Why I’m (probably) not joining in with NaNoWriMo (again)

Next month is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and this is why I’m (probably) not joining in.

First of all, what is this NaNoWriMo thing all about?

As it says on the tin, over at www.nanowrimo.org . . .

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

This is an average of 1667 words a day for 30 days straight.

Now, 1667 words a day either sounds rather daunting or a little easy peasey depending on whether you have a full time job, kids running around, ageing parents to look after or whether you like to sleep your full eight hours a night. And you don’t have to write 1667 words every day–you could start with 500 words every other day and then blitz a load at the end–but I really wouldn’t advise this latter tactic. Better to get cracking right at the start and give yourself some slack at the end, because us authors are so very good at starting something and so very crappy at seeing it through to an actual conclusion.

Last year 200,000 people started this marathon and only 30,000 crossed the line. If you’re going to start this, you’d better be determined to see if through to the end.

So here are my excuses why I (probably) won’t be joining in . . .

Excuse #1

50,000 words is not, in my opinion, a novel. By my reckoning, depending on market and genre, a novel is 75k to 120k words, averaging around the 90k to 100k mark. So NaNoWriMo will get me half or perhaps two-thirds of a novel which will need to be finished off during December and January. 50k seems like such an arbitrary figure. Why didn’t they go for 60k or 75k? That would be 2000 or 2500 words a day. I really don’t want to start something I’m not going to finish, so I wouldn’t be aiming at 50k, I’d be aiming at 85-90k which is a much bigger scarier growlier beast.

This is a rubbish excuse.

Because the NaNoWriMo crowd will just say: ‘So go for 60k or 75k! There’s no limit! Or do 50k in November then another 10k or 25k or more in December to finish it off.’

Also, this is still a very worthwhile exercise. So many authors start a novel and falter before they’ve moved past the first chapter–or even the first page or the first line! This is about committing to something that can be polished to a finished article over the following 11 months. This is about ending November with 50k of ‘Blimey, I never thought I’d even get this far!’

Excuse #2

I remember chatting with the Manchester Spec Fic crowd last year and someone (I think it was Guy) asked me whether I would be joining in with NaNoWriMo. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I’ve just started my MA and I need to concentrate on that.’ In hindsight, this was actually quite a sensible decision. But at the time I promised myself that I would join in the following year.

So here we are, and silly me, I’ve just gone and finished the first draft of a new novel I was working on over the summer. Why didn’t I save this for now? It would have been perfect. Because, right now, I really can’t look forward to starting work on another novel. I had promised myself I would wait until at least next summer before I started another one. And I’m busy editing this one anyway.

This is a so-so excuse.

Because, if I crack on, I could easily get my edits done before the end of this month. Then I could easily knock out 1667 words a day. I don’t even have to write a full novel. I have an idea for writing a novella using one or more of the characters from the novel I wrote over the summer. This wouldn’t be a full novel–more a collection of flashback character sketches–and now I think about it, this which would actually be very useful . . .

Excuse #3

My wife is likely to kill me.

I’m prone to becoming obsessed over novels in a very dog-with-a-bone way. Or perhaps, more accurately, obsessed in a very border-collie-staring-at-the-cat way (which, I can tell you, makes your average dog with its average bone look rather like an amateur with the whole obsessing thing).

This is a very good excuse.

But you lot . . .

You don’t have such spiffy excuses. You should do this! It doesn’t matter whether you’re already writing or not–whether you’re attending a writers’ group–whether you’re studying a creative writing MA or not–what a great time to start! You don’t have to tell anyone. If you don’t finish it, so what? It proves nothing (other than the fact you were a lot more ballsy than all the other ‘proper’ writers whose excuses were just as good as mine). You will make time. You will make lots of mistakes and question why you’re doing it at all. This is perfectly normal. You should carry on.

You will write a novel.

That’s another life-box ticked.

But I won’t. Well probably not.

2 thoughts on “Why I’m (probably) not joining in with NaNoWriMo (again)”

  1. I’ve decided to pick up a pen on November first, whether that means I’ll suddenly think ‘Oh that would make a great novel idea!’ and start writing I don’t know. As you know 1600 in a day is a break for me (5000 in 2 hours or 13,000 a day or 55,000 a week are my personal bests) but it’s ideas. And I would have done it to meet new folks but I’ve signed up to the website, and the FB group and it seems as lively as an old jam jar full of dead wasps. I’ll possibly do it, and use it as a blog post subject, but I agree with you on the rest. EM Forster said a novel should include the catigory 50,000-70,000 I take 70,000-90,000 as my size guide, I disagree with anything over 100,000, modern readers a said to lack the stamina….

  2. Well I’ll certainly be trying. Not least because I’m now forewarned whereas last year I only became aware of it half way through and, faced with an even bigger challenge, slowly went about chickening out.

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