Dum de dum de dum, tra la la. *whistles and writes 167 words while waiting*.
So, you get the message: doing a NaNoWriMo can be inspiring, exciting and hugely useful. It can get a first draft down more quickly than you're likely to achieve on your own; it forces you to switch off your internal editor and is often a very good way to remove a writing block, because it doesn't matter what you write as long as the words are there. (Within reason.) It can also be fun to be part of something that others are doing and the encouragement and friendship that participants offer each other is wonderful.
And, in a minute, I'm going to give encouragement to some writers I know who are doing it. And a treat for everyone...
But. First. Hang on.
- It's entirely optional.
- It is not right for everyone.
- You should only do it if it suits your life, your writing, what else might be going on for you, your mood at the time.
- It is not the only way to write a first draft and for many people it is not even the best way.
- It doesn't make you a better person. Or, quite possibly, a better writer.
Why am I saying this? Because there's been a suggestion that some people feel pressurised into doing NaNoWriMo or guilty for not doing it. I can't imagine why anyone would feel pressurised, because it's not the sense that I get from the participants. Yes, they get a bit carried away sometimes, and yes, the internet in November is full of them sending messages to each other, but so what? Why shouldn't they? They're part of something difficult, something they want to do, something they're proud of. Why shouldn't they talk about it?
No, I suspect that if any writers feel pressurised it's not because of anything the NaNoWriMoers have said or done, but by something internal. A misplaced feeling of inadequacy or a lack of understanding about the point of NaNoWriMo. There is no good reason why you should feel you "ought" to spend a month of your life writing something you don't want to write in a way you don't want to write it. That's pointless. There's enough pressure on us as writers without feeling that we have to do something which may not be right for us. NaNoWriMo is not a rite of passage. It was cleverly and pointfully created by people who wanted to do it, for good reasons and with good results for them and many others.It was never intended as a tyranny except as a voluntary and self-imposed one
I feel it's rather like marathon running. It rightly gives some people satisfaction but doesn't suit everyone. I don't believe runners run marathons because they think they ought to. They want to; it suits their personalities (and their bodies); it's difficult and lots of people - me, for example - don't want to and couldn't do it, which gives a sense of achievement to those who can, and who make the effort.
In conclusion: do a NaNoWriMo if you actually want to. Personal satisfaction, desire to experiment, enjoyment of camaraderie, an idea that is ready to be wrenched from you and spewed out in a month of mayhem - whatever, you have to want to. And if you don't want to, don't. But don't waste time feeling that anyone else thinks you should. No one cares whether you do it or not. If you do, they'll welcome you; if you don't, just go away and write in your own way. Besides, what successful writers do you know who do it? Nowhere in any publisher's submission criteria does it say, "Do a NaNoWriMo".
And now, let's hear from a few mad Nanoers! They do, in my view, deserve our encouragement. It's not an easy thing they're doing, and if they're in it for the right reasons, they'll get a lot out of it. You'll see from their comments the variety of feelings and reasons and stories.
Kirsty Stanley @kirstyes on Twitter
I've signed up for NaNo since 2004 and have never completed. I've planned more this year and for extra inspiration I'm writing for Cancer Research UK. If this is a charity close to your heart please check out my justgiving page. http://www.justgiving.com/Kirsty-Stanley.
I'll be doing Nano for the first time this year - not quite sure what I've let myself in for yet but I'll be regularly updating my blog with my triumph and pain at www.xandrajames.com
Sheila Perry @ceciliapeartree
I am doing it for the 5th time in a row, have succeeded all the previous times but it is still an uphill struggle at the start, and a daunting thought with (now) 49,393 words to go! My working title is A Reformed Character and it's a mystery with the underlying theme of 'can people really change?' I live in Edinburgh and there is a lovely NaNo group here with lots of real world meetings and write-ins.
Sally Quilford @Quillers
Sally's NaNoWriMo novel is The Thirteenth Passenger, and started as a joke, when she said she intended to write a romance about a Martian Trillionaire. Sally is also serialising her efforts on this blog http://thirteenthpassenger.blogspot.com/ and asking people to give her plot ninjas. You can find out about them on this page and see a selection of those already given on the sidebar of the blog. Her intention is to try and cram every plot ninja into her story by 30th November.
Rebecca Brown @rebeccaebrown
I'm about to tackle NaNoWriMo for the first time, with a teething six month old and a three year old and I need all the encouragement I can get!
Lev Parikian @LevParikian
You may remember that when we met you mentioned NaNoWriMo. I thought little of it at the time, but when I got home I developed acute NaNoWriMo fever. It took me a couple of sessions to put down an outline, and I realised that I couldn't wait for November. So I started. 30k words later other things took over and I put it to one side. As this is what NaNoWriMo is designed to avoid, I decided to crack on and finish what Emma Darwin calls the 'shitty first draft' during November. It will be shitty. It will almost certainly be unpublishable, even when polished. But it will be finished. And it will be mine. And at least a little bit of it will be your fault. [NM cackles madly.]
Christine Mosler @christinemosler
I am doing Nano and need all the encouragement I can get! I am chrismos at Nanowrimo and I blog at
Catherine Hughes @CatONineTales
Here's my NaNo page: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/524796. As you can see,
the novel has a title already, which is a very positive feeling for me (I struggle with titles).
Joanna Cannon @Sethsmummy
This is my first nano and it feels like a terrifying interview for a job I've wanted my whole life ....
Kath Eastman @katheastman
I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time, largely thanks to encouragement from Twitter pals. I'm looking forward to being part of the NaNo community. Most of all, I'm looking forward to having fun with my writing and seeing where turning off my internal editor gets me. Hopefully not in a whole heap of trouble! I'm writing a psychological mystery/thriller about a stalker who infiltrates and manipulates a celebrity fan forum.
Louise Kelly @mllouisekelly
I'm doing it. The characters and setting I've got in my head might end up being a YA novel, but won't hold them to it if they think otherwise. The whole nano-concept has already helped as it made me get two other projects finished for the end of last month so my decks were cleared for this - I'm a real deadline junkie. But I'm procrastinating now . . . better go!
Denyse Kirkby @djkirkby
Participating in NaNo forces me to put writing at the top of my priority list every day in November. I am not foolish enough to believe that I will produce writing of publishable quality during that time but I do believe that no writing is ever wasted. The words I write during NaNo may someday end up as part of another novel or short story I am working on. I like having words written that I can dip into like the literary equivalent of a savings account.
This is the first year that I have done NaNo. I used to be a staff nurse in A&E, then I qualified as a solicitor and I am now attempting to write! I am planning to write a YA novel about first love across two different centuries, with a few smugglers and pirates thrown in. It sounds a bit strange, but the area where I am from was rife with smugglers and wreckers a few hundred years ago, and it is an area of local history I am rather fascinated by. The story will be loosely based on it. Oh and I have managed 1889 words today, so off to a good start!
Joanna Robinson @joellaviscount
This is my first ever NaNoWriMo and I'm both nervous and excited. Good Luck and happy writing to all those taking part. We can do it!
And a good news story from Julia Crouch
My second Nanovel, written in 2008, is Cuckoo, which is being published in March 2011, as part of a three-book deal with Headline. (It did take the subsequent year to bash it into second draft shape, though) Today, the start of the new Nanowrimo, I'm off to meet my editor and publicist at Headline, which seems fitting. I thought it might be nice for people to know that it is possible! [Indeed! Hooray!] This year, I am sticking with Nanowrimo, but using the impetus and camaraderie to really finish off the first draft of novel #2. But I'll be missing the arc from start to finish of a story that the novel in a month gives you.
Ans now, a treat for all of you, whether you're a Nano Nutter or not: