Why I Won’t NaNo…But Maybe You Should

Happy November! Happy NaNoWriMo!

And to anticipate your next question: no, I’m not participating this year.

Don’t get me wrong though:

  • I will be writing
  • I will be setting goals and pushing myself to hit them
  • A novel will be involved

NaNo just isn’t for me this year. I said this last year and even tried to get “Revise Your Novel Month” to catch on (maybe it was the ReviYoNoMo hashtag haha). And I yet here I am: not much deeper into the revision than I was last November.

I have to give myself a break on that front: last November, despite my best efforts, I was fighting writer fatigue after Viable Paradise XVIII, trying to do too much at work, and struggling to find a way “in” to this new draft. I thought that being strict, revising under a time limit and with word counts, and making my process transparent would all force me through the struggling and I’d finish the month tired but victorious.

That might work when you’re drafting a novel, but it didn’t work for my revision.

What I’ve been finding is that all the thinking I’ve been doing around writing is really important at this stage. Those moments in the car when, between verses of the lullaby du jour, I put two pieces of my magic system together and discover a new way to plot myself out of a corner. Those moments when my research between writing sessions turns up something amazing (and often true) for my timeline. Even writing these posts. And then, when I sit down to revise/rewrite, I do so with such enormous intention and clear vision that words flow freely.

But the only thing that would count for NaNoWriMo would be the word count.

Last year, when I was failing myself at ReviYoNoMo, I realized there was actually a good reason revisions aren’t “legal” in the NaNo world. The process is so vastly different for me. The metrics can’t cross so easily. Going fast is actually inadvisable.

I do think, though, that NaNo would be just the thing for a lot of people. In 2012, I finished on November 30, and realized that I’d proven something really important to myself. It’d been years since I’d written, much less written frequently and with any sort of discipline. NaNo helped me do that. NaNo forced me to find the times in between that are now my sacred writing spaces. I used NaNo to show Mike how serious I was getting about my writing. And NaNo turned off my internal editor and freed up my mind to just go for it. All of these things made it possible to start my current novel in fall 2013, and all of these things made it possible to finish it the next summer.

If you’re looking to prove your mettle on a brand-spanking new manuscript, need the accountability, and love a challenge, do NaNo. It’ll be worth it.

If you need your internal editor to be a sober participant in your revising process, leave NaNo alone this year. Take the best parts of the NaNo process–the right parts for you–and root for the writers.

Good luck this month, whichever you choose!