I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo six times. The first three times, I hit 50k, which was awesome; the next three times, I didn’t, which was less awesome. Sure, I still had more words on the page than I’d had on October 31, but the further I fell behind in the word count goal each year, the more I felt like a failure. (And I admit, all those I-wrote-twenty-bajilion-words-today tweets from my fellow NaNo-ers didn’t exactly make me feel any better about my measly progress.)
But here’s the thing. My “measly progress” doesn’t bother me anymore, because I’ve come a long way in understanding what works for me—and what doesn’t. Fast-drafting? Not so much. I’m a muller, a pantser, a ponderer, an edit-while-I-write-er, and while there is absolutely something to be said for fast-drafting, it’s not the only way to write a novel.
Oddly, I still tend to catch a touch of NaNo-fever come the end of October each year, and I jump in with enthusiasm. But I do so fully intending to cheat. To break rules. To be a rebel NaNo-er.
(Any NaNo purists among you will be utterly appalled. I’m sorry! Please don’t run me out of NaNo town. We all gotta do what we gotta do to get the words written.)
If you’ve resisted NaNoWriMo because it just doesn’t sound right for you, let me encourage you to take the leap this year and become a rebel NaNo-er. Why? I thought you’d never ask…
The perks of being a rebel NaNo-er:
FUEL: When you start, you set a goal, along with thousands of other writers, and you commit to it. Maybe most people are following the “rules” and aiming for 50 thousand words. You? Rules schmules. You need to revise a chapter a day? Ok, that’s your goal. You need to write for an hour a day, five days a week? Go for it. Whatever will get you where you want to be on November 30, name it. Set that as your goal. Goals (and deadlines) have power—they rev up your motivation, and knowing that all those other writers are revved up and writing at the same time is serious fuel as you move toward your goal. And hey, those word count tweets that used to taunt you about your paltry total? They’re fuel too. They’re reminders to keep going. They’re energy shots. They’re bursts of you-can-do-this! Fuel, hon. The NaNoWriMo experience is fuel to get you where you want to be.
COMMITMENT: It’s only thirty days. (Less now…so what? Start now. Four weeks—or three or two or whatever you commit to—will bring you closer to your goal than you are right now.) The end is practically in sight, even when you’re poised on the starting line. Yes, you can focus on your writing for thirty days. Yes, you can give it priority. Your household won’t completely fall apart if you neglect the vacuuming and spend a bit extra on take-out dinners. Thousands of writers are, right now, putting writing on the top of their to-do lists. You’re not the only one sacrificing TV shows and basic hygiene to reach your goals. This is important to you. Take advantage of NaNo's focus on getting 'er done. Committing to NaNoWriMo helps you make writing a priority.
FUN: Whether you’re fast-drafting, slow-drafting, brainstorming, outlining, or revising, the NaNo buzz is your friend. The madness of writing in every free moment, of creating free moments where there were none, of dedicating yourself to your goals, all else be damned (at least for the next few weeks), and of knowing you’re surrounded by a huge community of equally mad writers chasing headlong after their goals…it’s the best. And it’s absolutely a terrific way of letting your creativity run free. See, your inner editor doesn’t do NaNo. He’s not allowed. Just as well, because NaNo terrifies him. So he’s over there sulking in a corner, and you’re having fun. You’re playing with words. Tap into the NaNo madness. When you write with joyful abandon, you so often surprise yourself, and your creativity thrives. How fun is that?!
So go ahead. Dive into NaNoWriMo. Take advantage of the fuel, the commitment, the fun it provides, but don’t be afraid to bend the rules—or toss them out altogether. Scrap the word count, you rebel, and mark your NaNo by hours or chapters or bursts of uncontrolled laughter or number of Halloween treats consumed…whatever you need to do to make it work for you. This is your month. Your NaNo. Your goal. Have a blast!