Jo Eberhardt, a blogger from down under, wrote a piece last week, giving Five Reasons Not to Do NaNoWriMo. You might think I’m disagreeing with her, but in truth, I completely agree with her. You see, she wasn’t saying not to do it at all. Rather, she was saying not to do it if you’re motivated by one of those five reasons. If you’re tempted by the looming November mass insanity, be sure to give her column a read to check for bad motives.
But if she gave us disastrous reasons, what are some good reasons to actually try NaNoWriMo?
1. Because it’s there.
I don’t think I’m ever going to climb Mt. Everest, but there’s something to be said for trying hard things. Succeed, fail, or surrender, you’ll learn something about yourself. In this case, you’ll learn something about your writing. Do you write more easily in the morning? Is description easier than dialog? Do you prefer to outline or make it up as you go? Do you even like the actual writing part of all this?
If you’ve never tried it, and especially if you’ve never completed a novel, it’s worth making the attempt just for what you will learn about yourself.
2. Because you can make the time for a month.
This is one of the best reasons for trying it. If you have trouble making the time to write, NaNoWriMo gives you a big tool for making that time. No, it doesn’t give you the secret recipe for time (for the curious…2 parts eternity, 1 part deadline, mix well, bake in crucible until hell freezes over). Instead, it gives you a temporary excuse to do what you always knew you’d have to do.
What you don’t want to admit is that making time for writing means giving up time for something else. Maybe you play a lot of video games. Then there are those seventeen TV shows you just can’t miss. Facebook might bring you joy, but it’s two hours a day. Let’s not even talk about the audiotapes from the Klingon Language Institute. And if you think you’ll simply sleep less… well, be thankful if you even get to Thanksgiving.
But you can give up the video games for a month, and if you put all your friends on some kind of no-spoiler-notice, those TV shows can sit on the DVR until December. And so on. You will survive without those things for thirty days. Cut them out, and you’ll have plenty of time for writing in November. I’m not saying it will be easy, but you can just keep telling yourself that it’s only for thirty days.
3. Because your friends and family will let you for a month.
Even after all the private things that take up your pre-November time, there are also the things you do with others. There’s that dance troupe, Aunt Milly who needs to go to the doctor, your roommate who hates to do dishes, and even that boss who expects you to come in for unpaid overtime on Saturdays. A lot of people have expectations on your time. It’s one thing for you to decide to give up TV for a month. That’s just you. But decide to bail on your friends and family? You suck, Mr. Writer.
Well, you’ll be there for them again in December. It’s just the one month, right? Someone else can drive Aunt Milly to the doctor for a while. Bobbi can take the lead in the Nutcracker this year. And for God’s sake, someone else can go into the office to reboot the server for once!
They’ll scowl at you. They’ll feel hurt that you cut them instead of someone else. They might even secretly hope for your utter failure. But it’s not like you’re personally pumping the blood through their body. They can do without you for thirty days, and at some level, they know it.
4. Because you might actually finish the damned thing.
Even if you “win” NaNoWriMo, you won’t really have a ready-to-publish novel. Novels range from 60,000 to 120,000 words, and they’ve been edited, revised, polished, and proofread. What poops out of the back end of NaNoWriMo is not a complete novel, so don’t think that that’s what you’ll have.
Instead, you’ll have the first 50,000 words of the unedited first draft of a novel. It’s no more publishable than when you had zero words, BUT – and this is big – it is still 50,000 words closer to that goal than you were on October 31. For some people, the hardest thing to write in a novel is the very first word.
So maybe you’ll need to take a break at the start of December. Maybe you have some DVR to catch up on. Maybe Aunt Milly is getting tired of taking the bus. Maybe you’ve put on ten pounds sitting at the keyboard and need to hit the gym.
But you managed to make the time for writing once. Sure, it was just for the one month. Your friends and family may have been counting down the days to December, but they did give you the time. Also, you hopefully learned something about yourself and your writing.
And maybe, just maybe, you want to keep going. Maybe there are few things that can slide for more than just thirty days. Maybe your friends and family will be excited by your success and understand if you’re a little less available than you were back in October.
Maybe you can actually finish that first draft. Writing that first word is pretty hard, but perhaps the second hardest word to write is the last one. NaNoWriMo takes care of only one of them, but it might give you the momentum to reach the other.
5. Because bragging feels GOOOOOD.
Have you ever sat around with some friends and talked about the novels you want to write someday but simply haven’t haven’t found the time? Remember how depressing those conversations can be? All of you sitting around, slitting your wrists, and letting all the hope bleed out…
Well, to hell with that.
The next time someone says to you, “I’ve got a novel I want to write someday,” you don’t have to sit there and listen to them whine about not finding the time or the inspiration or the right opening sentence.
Instead, you can simply say, “Well, I look forward to reading it when you get it done. In the meantime, here’s a copy of mine.”
Oh yeah, I went there, and the T-shirt looks fabulous!
Again, do read Jo’s column. Your success or failure in NaNoWriMo will depend a lot on your reasons for trying it. Do it for the wrong reasons, and even if you get to the 50,000 word mark, you’ll fail. But if you do it for the right reasons, you could succeed with only 34,562.
Are any of you thinking of trying it this year? What do you hope to get out of it?