Sunday, October 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo - NO!

By Lisabet Sarai

It sounds like the name of a tribal chieftain in some bad romance. However, don't be fooled. NaNoWriMo is short for "National Novel Writing Month", an orgy of prosifying that occurs every November. During NaNoWriMo, authors commit themselves to producing a novel or portion thereof comprising at least 50,000 words in thirty days. The event began in 1999 and is coordinated by a non-profit organization called "The Office of Letters and Light". During 2009, just under 170,000 people participated in the project, according to Wikipedia. It is, the official NaNoWriMo website proclaims, "Thirty days and nights of literary abandon".

I know that Kathleen proposed this topic because she's doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I'm eagerly awaiting her post. As for me...well, I'd dearly love to have the first draft of a new novel all ready to edit, but when I look at my other commitments... Well, I just have to say No to NaNoWriMo.

It's not that I couldn't hack it. I have no doubt that I could generate a half-decent 50K in a month. I wrote a 500-plus page dissertation in nine days - while staying with my master and playing kinky games in the evenings! Fifty thousand words in thirty days is less than 2K per day, a volume I can usually produce in three or four hours. And I have at least three novel ideas that have been simmering on my back burner.

The trouble is, I can't afford to dedicate time every day to writing. I'd love to, but it's just not possible. Meanwhile, as it happens, this November I'm going to be traveling on business for a total of 18 days -- and not the kind of travel that is conducive to writing. During the rest of the month, I'm going to be playing catch-up at work, after being away. Nope. Just not possible.

I'm sorely tempted, though. I hadn't really done the math before. Two thousand words a day seems eminently doable, if I could only commit the daily time. Plus it would be a great source of blog posts!

Maybe next year. For now, I wish Kathleen and all the other participants luck in the great push. I look forward to reading the results.


  1. I too will be opting out of NaNoWriMo this year, Lisabet, as
    I have every year since I became aware of it in 2006.

    I also have limited time; the day job places its demands, and when I can dedicate to writing, I feel better following the muse. It may not be pointing at a novel during this time; a short story may be more of the order. Got to keep my blog going, and so on and so forth.

    I've finished a novel, so I know I can do that. I have several other novels in the works.

    Multitasker that I am, I work on them all from time to time, so I'll sit on the sidelines and feverishly wave my pom poms for the participants!

  2. Hi, Craig,

    I feel a bit guilty NOT doing it. But then, I know I'd feel guilty (about other things) if I did.

    You just can't win ;^)

  3. Hi Lisabet!

    Aren't those numbers tempting though? Just think 2000 words a day. For a month. It makes you think - hey I can do that. 2000 words. But then you try it - whoa. Unless you have a really compelling story that keeps unfolding smoothly, its hard to find that 2000 words. I always try to do 1000 words a day and I only get there half the time. Some really prolific writers squeeze out 500 a day and consider it good. I guess its all persistence.


  4. Garce - You nailed it! Persistence is the key. From what veterans of NaNoWriMo say, one of the main lessons to take away from it is writer's discipline - sitting down and writing no matter what your mood or state of inspiration.

  5. Lisabet - I wonder why you feel guilty, although I confess that guilt is part of the reason why I'm doing this to myself. It's not as if we're moaning "I want to write, but..." We actually write, despite real life getting in the way, and all the other responsibilities we take on such as reviewing books for Erotica Revealed and ERWA and maintaining personal blogs as well as our weekly commitment here. So I wonder why we feel guilty. Although now that I've committed to this, I feel insane rather than guilty. I'm not sure if that's a good trade off or not ;)

  6. Lisabet,

    Is it nearly November? How the hell did that happen?

    A student had mentioned NaNoWriMo to me a couple of weeks ago. I remember saying to her: but that's ages away.

    Now I can understand why she thinks I'm a flake.

    Happy travelling.


  7. I participated for the first time in 2007....and by the end of the month, the family was ready to have me committed. I was grouchy if I didn't attain my word count goal, and was sooooo sick of my characters, I didn't touch it again for four months.

    I did manage to 'win', by barely squeaking over that 50K word count, but was so exhausted I didn't write anything (except blog posts) for the next month.

    I've decided since not to put so much pressure on myself; I sign up and am happy with whatever amount I do end up with at the end. Unfortunately, I've not been happy with my efforts in the past two years, so I'm definitely scheduling some 'devoted writing time' into my schedule, and telling the family about it in advance, so they know not to bother me. Hopefully I'll do better this year!

    Oh, and that NaNo wip? It's being published soon, I hope! I have a contract, cover art, but no editor:(.

  8. I did it for the first time in 2008 but didn't "finish." Last year I was way too busy. I'm way too busy this year but I'm doing it because it's the only way I can make some real progress on my writing between editing and helping others get published.

  9. Hello, all!

    Thanks for your comments!

    Garce - If I can sit myself down, I can write 2-3K in half a day. I'm not saying that it will be good ;^) - but I can do it. One of the equivocal aspects of NaNoWriMo is that the quality is not evaluated - only the quantity.

    Kathleen - I'm the persistent (my husband says stubborn) type. If I made up my mind to do it, I don't doubt that I'd follow through - but there would be other costs, in other areas. As to why I feel guilty - well, I don't write every day now. I write once a week (not counting blogs and such) if I'm lucky. And I complain that I have no time. And then there are people like Michelle or Devon Rhodes (a former grip member) who have full time jobs, kids, husbands and sometimes are going to school, and still manage to put out a book every few months. So I feel as though I should be doing more, and that my reasons for not to committing to NaNoWriMo are just excuses (to harken back to last week).

    Ash - Yes, I know what you mean - I can't believe that Halloween is in two weeks. But you're not a flake. Writers always have a good excuse (there's that word again!) - "I lost in thought about my latest novel..."

  10. Hello again,

    Kenzie - thanks for the warning about unhappy family! It does seem as though NaNoWriMo is a learning experience - not only learning to write, but also how to handle the pressure and how to work it into your life. I can see how NNWM could (in an ideal world) lead to your having a normal schedule where you wrote every day (one can dream, at least!)

    Zetta - I can see that NNWM would be a kind of kamikaze back-door approach to scheduling writing time. I certainly understand about editing - it can be more time-consuming than writing.

    All the best,


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