It’s that time of year. When grumpy creatures disappear into their dens for extended periods of time, only to come out for sustenance. I’m not talking about bears hibernating, but writers participating in NaNoWriMo.
For the last five years, I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo under this name. I’ve been chipping words out of stone. Sometimes it’s soft marble that produces graceful imagery. Other times it’s sharp flint that makes my fingers bleed with each strike on the keyboard. I have sort-of won three of those five years. It is up in the air as to whether I’ll cross the 50,000-word threshold or not during this year. While it’s my goal, because of some dreaded Real Life Problems I am realistic that my count will be closer to 20,000.
Earlier this week I was talking with Steven Mix. His second book in his Zombie Civil Rights series, Deep Cuts From The Edge Of Never, just released on Halloween. I teased him about needing to get to work on the third book. He commented that doing NaNoWriMo “always seems to hurt my soul.”
I paused. I had heard people talk about how they don’t like NaNoWriMo. Most commonly I hear that “professionals” think it encourages “anyone” to write a book and publish it. I hadn’t heard it causing mental anguish before. Curious, I talked with Steve about the why. It turns out that he feels 50,00 words in one month a formidable goal that he can’t reach even under the best of circumstances.
That brought back memories of when I was actively writing fanfic. I learned about NaNoWriMo back in 2010 and thought it also was out of reach. Plus I wasn’t doing ‘real writing.’ It was just fanfic. I wouldn’t be able to create a single 50,000-word story. Then I came across a Livejournal community called MiniWriMo.
The concept is similar to NaNoWriMo. You write every day in November. The difference is you set the goals. When you sign up, you pledge what your daily word goal is, be it ten, one hundred, or one thousand. Some people pledge the full NaNo goal of 1,667. It could be on one project or spread amongst multiple ones. New project? A second draft? Completing something you started? Didn’t matter. Then every day you write and you post your word count. The point? You write something every day. There were badges you won for hitting goals and writing every day of the month, but they weren’t really important in my mind. What was important was that at the end of it, you had more words on a project than when you started.
And this is what I think a lot of people miss about NaNoWriMo. Yes, getting 50,000 words written in 30 days is a challenge. Many of us fail to attain that goal. But the real goal is to get you writing, to get you creating.
So here’s why I say I’ve ‘sort-of won’ those past three NaNoWriMos. I’ve taken that spirit from MiniWriMo and applied that to my writing. But according to the rules of NaNoWriMo, I cheat. I’m working on several different ongoing projects instead of one new novel. I count writing for this blog. I count the word difference if I go back and edit a scene by adding words. My point? I make it fun. Fun doesn’t necessarily mean hitting that 50,000-word count.
So do what you have to that makes it fun. Set up a spreadsheet and track your words count, if you want. Set goals for how much you can write daily. Spread it over a week, a month, a year. If you decide your goal was too easy, change it up. You set the rules. You set the parameter that works for you. The two important things are for you to write and enjoy yourself.