Friday, October 26, 2012
NaNoWriMo - Is It Worth It?
It's that time of year again... If you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about. The great 'NaNoWritMo' challenge which takes over the lives of so many would be and aspiring writers during the month of November. For the uninitiated, the acronym stands for 'National Novel Writing Month' and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world go to nanowrimo.com and sign up to try and write 50,000 words in one month.
Like so many others, I am gearing up for November 1 with my story idea and basic outline ready to go. This will be my third year participating in the event. I've managed to hit the goal two years in a row and have high hopes that this year will be number three. In other words, I'm hooked.
My answer? A resounding yes! Here are my reasons why NaNoWritMo is worth the time and effort.
First of all, studies have shown that human beings really do work best under pressure. It's true. I just went to a teacher's conference where I attended an all day session on brain engagement. Across the board, people thrive under pressure and often produce their best work when there is a time crunch. How about that? I always knew that this tends to be the case with me, and despite my best efforts to schedule my writing time more efficiently, I just can't seem to get as much real writing done on a day to day basis as I'd like to. Enter the NaNo challenge. The 'pressure' of getting those 50,000 words written on deadline is just the kind of self-induced stimuli that seems to work for me.
Secondly, because of the limited time, NaNo is a wonderful way to free yourself from over editing the rough draft. Rough drafts are called 'rough' for a reason. There is no time to worry about spelling, punctuation errors, grammar, or even too much 'telling'. Just get the story out of your head and onto the computer! There will be plenty of time to revise and edit later. This has increased my productivity in a huge way. Previously, I would do much of the editing as I went, often going back over a passage four, five or six times before moving on, only to end up changing it later anyway when it no longer fit. Mulling over word choice and adding details can come later once the basic story line is finished.
Tracking my word count for the day has become a habit since doing NaNo. It has also taught me a lot about the importance of writing daily (although I don't always manage to keep this up once November is over.) Still, I do think my self discipline has increased by small increments since participating in NaNo for the first time. I've become much better at scheduling my writing time than I used to be. Also, it is much easier to pick up where you left off each day when the story is fresh in your mind, as opposed to trying to get reacquainted with something you wrote a few weeks or months ago. The muse is always fresh and ready to go.
I love the fact that with NaNo you actually see an idea not only come to fruition, but to completion. I have dozens of story ideas. Some of them are little more than that - ideas, while others have well thought out character sketches and plot lines. The frustrating part about beginning any story, however, is the years it seems to take me to take an idea from this beginning stage to a finished manuscript. Not so with NaNo! In the last two years, it has been deeply satisfying to take an idea and build it into a full-fledged story - all in just one month. Talk about increasing your productivity! I since revised one of those NaNo stories over the course of the summer and have submitted it to my agent. You might be seeing THREE STRAND CORD sometime in the near future... Now if I could only take the other dozen or so 'Works In Progress' and finish them.
In short, nothing beats the sense of excitement and anticipation that the thought of NaNo brings. Some writers are able to motivate themselves into this type of productivity all year long. Summers tend to be my peak for writing productivity, but I always find the first few months back at school are difficult. It's hard to do much writing beyond maintaining my blog. For me, NaNoWriMo is just the shot in the arm I need to get me back on track for the winter. It's why I wouldn't miss NaNoWriMo for the world.