To be bound by a designated entry point, a predetermined finish, and a trivial concern for quality—at least at the initial stage, for the first draft—doesn’t necessarily sound like the finest makings of substantial art (although I don’t know if during this yearly November event you’re asked to do that). Because during your involvement in National Novel Writing Month, ‘NaNoWriMo,’ you are required to achieve a quantity of words that translates to a novel-length manuscript. The amount is the goal. You’re asked to write continuously, to reach daily checkpoints, and to work without pause and heavy reflection; being overly watchful of your prose may hinder your progress. It’s daunting, especially because we surely want to write something good and to move on from a sentence, a paragraph, a page of something that we aren’t fully satisfied with requires trust. And that isn’t always easy.
Although I don’t like the idea of writing a novel in a month’s time, I can see it’s value for others and, therefore, the effort deserves to be celebrated. Just as January 1st marks the beginning of our newest weight-loss journey and Monday marks the beginning of, well, anything we hope prompts good change, November offers the writer a digestible meal in an otherwise overwhelming feast. If anything, your involvement in NaNoWriMo will help teach you about your own process, that maybe you are the type of writer that needs to write daily, without self-editing, to just spill it all out. Or maybe you thrive on a patient year focusing on one longer piece where a month’s time results in the satisfactory completion of ten damn good pages. Either way, you learn, about you, and that’s a very good thing.
And November is just the start, really. You will hopefully go back into your novel, repeatedly, to polish it. Often, the best writing comes in the revision stage. So if the month works for you, what a great springboard. You’ll have 50,000+ of your words to work with. It’s a commendable endeavor and talking with others that have endured NaNoWriMo before can offer some beneficial pearls. (Maybe even some folks here on this site.)
But it isn’t for me and may not be for others. Hemingway said, “I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.” Having to write a certain amount of words in a day may not allow that approach. And moving on too quickly when writing something I’m deeply engaged in just doesn’t work for me.
That, though, may not be you, which is good. Our craft process takes different forms and you need to be dedicated to yours. So dig your heels in and be kind to yourself daily, throughout. Take some time, perhaps before bed, to softly reflect on how the day’s writing went. What worked well for you? What will propel you the next day? What practice might you scrap?