My NaNoWriMo Experience

Writers of all backgrounds and abilities think about joining NaNo every year. Many don’t, and it’s for you folks sitting on the fence that I’ve written this blog.

In July of 2018 I participated in CampNaNo, a summertime sister to the original November event. CampNaNo and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are month-long writing sprints when writers produce 50,000 words, the equivalent length of some full novels. While I limited myself to an 18k-word goal in 2018, for 2020 I decided to go for the true NaNo 50k.

The event is ambitious, exciting, exhausting, and a testament to the powerful union of passion and diligence. Whether you meet the 50k goal or not, this is the type of self-defining experience where a participation award is a meaningful and well-deserved prize. If you win, well, you damn sure need to brag about it:

I wrote 50,000 words in one month. It’s still difficult for me to believe, but aside from the banner above, I had daily witnesses as proof. I decided to stream my progress on Twitch, where I was joined by other writers and an audience who just wanted to come along for the ride. I was thankful to have them with me. Having writing buddies and a few cheerleaders, as well as the designated writing time slot gave me encouragement and accountability. For most people, these are necessary ingredients for success.

The purpose of this blog is to share my journey as a new writer, and doing NaNo is part of that personal trailblazing, so let’s address some relevant questions:

Is NaNoWriMo (or CampNaNo) beneficial for new writers?

Yes. As a burgeoning writer, anything that gets you writing is good for you. The biggest fear factor with NaNo is that massive number looming over you while you work. Ignore that. Fight for it, but don’t let the idea of not reaching it sour you to pressing on. Even if you only climb halfway up a mountain, you still climbed a mountain.

Is NaNo a productive method for completing a novel?

Yes and No. I aligned my novel goal of 80k with my NaNo goal of 50k, having 30k written prior to November 1st. When I finished NaNo, I finished a first draft of M0t0r C1ty (AKA Spread, AKA Ghost City). Because not all novels are 50k, your novel might not be done by NaNo’s end, but NaNo sure will get you closer to a complete draft.

What are the pros/cons of participating in NaNo?

The Pros are that you will be writing. You will feel the pressure of writing on a schedule or through goal-setting. That’s a great thing, and you’ll begin to see the transitional ease of repetitive writing sessions. Writing day after day closes the gap of writing productivity; each subsequent day you sit down to write, it comes to you faster and easier. By forcing yourself into the structure of this event, you’ll discover just how much it takes to burn you out, and just how strong you are in pushing past the mental resistance.

The Cons are this hurried style of writing means quantity over quality. My speed of writing is usually much slower, where I consider my wording before pressing on to the next sentence or paragraph. With NaNo, I produced a very raw first draft, which means more time editing. Will it balance out, where that editing effort equals time I would have otherwise spent carefully completing the initial draft? Will it be harder to transform the garbage than if I had taken my time to create something more presentable for second draft? I don’t know, and it will be difficult to gauge. This leads me to the final question.

Will I do it again?

I was thinking about this just about every day of the event. I did get burned out. I had days where I didn’t want to write, days where I couldn’t write, and days where I was not able to meet my goals. I had to then double my efforts on other days just to say on target. It was work, hard work. I’m proud of myself for persevering, but I’m not proud of what I wrote. I essentially tied my novel together with tape and string. It feels shaky, and I know most of it will be completely rewritten. This sounds like the answer of ‘Will I do it again?’ would be a resounding ‘No,’ but I’m uncertain. Future Matt, the one doing the second draft of this mess, will be better equipped to give direction in the matter.

What’s your take? Did you do NaNo, and will you do it again? Have you done it multiple times, and has the experience changed?

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