Write It! Wednesday #2: Do You NaNo?

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

Welcome back to Write It! Wednesday, where we ask a question and you answer either in the comments or on your own blog. Today I’m interested in hearing about your experiences with writing challenges like NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with NaNo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s a month-long challenge where the goal is to write a novel in November. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to silence your inner censor, shut off the editor part of your brain and give in to the frenzy of that first draft. Some might argue against NaNoWriMo, claiming it’s impossible to write a novel in one month but most of these naysayers don’t have all the facts. While I myself have never done a writing challenge like NaNo, I have spoken to many friends and colleagues about their experiences and here is what I have gleaned.

Fact 1: You don’t have to write a whole novel.

According to NaNo rules, all you have to do is produce 50,000 words in the course of the month. Any writer knows that 50,000 words is a far cry from a full novel (unless you’re writing Middle Grade or Early Chapter Books) so it’s to be expected that the novel won’t be complete.

Fact 2: The goal is to get the words down on paper.

NaNoWriMo–and other similar challenges like it–doesn’t pretend that the 50,000 words produced in that month will be submission-ready. The goal isn’t to produce a polished manuscript but to get the words down on paper and get that first draft done. Writing Challenges like NaNoWriMo aren’t about polishing a complete piece, but about setting aside that impulse to tweak and tinker and just get those words down. The point of challenges like this is to build stamina and boost motivation. The quality of the output isn’t nearly as important as the process of building that writing habit.

Fact 3: NaNoWriMo isn’t the only writing challenge on the block.

If novels aren’t your thing, there are several other writing challenges out there. Write NonFiction in November is like NaNoWriMo but the goal is to write a work of nonfiction in November instead of a novel. StoryADay.org is the short story equivalent of NaNoWriMo where you write a complete short story every day in May. And for bloggers, there’s NaBloPoMo or National Blog Post Month, is hosted by BlogHer and happens year round so you can start at any time. These are just a few of the writing challenges out there so no matter what sort of writing you do, you can find a challenge that’s right for you.

I myself have only done one writing challenge (that was StoryADay in May 2010) and I dropped out after five days. Looking back, it was inevitable because at the time I was completing my MFA Thesis and it probably wasn’t the best time to jump into a writing challenge. Since then I’ve been dying to do a writing challenge (NaNoWriMo is especially appealing) but the planets have never aligned to permit it.

Last year I was enormously pregnant in November and I had just launched DIY MFA so having learned my lesson from May 2010, I decided against doing NaNo. This year, again I was sorely tempted to jump in, but with the new DIY MFA website and an infant in the house, I can barely squeeze in my “real” writing, much less a side project like a NaNo novel. But there’s always next year, and I have high hopes!

This Week’s Prompt:

Have you done a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo? Are you doing a challenge now? Tell us about your experiences.

If you’ve never done a writing challenge, tell us about that. Have you ever wanted to do a challenge but just couldn’t? Or are there fears or hesitations that have held you back?

If you blog, please share your thoughts in a blog post and link to it in the comments. Or you can answer in a comment!

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