Nanowrimo: the Habit of Writing
Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month is a writing program in which participants write 1667 words daily for the 30 days of November for a total of 50K words, which is the average length of a novel.
There are lots of “rules” for Nanowrimo. You should write, write, and only write. No revision or editing is allowed. Some will go as far as to suggest that you remove your delete and backspace buttons. You “win” if you meet the 50K word count goal so if you fall behind on one day, you have to write extra words the next few days to catch up.
Ultimately, it’s your writing, so change the rules to fit your needs.
I am not participating this year, since I have neither the time nor energy and my personal writing process is very different from what it was in past years. However, having participated in prior years, I am a proponent of the program. Lets look at the program itself, the way it was intended.
30 days: it is generally accepted that doing something every day for X number of days creates a habit. Experts disagree on the exact number but the principle still remains.
If you put your mind to it, 1667 words a day is pretty feasible. It’s about a page and a half.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Most professional writers agree that the writing and editing processes are separate. When you are pressed for time, you can’t waste cranial energy on rethinking what you wrote. If it looks too gross to handle, you can change the color of the letters to white (or the background of your screen). You can take as long as you want after “Nano” to get your novel to the state it needs to be in. But you can’t do that if you don’t have anything written.
It was designed for busy professionals, not for college students with plenty of pockets of time on their hands or for full time writers. Beyond their day jobs when their time is literally not their own for 8 hours a day, these individuals may have family obligations that keep them from practicing their writing every day. They fall out of habit and this program is a way to help give their story a living form.
Finally, it proves to you that you are, in fact, capable of writing way more than you write now.
Ironically, even though I fall into the busy professional category, I used Nanowrimo during college to get my stories onto paper. One of my first Nanowrimo projects was an unnecessarily long and rambling story that was so terrible I didn’t look at it for years. A few years after that, the idea behind the story tugged at me and I jotted down a few lines. Every time it tugged, I wrote or revised some more until I was able to put it together with the help of a friend and send it off to journals. After dozens of rejections, it was finally published as a short story.
TL;DR, one of my first Nanowrimo projects went from 50K to under 3K and got published nearly 8 years after I came up with the idea.
If Nanowrimo is not for you, I totally empathize. My own writing process has changed so much that it would probably not work for me anymore. If it is something that would work for you, happy writing!
Knowing that it was designed for busy professionals make me feel like I should’ve been writing multiple novels every month in college.
Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I feel that way sometimes too, but I have to remind myself that for a lot of writers, “writing” does not involve a daily act of writing. It’s a lot of thinking, outlining, researching, and mulling over a story in the back of the head. I’ve been revising the same 10K words for over a year and I only physically write a couple times a week for less than 30min a day. And, yes, Nanowrimo was designed for busy professionals to quickly churn out 1667 words per day for a month, but it’s still only one month out of the twelve. Writing is so mentally taxing that I’m not sure it’s possible for us to do this more than once a year especially if we have all our other obligations (I wish it wasn’t in November since it’s already a busy time of the year). It no longer works for me with the place I am in my novel, but I still wanted to share why I like the program as a way to kind of jumpstart a new habit. Hope this helps clarify some of my thoughts and I’ll update the post to reflect this as well.