Do you even Nano, bro?

I’m doing it. I’m jumping on the bandwagon for NaNoWriMo posts. Because November.

If you’re not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. During November each year, writers from all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words in just 30 days. Now, if you’re not familiar with word counts, 50,000 words is not going to be a completed novel, unless you’re writing middle grade, or shorter YA. (My adult debut clocks in just north of 100K.) But the point of Nano is more to get people writing, get them in that groove, see if they can remain sane through an entire month of intense word sprints and plotting and no sleep or housework.

nano

I’ve participated in Nano off and on since 2009, and have made it to 50K words each year I’ve attempted. Some of those novels I finished, others have gone the way of The Drawer. My proudest year I wrote 80K in just over 2 weeks. That was a fun one to write.

I’m a fast-drafter. What that means is that I can sit down and release words at a rate of >2000 words an hour if I’m super focused. (Of course, if you know me, that’s my downfall. Focus.) I’m also an edit-as-you-go person, which is apparently a big NONO during Nano. (NANO NONO THAT IS SUPER FUN TO SAY.) (There’s that focus thing again…what was I saying?)

What I find interesting is that, as much as I loooove Nano and the books that I’ve birthed over the past several Novembers, in some ways there is just SO MUCH PRESSURE to follow specific rules, such as the DON’T EDIT rule or DON’T DELETE rule. That really stresses a lot of people out, because it’s not how they’re used to doing things. It’s out of their comfort zone, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I’ve seen enough posts about how people take it to the extreme to want to say SCREW THE RULES.

Isn’t that what we say anyway about writing? Sure, there are lots of people who like to list the rules for writing, but, in reality, the only rule is that there are no rules. There’s not a right or wrong way to write. Want to write in a coffee shop? Do it. Write at home better? Excellent. Write for hours at a time? Kudos, man. Carve out 15 minute slots throughout the day? Also totally awesome. Write every day? I salute you. Have one writing day a week? Cheers! You gotta do what works for you, what feels right, or writing will start to feel like a chore.

A friend and her fiancé visited my church yesterday. Later, as we chatted about her visit, it was super interesting to hear her take on things. She had never been to a church service (except weddings) that wasn’t Catholic. She enjoyed it, but thought it was long (although yesterday was a shorter service than normal!). She said the music was much better (I was singing, so of course 😉 {I kid!}), but she had a really difficult time with how casual it was. Both she and her fiancé really enjoy the structure of a Catholic church service, and while they enjoyed visiting, they both agreed that that sort of service would not be something they would crave on a regular basis. HOWEVER, she’s like, man, Rena. That church is just SO YOU. It fits you SO WELL. I’m not surprised you love it so much.

Isn’t it cool how we all flourish in different places, and in doing different things? That’s why we have pantsers and plotters/outliners (or that strange hybrid panster who tries to outline, the “pantyliner”), fast-drafters and edit-as-you-goers, chronological writers or who-the-heck-cares-I’m-writing-the-exciting-part-nowers.

I absolutely think Nano is a great opportunity to challenge yourself. To stretch yourself beyond what you’re used to doing. I also absolutely think that it’s not for everyone. If it’s going to cause more stress than excitement, don’t do it! Find a different way to challenge yourself.

Every November, my friend Ami does WIPMo over on her blog. I usually do that too, to set editing goals for myself in addition to my writing goals. What’s great about it is that you set your own goals, move at your own pace. You’re not “competing” against anyone else (though Nano is not about competition, to be clear), just being vocal about the goals you have so that you can be held accountable. I NEED that accountability.

Or maybe you just want to do a challenge within your own writing group, or with your CPs, or maybe you want to ignore all this crazy November writing stuff and live your life. That’s cool too.

I have set goals for myself, but I’m also going to do my best not to sweat it if I don’t hit 50K this time around. (Don’t tell the ML of the CIA {Central Iowa Authors} that I said that!) I will attend write-ins and do my best, but I’m also going to leave time for friends and other important things that keep me going. If I don’t refuel, my writing isn’t worth much anyway.

Challenge yourself, but do you. Keep a close eye on your psychological health this month, and make sure you don’t push yourself to the breaking point. I’d hate to see anyone push through November only to completely abandon writing for 6 months (or more!) because they burned out.

Good luck to everyone participating! If you want to find me on the Nano site, I’m here. (Don’t judge the fact that I have no words so far…I have edits due Wednesday!)

(PS! Just because it’s National Novel Writing Month doesn’t mean only novels count! Poetry, journaling, nonfiction…anything you want to write can join in the fun!)

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