Every year, since I was fifteen and learned such a thing existed, I’ve been asked if I’m doing National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) by enthusiastic annual participants. For those who have never heard of it before, NaNoWriMo is a challenge where thousands of writers across the country attempt to write 50000 words during the month of November. For those interested, that comes out to writing 1613 words every day for 31 days. To put these things in perspective for you, your average academic essay is about 1000 words. So, it’s not an easy task.
Regardless, I have to say, their zeal for the challenge is infectious. For the entire month of October, many of my writer friends, and some of my non-writer friends, get excited about their projects, furiously planning their projects. They keep me updated on their struggles and word count. There’s a real sense of camaraderie which is a part of the allure. Every year, it almost makes me want to join in. Almost.
Why I’ve Never Participated in NaNoWriMo
1 The threat of burn out.
Those who have been reading my blog for a while know of the great four year burn out of 2006 that I experienced after writing Wingéd. I burned out after writing about 65000 words in four months. That comes out to about 540 words a day. I can’t imagine what would happen if I had to write three times that amount every single day.
2. I’ve never lacked the discipline to write a novel.
I’m not sure when I fell under this impression, but I have always felt that NaNo was for those who had a difficult time getting words onto paper or felt they never had the time to write a novel. I’ve been told by numerous people (rather emphatically, I might add) that my misguided and insensitive assumption is incorrect. However, I have read a lot of blogs and talked to a lot of people who have said, “I’m always putting off starting this project, so I thought it was a good way to make myself do it.” So, you may understand why I’ve never participated.
Writing comes very naturally to me. There have only been a few years where I didn’t do any writing. Those were the years before I could write and the four years of burn out. And when I decided that it was time to write again, I opened up my files and started again, just like that.
3. I’m too slow.
There is an old proverb… Okay, that’s a lie. To quote the grandfather from 3 Ninjas, “Do not fight unless you think you can win.” When it comes to participating in NaNoWriMo, I happen to know that I could never win. I’ve never really compared myself to other writers in terms of speed, but I’m slow. I’m a speedy typist, but when it comes to writing, I’m really slow. Every time I sit down to write, I get about 1000 words out, and that’s if I work all day. If I’m able to keep up that pace, it leaves me about 20000 words short of the goal. I’ve been told a million times by NaNo participants that “the point is to get it on paper, not to be good.” And I just can’t do that. I can’t throw words onto the page all willy-nilly-like. It’s not who I am.
4. I’m always in the middle of something when it comes around.
I’m also the kind of person who can’t really work on more than one thing at a time. I have an obsessive personality. If I’m working on something, that means I’m obsessed about it; I eat, sleep, and breathe it. It’s the reason that I’m able to finish anything. And I cannot be obsessed about more than one thing. Even thinking about being obsessed about two things creates chaos in my mind. Usually if I suddenly become focused on something else, there is a real chance that I won’t ever pick it back up again.
5. It requires planning.
In my every day life, I am a planner. I like to make plans and when I have to deviate from those plans, it causes me anxiety. However, when it comes to writing, it’s a completely different story. Sure, I make plans. I have a general idea about the plot and everything, but the novel that comes out never (and I mean never, not most of the time, not almost never; I mean never) matches what the original plot was. It would be a NaNo nightmare, because even if I was fast enough and plenty obsessed, something ALWAYS happens that causes me to throw massive amounts of work out and change my mind. I don’t mean just words either. If it was NaNo, I could keep the words, no problem. But we’re talking major plot points get destroyed where I think to myself “now what?”
6. 50000 words isn’t enough, and I hate not finishing things.
So, if I was going to write a novel for NaNoWriMo, I would probably want it to be longer than 50000 words. My novels tend to be around the 80000 word mark. If I was shooting to just get 50000 words done in one month, there’s a real chance of burn out for me, and I wouldn’t even be done.
And yet… every year, I think about it. It can’t be helped.