage will most likely just slow you down. Your goal is word count right now, not perfect prose. It’s better to make notes in the margin of what you’ll want to change later – and then just pick up and write as if you’d made the change (assuming it’s a major plot issue.)
3) Outlines vs Pansting. Some of us need to have a complete road-map of where we want our story to go. Some of us prefer to wend as the story takes us. Because NaNoWriMo only takes place in a single month, it’s probably best to have at least an idea of what sort of story you want to write. You don’t want to be doing a lot of research in the limited time you have – many people spend the weeks beforehand planning everything out and attempting to get all the story details lined up.
4) Editing. Along the same lines as above – by the time you’re done with NaNoWriMo, you’ll have 50k worth of novel. No reason you can’t keep up and finish the rest of the book in the next month or so – in which case you’ll be going back to edit. And edit. And edit. Do NOT just wrap it up and attempt to self-publish or send it to an agent. Chances are it will need some form of reworking – after the craziness of the NaNoWriMo, it’s not a bad thing to put the story aside for a least a few weeks and let your brain decompress. When you come back to it later, you’ll be able to see some of the flaws with a clearer eye, as well as potentially find places it can easily be strengthened.
5) Habit. NaNoWriMo is sometimes looked down up on by professional authors because it floods the writing world with “Wanna-bes.” Which is true. It’s also true that even published authors were once “wanna-bes”, so obviously there’s hope. But the thing is – if you want to be a writer, you have to write *every* day. (Or at least until you figure out a pace that works for you – there are some people who only write weekends…but they write 10,000 words per day…so YMMV). Even if it’s just 1000 words a day. Even if it sucks. Use the insanity of NaNoWriMo to get you into this habit, because when it comes down to it, you are writing for *you.* Support groups are nice, but you won’t always have them – use them as a resource, not a crutch.
Good luck and happy NaNoWriMo!
*** Watch for Allison’s next book, A Sliver of Shadow, out on Feb. 28, 2012