So with the start of November on Thursday, we will once again see the start of NaNoWriMo. I have yet to decide if I’m participating formally or not, but I do see a number of writers on social media gearing up for their projects. I love the encouragement and community that NaNoWriMo and its additional camps creates for writers both new and old, but the writing process itself, pushing to hit daily word count goals, doesn’t work well for me.
I’ve said this before (in various ways), but I feel it’s worth reiterating: if you want to create your best work, then you need to find the method and process that works best for you. Some people can go into a writing project with little to no preparation. They can weave an intriguing story by letting the characters lead the way. Others need to plan out their plots, create character references, write down detail after detail to design a clear path for their storytelling. Still others fall somewhere in between. Some writers work linearly, while others can jump back and forth in their plotline, working on whatever strikes their fancy at the time. For as many writers (or creators in any medium) as exist, you will find just as many methods of creating.
So how do you join in with something like NaNoWriMo if it doesn’t actually fit your creative style?
First off, you need to know how NaNo’s writing goals differ from your method of creating. If it helps you to make a chart of differences and similarities between the two processes, don’t hesitate do draw it out. For me, I know daily word count goals don’t work with my writing process unless I decide to start skipping out on meals and sleep in order to fit my writing time around my work schedule. (As my work situation already stresses me to the point of affecting my health, I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep or healthy eating habits for my writing.) Trying to make up word counts during the weekends isn’t exactly healthy either as the approximate word count total for a NaNo week is over 10,000. It’s perfectly possible to write that many words in a weekend, but it doesn’t leave much time for other activities.
The second step to fitting your own creative process to participating in NaNoWriMo is figuring out what your personal goals for the month should be. Do you actually want to attempt writing 50,000 words toward a novel or do you have other writing goals that would serve you better? This year, if I do participate, I’ll be working on editing and formatting a project that I shelved for several years. (I mentioned it a few weeks ago, and while I have made some progress on it, there’s more to do than I originally anticipated.) Once you figure out what your personal goals are for the month, you need to promise yourself that you will stick to them. That’s the whole point of NaNo: to keep you on track for a month of writing! (You may want to build your own tracking sheet/chart to help you measure your progress throughout the month, particularly if your goals differ greatly from the word-count tracking offered by NaNoWriMo’s website.)
The third step is to actually participate and allow NaNo to help you build up those writing habits you want to develop. Check into the website regularly, track your progress, browse the forums with moderation. Once the month is over and/or you’ve met the goals you set for yourself, don’t allow your writing habits to slack off again. Continue to build on what you started during NaNo. Setting your own goals rather than striving for that 50,000 word count goal can make sticking to your new habits easier. The end of the month shouldn’t leave you wanting to take a break from writing but give you motivation to follow through on your project. Continue writing, move onto rewrites and editing, find some beta readers (fellow NaNo participants?), and finally turn out a polished manuscript that is ready for querying, self-publishing, or simply sharing with friends and family.
Whether you do decide to participate formally in NaNoWriMo or not, I wish you a great November full of creativity and progress!