In my last blog, I outlined some of the benefits of participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge. There are, however, obvious cautions to jumping into the challenge with both feet.
Without further adieu, here are things to consider before putting your eggs in the NaNoWriMo basket.
The Best Laid Plans:
I am a plotter. Before I write a single word, I plot out many of the main story points and write from there. Like most craftspersons, I have developed the practice of measuring twice and cutting once.
What the NaNoWriMo challenge assumes (or hopes) is that everyone flies by the seat of their pants. Some people do. They sit down with little more than an idea and they just… go. It’s true. I’ve met them. Strange creatures.
Esteemed writing coach Larry Brooks breaks divides into plotters and pantsers. If you do by nature fly by the seat of your pants in your endeavors then the NaNoWriMo challenge should work for you.
If you’re a plotter, you should have started earlier than 6AM on November 1st. Like August.
I have always felt that NaNoWriMo should give more in advance help to writers. They would benefit by helping new writers figure out their disposition by asking them that very question.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers:
1,833. The number is the challenge’s bedrock.
Every day for thirty days, writers need to hit a target. Not 1,831. Not 1,832. 1,833. I write quickly. I would, however, balk at needing to hit that minimum amount each day.
Think of the movies and the bedraggled salesperson dialing their desk phone to hit a monthly quota. Is that the vision you have for your writing practice?
The Numbers Don’t Add Up:
55,000. It is a big number. Let’s not further wear out how it breaks down.
Here is the hard reality of 55,000: it really isn’t enough words. If you look at how Writers Market defines ideal manuscript lengths by genre, 55,000 is hardly sufficient.
Editors are looking for 65,000. 75,000.
Perhaps the creators of the NaNoWriMo challenge understood that more demands would be insurmountable. Whatever the reason though, I can only imagine the email boxes for acquisitions editors December 1st.
Every one chock full that of pitches for books that are too short for their markets.
Completion Brings More Uncertainty:
When December 1st comes and you’re finally able to sleep in because you knocked out 55,000 words the reality that pressing SAVE is not the end can come as quite a shock.
Hey, I have written a novel. Now what?
The wraparound supports of NaNoWriMo have improved over the last few years. The site helps writers look forward, beyond completion. However, it is critical to think of those realities early on.
When the first draft is done, it merely amounts to a first draft. Edits. Re-writes. Query letters. These all steps to follow. There is real work after the real work.
Many of these issues are what I would call dispositional cautions. For some writers these are obstacles to overcome instead of road blocks. If you don’t know which writer category you fit into, NaNoWriMo could become a month of surprises rather than successes.
What are your thoughts? Have you successfully participated in NaNoWriMo? Have a horror story?