It’s October, which means that Nanowrimo is just around the corner. This year will be my third year participating in this challenge. .So let’s talk a little bit about Nanowrimo and the pros and cons.
Writing is pretty much a solitary sport, unless you’re collaborating with someone on a story, but that’s a subject for a different blog post. Although we bounce ideas off of people and then have them beta read our work (so thankful for betas!), the process of actually creating is done by the writer alone (and maybe the cat perched nosily on their lap.) Unless you’re really good at setting deadlines independently (which I’m not) or under contract which keeps you on track, then it’s just as easy to not write on busy days as it is to carve out a bit of time to write. By participating in Nanowrimo, you are promising yourself that you will write a certain number on words in a certain amount of time. You’ve probably also told your friends and family this, which adds another layer of incentive for you to do as you said that you would and sit down and write. (Not surf facebook or update your pinterest boards, but actually write).
The cons of this can be that some people panic when they see the end goal, overwhelmed by the amount of words they’ll need to churn out, not realizing that if done in smaller chunks daily, it will be much easier to breeze through. Or they write when inspiration strikes them and freak out that their characters will not be amenable to writing every day, digging their heels in and creating writer’s block. (I find that most characters want their story told and with a bit of coaxing, will keep telling you their stories.)
The typically goal for Nanowrimo is fifty thousand words over the course of the month of November. It works out to about seventeen hundred words a day. This has been my goal the past two years and again this year. I did not manage to do it the past two years, but that was because of lack of discipline on my part. However, I do feel like I made good progress on my books and was glad that I had participated. The pros of having a word count for Nanowrimo is that it encourages people to sit down and write every day. I have a very high competitive streak and also like to cross things off my list of things to-do, so this encourages me to hit the goal words every day. Also, you can set the goal at whatever you want for the month. I’ve seen everything ranging from a few hundred words to 250k words. It allows you to chose what your goal is and let’s you work at your own pace of whether you are a fast or a somewhat slower writer. (You are still writing, so never look down on yourself for your writing speed. As long as you put even one word on a page, you are a writer.)
The cons for word counts are this. Some people, myself included, never know where a story is going to take them. The bonafide pantsers. And the thought of being tied to a specific number of words is daunting. What if the story wraps up in less words? What if the story takes more words to tell. Here’s the good news. Your word goal is not set in stone. It’s a general target that you can adjust as you need to as you get a better idea of where your story is going and how long it will take to get there. Another con is the fact that you have to create so many words a day. What happens if you have a slow day and only manage to write a few words? Or that you have to go back and edit a large portion before you can continue the story? Or life happens and you aren’t able to sit down and write at all? Again, this goal is just guidelines. There are no penalties for not getting the “required” amount of words done and the unnecessary stress you are putting on yourself needs to be let go. Make a quick face, promise that you’ll try again tomorrow, and move on. The whole point of Nanowrimo is to encourage you to have a go at a project that you may have been putting off, not to make you so miserable that you give up on it entirely.
Many new Nanowrimo participants wonder what the cabins are about and even some veterans. The short answer, community. If you already have a writing group established, you can create a cabin together and share your work back and forth throughout the month. If you don’t have people to create a cabin with, you have three other choices you can do.
One: You can do it alone. There is nothing wrong with this option and many people do Nanowrimo this way.
Two: You can search for a cabin that’s your specific genre and get placed into it. This is what I most often do, I write fantasy and I like to have fantasy and sci-fi people to bounce my idea off of.
Three: If you are adventurous or outgoing, you can ask to be placed in a random cabin. This is a great way to meet fellow writers and get a diversity of opinion. The cabins are a great resource and community. It is a group of like minded people that you can reach out to when you hit a snag or are feeling discouraged in order to get some help and encouragement. And who knows, maybe a hurdle that you’ve overcome is something that someone else is struggling with and you can help them out.
The cons of this? Writers can be very sensitive about their work (heaven knows that I am) and are unwilling to show anyone their work until it is finished and polished. There is nothing wrong with that. Also, sometimes personalities just don’t mesh well, you may have someone in your cabin that chimes in on everything, whether or not they have anything helpful to add. Remember, there is always the option to switch cabins. You are not locked into one that just does not work for you.
So this is just the barest sneak peek at a few components of Nanowrimo. I will be writing more about this throughout the coming days. If you have anything you want to know about specifically, drop me a comment and will try to cover it.
Participating in Nanowrimo? Comment below about your project, goal word count, and what you would like to get from the month. I’d love to hear from you!!