Is NaNoWriMo Really for Non-Writers?

Yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who are not Writer-y types, “NaNoWriMo” stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a fun little thing that began in 1999 when Chris Baty and 20 other participants in the San Francisco area decided to challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month.  That has spread so that in 2010 there were over 200,000 Writers taking part.

I think this is the 4th time I’ve participated or attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo.  I “won” it twice, in, like, 2006 and 2007 I think, and I failed in 2009 because I was directing a play.  Or something like that.  I’m probably not remembering correctly there, to be honest.  I can’t remember what the first story I won with was, but the second one I wrote was a sort of speculative future history story that takes place 50 years from now in what is currently the tribal lands of Pakistan.  Except that the US had taken control of the area, built it up, then gone bankrupt and abandoned it after an attack by insurgents.  My heroine was caught in the city when the insurgents took over and the Americans abandoned it.  Yes, it was a romance.  I wrote more than 50,000 words, but I never finished the story.  Maybe I will someday.

Which brings me to my point.

One of my lovely Twitter friends and I were commiserating about the difficulties of attempting NaNo while working on more “serious” works in progress that have editorial and publishing deadlines.  It’s kind of like juggling lit torches.  She made the comment to me that “NaNoWriMo is actually for Non-Writers” because for Writers every month is National Novel Writing Month.

Huh.  Interesting.  I have to say I kind of vaguely agree with her.  When you’re a Writer with a capital “W” you’ve got a Work in Progress nearly all the time.  Something needs writing and there’s always a deadline to write it.  At least that’s how things have been for me lately.  I feel comfortable if I finish a first draft of a novel within a month.  I did it in August and October this year.  And now here I am trying to write another novel in November while revising the second book in my Noble Hearts trilogy.

A lot of the people who do NaNo, I think, love it because it’s a great way for them to get the lead out and write the damn book, so to speak.  I may be wrong, but I get the impression that many of the NaNo participants don’t spend the other eleven months of the year plotting, writing, and revising.  (Although I suspect that a lot of the people who end up reading this blog will be Writers to begin with)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Non-Writers attempting to write during November.  In fact, I’m saying welcome to our world!  I love seeing people reach for that brass ring of finishing the novel they’ve always wanted to write.  It’s great!  The more Writers the better as far as I’m concerned.  And Chris Baty and the creators of NaNoWriMo have done a great service to the world.  Thanks guys!

But as a year-round Writer, can I just say ugh?  I’m doing NaNo this year because my awesome friends in my writing group really wanted us all to do it as a group.  And they’re fan-freakin-tastic people, so how could I say no?  But given a choice?  No, I don’t think I would have done it this year.  I have too many other things that need my attention on the Writing front.

So who else is with me on this one?  Are you a Writer attempting NaNo out of a sense of obligation to the Writing Gods?  Are you a Non-Writer trying to do what you’ve always wanted to do?  Or are you somewhere in between?  And out of curiosity, are there any Writers out there who deliberately plan their year-round writing schedule so that you can do NaNo?

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14 thoughts on “Is NaNoWriMo Really for Non-Writers?

  1. I really wanted to do it for the first time this year, but like you said, the WIPs take precedence. I couldn’t abandon three novels in the revision state for an entire month to end up with yet another novel to revise. I keep saying “someday”, but the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make NaNoWriMo work. I always have too many other projects on my plate.

    However, just so I didn’t feel left out, I decided to do FauxPoWriMo and write a poem a day instead. 🙂

    • FauxPoWriMo? Now that’s a good idea! Although I think I’m constitutionally incapable of writing poetry. I suspect we’re either short-form or long-form writers. I can’t cross over. =P But more power to you if you can! =D

  2. I have written articles for a movie magazine and a company magazine, user manuals for all kinds of computer programs and books for language classes. And for the moment, I have 3 blogs, where I write every day. Ideas for novels have been lingering in my head for years, but somehow I could never get them on paper.So, I decided to participate and see if I can finish it!

    • And that’s what makes NaNoWriMo so great! I love the fact that it gives people an excuse to get out there and write what they otherwise wouldn’t have written. It was a lot of fun to do the challenge for the first time.

      Best of luck to you! Let me know how you make out. =D

      • Actually, I have fun with it too! I feel so excited about it, although it does take quite some energy and discipline. I have my job as a language teacher during the day and in the evening I have to update 2 or 3 blogs and then write! Anyway, I am slowly but surely approaching 15.000 words.

  3. You can indeed say ugh. And ugh again if you are a Writer with enough words on your plate as it is. Perhaps even thrice ugh if you have already “won” in previous years. I wonder if some people can’t find that spark to take part each year if they’ve already proven they can succeed?

    As for me, I’m taking part purely for the fun of it. I write all year round, though as yet unpublished, so I was torn between NaNoWriMo and continuing on with my current project. In the end I decided a break from my novel was appropriate so I could revisit with fresh eyes in December.

    The question I ask myself about the non-writers taking part in NaNo is other than hopefully writing their novel, or 50,000 words of it, what do they want to get out of it? To see their book published? Or just the satisfaction of finishing?

    • I write all year round and I self-publish, but I decided to give NaNo a whirl this year … well, because I got talked into it, if I’m being honest. But I’m enjoying it more and more as it goes along. Although I do sort of think my story is rubbish. =P

      I think those are good questions. I think NaNo is designed to give people the excuse to write the book they wouldn’t have otherwise written. I hope I get some other commenters that say something about that… =D

  4. I skipped last year, as I was in a revision of my first novel, but it was fortunate timing this year that I was just getting ready to start a new project, so I decided to play along and do it during NaNo. I thought it would be nice to have a deadline hanging over my head, something my fiction doesn’t usually come with. I like uploading my wordcount and seeing the chart. Stats are fun!

    I also thought it might be a fun way to meet more writers on Twitter, what with that handy hashtag that’s getting flashed around.

    • Those hashtags are a wonderful thing, aren’t they! I know I love getting connected with other writers through places like Twitter (and here!) too. And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who likes looking at all those cool charts. 😉

  5. Consider me one of the in-betweeners. I write and edit professionally as a journalist, and have been wrestling with a fantasy novel on the side for far too long. At the same time, though, I’ve had other ideas for stories percolating away, and saw NaNoWriMo as an ideal opportunity to get one of those out of my head and onto a page. I don’t expect great things out of what I write this month, but it’s a good stick to beat myself over the head with to get on with it. Is it really for non-writers? Well, maybe in a way. Perhaps better to say for writers who are non-professional, who don’t already make this their day-to-day living.

    • I’m glad to hear you’re working on something that has been waiting to be written for a while. Go Stephen! =D

      The thing is I know of a bunch of professional, published, award-winning novelists who are doing NaNo this year too. I guess it’s just a good tool all around.

  6. As one of the awesome and fabulous member’s of the writing group you mentioned, it is no surprise that I am PRO NaNo. I think it’s a good way to get disciplined about writing, and also learn to write fast and furious (normally I write like I’m constipated).
    That’s what I’m hoping anyway, this is my first year so we’ll see how it goes. Also, Merry writes like a bajillion words an hour so I don’t want to hear it 😉

  7. Interesting points all around. As to planning, I admit to trying to plan this year…it resulted in puttering around the last month and not writing anything because of the cannot start until Nov 1st rule. Now that Nano’s started, I’m already doing the same thing I do every year I enter Nano…not writing.

    I think I might have oppositional defiant disorder or something (kidding). Nano says WRITE! Just write! Saronai says…Nano, time to appreciate novels and take a break from writing to celebrate them…read them instead! I wish it wasn’t rule breaking to simply write 50k words of a story, or even two stories (if you’re near the end of the first). I find that one rule thwarts me every year. I try not to get trapped into dropping a story partway through to pick up one for nano, which has happened every other year and resulted in me finishing neither project and not getting very far in the nano one.

    Now that I’ve been fiddling around waiting for nano to start and under the weather with a cracked tooth and persistent cold, it’s been rather difficult getting started back up into my writing habits again.

    Having said all that, I’m fairly sure there are lots of other writers that see use out of nano along with the many that only write stories during nano. I’m not published yet though, but I no longer qualify writers by published or not published, mostly because I’ve decided to treat my first novel-length “published” work as a special straight-to-blog-episodic serial, possibly to kindle after its run is completed.

    All that aside, yeah, I think I’m more in your camp of writers on nano, except I’ve never “won” and doubt I will this year either, my nano got off to a bad start with exhausting malaise and a cracked tooth I still can’t see a dentist over…the left side of my mouth is starting to get really tired of doing all the work, but the wait to get it looked at and taken care of won’t be too much longer XD

    As to everyone else (Merry included) good luck with your nano projects! Even if you’re not a writer all year round, like Merry, I still love that you’re writing one, whatever month you do so!

    • Saronai! I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages. How are you?

      And never say never with NaNo. I think the more you put the effort in, even a little bit of effort, the more surprising your results are. =D

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