I’m four years removed from my first NaNoWriMo. For those who are unaware what this term means, it refers to National Novel Writing Month, a world wide competition that supports and motivates people to write 50,000 words in a month. For some, this is a great program. Prior to my first experience (and “victory”) with NaNo, I hadn’t finished a novel, or even five chapters in one book. Since, I’ve completed two novel drafts, a novel rewrite, and am currently working on draft 5 of Kaimerus, the novel I recently paid C.L. Dyck to edit.
While I believe NaNoWriMo has merits to its existence, it also presents major pitfalls. Not only don’t some people ever edit what they write in November, but most won’t even finish the book they started.
If this is you, please be honest with yourself: participating in NaNoWriMo is not in your best interest.
Finishing the novel you started last time is.
I’m giving this advice with twenty days left in October. If you wrote fifty thousand in 30 days last year, I’m confident you can write another twenty thousand in twenty days. If you need to write more words than that, give it your best shot.
Here’s the thing: in the grand scheme of literary achievements, winning NaNoWriMo is little more than a glorified writing spurt. We all have them, but it’s persistence and editing that will make you successful, not finishing another NaNoWriMo. I’d be more impressed with 90 days of 1,000 words a day. At least then you’ve developed a sustainable habit.
What are you going to do with another fifty thousand words in a different story? Sure, there are benefits to having multiple projects, but now you’ve lost momentum on your first book. Writers don’t need more temptation to abandon projects before they’re finished, and I’m afraid competing in NaNoWriMo with an unfinished book is only strengthening that bad habit.
The one crazy thing about writing advice, is no advice is correct 100% of the time. So, maybe you’re the one that is going to turn this new book into Fairy Popper: Tinkerbell’s Assassin, New York Times Best Seller.
Chances are, it’s just going to end up being another first draft that never gets finished.
I’ve been dedicated to a writing career for four years, and I still feel like I’m so far away from success. I more or less wasted a year brainstorming new stories when what I should have focused on was editing my first novel. I really just want people to utilize their time wisely. After the benefits of finishing my first novel (350 days after my first NaNo Nov. 1), the drafting process is now the most beneficial. Don’t neglect that growing stage for the thrill of writing another first draft.
For advice on completing your book, I recommend listening to a quick, fifteen minute podcast by the Parsec Award Winning Writing Excuses: 6.18 “Hollywood Formula.” That podcast showed me how to create a great ending to Act Two, and then from there it should be downhill resolving all the threads you’ve woven into your story.
Consider finishing before NaNoWriMo the carrot on the end of your stick.