So. It’s November. How did that happen? Seems like it was March five minutes ago.
You know how I know it’s November? (Apart from the fact that all my calendars say it is. And that leaves are falling everywhere. And that my neighbours have been letting off fireworks all evening.)
Short answer: NaNoWriMo.
Yes, it’s that time of year when NaNo is the word on everyone’s lips. I won’t be participating. I never have, actually. And while I wish the best of luck to all who are, and admire you all for your
insanity determination, it’s just not a challenge that has ever really appealed to me. I think it’s probably great for anyone who has always wanted to write a novel but never finds the time. I guess NaNo forces you to stop procrastinating and just get on with it, and it fosters a certain amount of discipline that can only be a good thing. But whenever November rolls around again and people start talking about it, all I can think of are the existing (or potential) writing projects I’m working on, and how much constructive time I could put into those instead of engaging in a writing marathon for the sake of it. I’ve got a new novel at the planning stages, and I’m really looking forward to starting it properly, but I don’t want to race through it. Once I knuckle down and get on with a story, the story itself becomes my motivation. And although I do work best under pressure, I hate having a ticking clock counting down the hours to a deadline.
I regularly set my own deadlines, and I stick to them. If I’ve decided that I’m going to get this story draft complete or that set of revisions done within a few days, I’ll do it. I always work better once I’ve made up my mind to finish something by a set time, even if no one’s looking over my shoulder to make sure I complete it. If I set deadlines and ignore them, they lose all their meaning. I guess that ability to discipline yourself and make good use of your time is an essential part of being a writer. But NaNo just doesn’t crack it for me. Maybe it’s because I prefer to go against the flow. Maybe it’s because I can’t see the appeal of rushing through 50,000 words I’ll have to edit to death when I could linger over 20,000 that I might stand a chance of being proud of. Maybe it’s because my writing pace varies so much depending on what I’m writing. I can pour out 4000 words one day only to agonise over 150 the next. In novel writing, some scenes flow with the lightest of effort and others are eked out a word at a time. As long as I’m happy with what I’ve produced at the end of the day, the actual word count is secondary. Perhaps that’s it… NaNoWriMo has always seemed to be all about the word count. And while word count can indeed be a satisfactory way to measure your progress, isn’t it better to aim for quality rather than quantity?
I’m not knocking anyone who’s participating or who has participated in the past. I’ve read some great stuff that’s come from NaNo, and I think if it’s a challenge that really appeals to you and makes you get on with a project you’d otherwise never get round to, go for it. I’m fairly certain I won’t write 50,000 words this month. But I might just get one story finished and ready to submit, write a draft for a new one, and transfer that first novel chapter from my head and onto the page. That would be most satisfactory.