So…I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this month. Both about the book I’m writing this year and my past experiences with NaNo, and I have come to the logical conclusion that NaNoWriMo isn’t for me. Here are the four reasons why.
1. Inability To Process
I am an introspective person. I think…a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love reading so much, because unlike movies it isn’t quick and sensory, instead focusing on thinking instead of feeling. This ability also moves over to my writing. When I’m writing, I usually don’t tend to act on impulse and when I do, my writing feels disjointed and false. Instead, I take my time to incorporate ideas and mesh out plot holes as I go along.
This type of writing, I have discovered, does not go well with NaNoWriMo. NaNo is all about quick, impulsive writing with little introspection, mostly because you don’t have the time. If you’re struggling with where the story should go, you don’t have to time sit back and think for a few days because that word count is breathing down your neck.
In my previous two NaNoWriMo’s, I didn’t have a chance to sit back and process what my story was becoming, and as a result it turned into something I did not like. This brings me to my second reason.
2. The Definition of Insanity
There is this famous quote that seems to have circulated the internet for years: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
In everything I do in my life, I try to learn from my mistakes. If I use a particular face wash that causes my skin to break out, I stop using it. I don’t keep using it expecting my face to change. It is the same with writing. If I try one technique to write a book, and I’m not happy with the result, the same logic would dictate that I not employ that technique again. Right?
Well, I haven’t been happy with the two resulting books of the last two NaNo’s, so I would be insane to try to complete another month of grueling writing if I knew the finished product would be horrible. And, despite what some of my friends might say, I am not insane…not yet, at least.
3. How important is a first draft?
Everyone has a different answer to this question. Some people will tell you not to worry about the first draft because you can worry about rewriting later. However, I disagree with this sentiment. Of course you can rewrite a first draft, and you should, but in my opinion a first draft should serve two purposes.
First, it should be the foundation for the finished product. You cannot have a fully built house without a solid foundation, just as you cannot have a good book unless you have a good first draft. I didn’t say a perfect first draft, mind you, only a good one. Second, a first draft should direct you towards your final goal. If you are writing a gritty murder mystery, the last thing your first draft should do is deviate into a comedy romance.
I find too many new authors, myself included, assume that first drafts are rather meaningless. That it is more important to get words on a page instead of writing a comprehensive story. This is one of the problems I have with NaNo, because it forces you to move so quickly through your first draft that you have to say at some point, “I see this issue, but that’s okay. I’ll fix it in the next draft.” But that issue might grow larger and larger until it consumes your entire narrative, eating away both at the foundation and the direction of your draft. This happened to me both times I did NaNoWriMo.
4. Only 50,000 words?
I’ve read a lot of books. Probably more than is good for my health. But I have rarely read a book that is 50,000 words. For reference, books average between 70,000 to 125,000 words. There are, of course, a few outliers (Game of Thrones might be a good example). Though technically a novel is defined as anything above 40,000 words, most books are longer.
Another problem I have with NaNo is that its word count goal is 50,000 words. For most books, this is too short, meaning you either have to write at least 20,000 words more during that month to finish the book, or you continue the challenge into December. This seems silly to me. Either you write a book or you write 50,000 words. And what if you end the book at 47,000 words? Should you add pointless fluff to complete the challenge?
The first time I completed NaNo last November, my story ended up completed at a little over 50,000 words. It had ended, but I had cut the plot short to finish it. During Camp NaNo this July, I completed a little over 50,000 words for another book, but this one was nowhere near the ending and, because I felt absolutely drained from NaNoWriMo, I didn’t want to keep writing to finish it. Even now, it is left incomplete in my word files.
I’m not sure my reasonings make any sense to an outside viewer. In summary, the reason why I’m quitting NaNoWriMo is because I don’t want to repeat a process that affects my writing negatively. If a writing process doesn’t work for me, why should I continue doing it?
Saying that, I’m not judging anyone for enjoying and competing in NaNoWriMo. Every writer is different when it comes to their writing process. Some people work well writing intensely for a short period of time.
As it is, I’ll still write the book I started this month, but I’ll work on it more slowly than I would have this NaNo, and I won’t be worrying about word count.
I’m curious…have you found NaNoWriMo helpful in developing your writing, or slightly constraining? Do you write a book quickly or slowly? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,