For many first time writers, November has a new name: NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month.” Sometimes shortened just to NaNo, the goal is to write an entire novel in just one month. There’s a community and a wide range of advice, but as with any novel endeavor, the bulk of the work is done alone – just you and your writing tools of choice.
If you’ve been thinking about writing a novel, NaNo might sound intriguing – and the fact that several novels that started as NaNo projects went on to become bestsellers might sweeten the deal. Should you NaNo your way to author success?
Here are the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo, from the perspective of editors who read and publish a lot of work from first time writers.
Pros, or “NANO YES”
It gets you writing.
Every novel in existence was written in only one way: the writer(s) sat down and wrote it. Every word.
When you’re new to novel-writing, a structured system like NaNo can help you turn writing into a ritual and a habit. Because the word count demands are so high, you really have no choice but to write every day if your goal is to have a novel-length work in 30 days. If you’re having trouble holding yourself to that schedule, NaNo can help.
There’s no time for the inner critic.
The novels we publish through NeuroQueer Books run about 70,000 words. Divided by the 30 days in November, that’s 2,334 words a day – about 7-10 double-spaced typed pages.
That’s a lot of fiction in one day, especially for a first time writer. There’s no time to question whether it’s any good; you just need to get it done. If your inner critic is keeping you from writing a word, though, speed might be the answer to quieting it down.
Cons, or “NANO NO”
The community can derail you.
Every year, NaNo writers sign up online with every intention of finishing their project, only to get sidetracked by the community aspect of the event. Writing is hard. It’s much easier to join message boards to talk about how hard writing is. If socialization or the shiny new things of the Internet regularly get in your way as a writer, consider skipping NaNo – or doing it without formally signing up.
For the love of cheese, please edit.
No matter who you are or what you’ve written, any novel produced in spurts of 2,500 words a day is going to need editing before it can be published. You’re going to need to cut, rearrange, rewrite, add, and polish – and it’s going to take a lot longer than a month to get your manuscript ready to be seen. Please do not send the results to any publisher until you’re confident you’ve told a solid, engaging story. (Unfortunately, there’s no National Novel Editing Month!)
Is NaNo right for you? Try it and find out. It might be the tool you need to go from first time writer to debut published author.