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NaNo or No-No?

Every year, when November draws near, I sit back and watch the cheerful madness unwind. As National Novel Writing Month approaches, it seems like everyone’s doing their “NaNo-prep”, making sure they’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as the last minute of October passes.
And every year so far, after some thought and consideration, I decided it wasn’t for me. Even though it left that “alienated” feeling when your Twitter explodes with celebrations of writing progress and desperate scrambling for words, I preferred my own year-long challenge with the 365 Writing Club.

Being a part of 365 Writing Club

I shake my head when I realize it’s been three years now since I started participating in the Club. It taught me volumes about my process, and it had a significant role in building my daily writing routine. I learned to push through the slumps and balance editing with creating new content. And even though there are days or weeks of struggle, I’m comfortable. I understand how I write and I can keep going.

That gets me thinking, I need a new challenge to push myself a bit further.

A new challenge?

I might have written 365,000 words within a year, I’d never written as much as 50,000 words within a month. It also has been a long time since I focused all my attention on one project – a rule that some “NaNo rebels” ignore, but I would be following.

Both these things seem impossible to me, but in the past, so was building a routine of daily writing. You might even recall that I expected to fail the Club within the first month. So, I could try to focus on one project and prove to myself that I can have half a novel written within a month.

Or maybe no?

Even though I know I’m able to write about 40,000 words within a month, and in the past I got as much as 30,000 in one project, but 2018 has been so far a year of struggles, changes, and new challenges already. Constantly falling behind with my goal for 365 Writing Club, and averaging 500 words a day instead of my set 1000, I’m nowhere near the numbers that would make my NaNoWriMo successful.

I keep going back and forth whether such a challenge would actually help me get out from my writing slump, or be the proverbial nail in the coffin in my attempts to regain my writing flow. My cautious side is whispering I shouldn’t take it on, but at the same time, something fresh to challenge me might just do the trick.

So yes or no?

As you can guess, even so close to the starting line, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll likely make the decision in the last possible minute, and in the past, it would almost always mean “no”. But if you’re following me on social media, you know that this month I’d taken on a drawing challenge, for the first time ever participating in Inktober, and I’d been drawing daily.
With that in mind, I’m revisiting my notes and ideas for the Spirit’s Anchor, a project I’d be writing (or rewriting – from scratch) if I decide to join the NaNo-madness. And if I don’t… This novel still needs to be written, so a fresh and detailed outline will not go to waste, right?

How about you? Are you planning to join NaNoWriMo? Have you participated in it in the previous years? Did you win? Share your thoughts – you might tip the scales of my decision.

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Iwona

    Wow! You got some great thoughts about NaNoWriMo 🙂

    This will be my 4th try. Yes, try, because I didn’t win NaNo yet. But this time I’m trying to do some prep work, so I will actually know, what to write. And I’m not setting myself for win either – I know myself, I know my struggles with everything. But I need to strat writing again, so this will be my “fresh start” with some focus on it.
    My goal is at least 20k and/or half of my novel. And actually finishing that project till end of the year (got a holiday for second half of December!). And NaNoWriMo is my big kick in the ass, to start doing it 😉

    You could try and write with us (well, I’m gonna be writing with Polish community, because my small shithole town, or ever region, doesn’t have a forum), it will be a challenge anyway 🙂

    1. Melfka

      It sounds like you can take the best of NaNo (motivation) to help you push your writing forward without adding the stress.
      I’m looking forward to catching up and checking how you’ve done! 🙂

  2. Laura Laakso

    This year, as it has been every year so far, my answer will be no. Every time I’ve been tempted and every time I’ve decided that it will be madness to attempt NaNo. I work full time, have two dogs to look after, ME and plenty to keep me occupied. NaNo doesn’t feel worth throwing all my self-care out of the window for the sake of trying to force out 50,000 words in one month, whether I feel like writing or not. There are more pleasant ways to write a novel and I’d rather focus my limited energies on those.

    But that’s just me. If you do decide to attempt it, best of luck!

    1. Melfka

      I totally understand you. My answer every year ends up being the same as well, but every year I do give it consideration.
      As you say – the most important thing is to enjoy writing (especially when the rest of the life tries to be challenging).

  3. sjhigbee

    A really enlightening and thoughtful article on your decision as to whether participate or not, Joanna:).

    No… I haven’t ever taken part in Na-No – I have my own writing group that I belong to who give me support and encouragement. Part of the issue is that I need to steady my workflow so that I stop trying to sprint during a marathon – and Na-No is definitely a sprint…

    1. Melfka

      I know what you mean about a writing group – mine gives me a lot of support as well. The problem is, all of them are doing NaNo, so they try whispering into my ear to join them. 🙂

      1. sjhigbee

        Ah… only if it really helps you. I’ve never taken part because I simply don’t like that kind of pressure.

  4. Alchemy Ocelot

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. It helped me stick to a no-no. Call me a libertarian ocelot, but I prefer to set my own pace and I hunt my mice alone. Currently, I don’t have a problem with internal discipline. I rather have a problem with the opposite: what I call Efficiency Man – that never-happy drill sarge in your head who comes and yells at you for under-performing (“You wrote 980 words, but the plan was 1000. I am so disappointed! Disappointed I am!”) and over-performing (“You wrote 3000, but the plan was 1000. Get a life!”) AND getting the exact amount of words done (No kidding. “You got 1000 words and the plan was 1000? Tryin’ to bribe me, you sycophant!”). Sometimes I need a month of biking, gaming and staring at walls. Sometimes I get a month where I work dawn till hunger makes me faint. Mostly I just write every day. These extra performance-enhancing challenges end up being toxic for me right now.

    1. Melfka

      To be honest, knowing you, I’m surprised you were even considering it.

  5. saraletourneau

    Good for you for even considering NaNo. I haven’t, only because I know how I am with trying to reach word count milestones in a set period of time. Sometimes it’s frustrating to be a slow writer who only has time to write after work and on weekends when she’s home… And, wow, by wording it that way, I can really feel the negativity I have toward NaNo. XD

    Anyway. I like how you’re viewing the challenge of NaNoWriMo from two angles, and how the curious and optimistic side of you isn’t so daunted by the prospect. And to be honest, you don’t HAVE to write 50,000 words. I’ve seen a number of writers shoot for fewer words (or more) depending on their project and personal circumstances. Just wondering, but what’s the highest number of words you’ve written in a month this year?

    1. Melfka

      Hey, I’m a slow writer too! 🙂 I might be working regularly, but my output per hour can be really low compared to some other writers.
      I know I don’t have to write 50k, but the point of taking a challenge is at least trying to get there (otherwise I’d feel like cheating 😀 ).
      This year wasn’t good so far – the highest I got was 31,000 – meeting my word count goal in January.

  6. claragbush29

    NaNo is not for me. I love to write. But not under pressure. I have enough stress in my life without adding to it. And I’m fortunate enough not to need pressure to write. Writing is what makes me happy. What I live for.

    1. Melfka

      I always love to see people who consciously make their decision to not participate. Thank you for sharing, Clara! <3

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