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Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

19 November, 2008

I mentioned in my last post that I’m not doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year but that it would take a separate post to explain why. So here goes.

I should start by saying that this isn’t going to be a post lashing out at the whole scheme for encouraging people to write crap for a month. I’m of the opinion that pretty much every new writer has to write crap for a while before they improve. Even some great writers probably write crap in their first drafts, before polishing the novel up for publication. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing, to give people confidence and to instil a bit of discipline, all of which I think are great aims.

So why no NaNo-ing for me this year? Maybe I should go back a bit.

I first attempted NaNoWriMo in November of 2006. I heard about the whole thing at the last minute and, despite having nothing particular I wanted to write, I decided to give it a go. I failed miserably. I barely got 5000 words written. In my defence, it was my first year at uni, in a new city (the first time I’d lived in a city, in fact), at a time when I was just getting settled in and making new friends. To be honest though, I was pretty lazy and I gave up quicker than I should have done.

A year passed. A year in which I wrote virtually no fiction at all. I barely even read anything that wasn’t required for my course. This lack of writing – and lack of inspiration – left me feeling awful. Writing was the one thing I had remained passionate about my entire life and yet I hadn’t written anything for a year. It was time to take action.

My means of motivating myself to get my arse into my chair was NaNoWriMo. In 2007 I ‘won’: in other words, I wrote just over 50,000 words in 30 days. The novel I wrote was truly terrible and probably the worst thing I’d ever written. I’ve never been back to it and I don’t suppose I ever will. That’s not the point though. The most important thing was that I was writing again and I haven’t really stopped since.

Back to 2008. In the last year, I’ve written numerous bits and pieces and am just coming to the end of a novel that’s taken me less than six months to write. I have a handful of things on the go and I’m writing nearly every day. NaNoWriMo last year gave me all those things I outlined before: discipline, confidence in myself and knowledge that I really can do this. And, as those are all things I’ve managed to retain over the course of the year, I don’t feel the need to participate in NaNo again, at least not for a while. This year, I have a dissertation to write, a degree to finish and probably a job to find come next summer. Most importantly though, I’m still writing.

So, whilst I may not be NaNo-ing this year, I want to wish everyone who is the very best of luck. You’re more than halfway through now. Keep up the good work!

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