To NaNo or not to NaNo?

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Shall I participate or not? If I do, I wave goodbye to my partner and most of my free time for the month of November. If I don’t, I miss out on a potential 50,000 new words that will form the basis of a new novel.

Given that procrastination is my natural inclination, indecision isn’t new to me. So what’s holding me back?

There’s one enormous plus to taking part. Last year I successfully completed the challenge in under the 30-day limit. At the end I had over 50,000 words of a new novel and I’d also posted a daily account of the slog, which launched this blog. It was hard work, but ultimately satisfying; will it be the same this year?

Last year I decide to write a sequel of sorts to my first novel. (The main protagonist of the second featured briefly in the first, the background setting was similar but the majority of the characters were new.) This made things easier as I was writing about something very familiar to me. This year, my embryonic novel is still in the planning stage and has no relationship whatever with the others. I fear that entering the NaNo challenge will result in 50,000 words of nonsense that do nothing to further the story I have in mind.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that the challenge will result in 50,000 words I wouldn’t have otherwise written, or that everything will fall into place as I give my unformed characters their heads. It might not. (Though I don’t think I’d give up halfway through so public a challenge.) It’s the quality of the words I’m worried about, and the time needed to produce them. I need the safety net of a sturdy plot and an idea of how my characters will fit into it. I’m concerned that a more relaxed approach will be a waste of time.

Part of the appeal of a challenge like NaNo is the building up of a body of work that can be revisited and reworked to suit at a more convenient pace; no writing is actually wasted. So far, I haven’t revisited the 51,000 words I wrote a year ago and I worry that the same thing will happen again. I’ll have another chunk of work that I will never get time to finish because I have to get started on the next thing. And will the words actually be worth anything? I have my doubts this time round.

So I wonder if my time would be better spent editing, sharpening and tightening the first novel, getting it into proper shape to publish as an e-book in the New Year? I certainly don’t have time to do that and NaNo, as well as a job, regular homework for the writing group, all the reading that I absolutely must do, and posting on this blog.

I think I’ve answered my own question, but I’d welcome your opinions.


8 thoughts on “To NaNo or not to NaNo?

  1. I plan on using NaNoWriMo, this year, to try out some new ideas.

    I’ve taken all pressure off and have focused on writing a series of short stories, rather than a full novel.

  2. I don’t do the NaNo challenge, though I probably should, because then I’d at least have something to show instead of the slowly plotting outline I’m in the process of making. But I like to work at my own pace and not feel the pressure of a “deadline.” Yeah, we’ll see how long that lasts. 🙂

    • I enjoyed it last year and working to a deadline helped my output, but I knew where I was headed in the novel. This year I’m not so sure, so maybe I’ll give it a miss. Though the comment above has already given me second thoughts…:-)

  3. Even though I’m a “pantser,” I don’t think I could just jump into NaNo without being prepared. I think I’d need at least a skeletal outline of the story and some handle on the main characters. Plus it’s a lot of time away from family and friends. Maybe someday I’ll try it, but for now, I’ll pass. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be ready to tackle a sequel to one of the current works and will try it then?

    Short stories do sound like an intriguing option, though. And what if they relate to the new work you’re thinking about? Maybe they would provide jumping off points for the novel or potential backstory or current scenes….?

  4. Last year I used NaNo to start a novel – I wrote it in episodes, so almost like a series of short stories – but the part where I stitch this patchwork together into a cohesive whole hasn’t happened yet…. and that’s the problem. Time. But using this method is still a possibility. 🙂

  5. I have the same dilemma – I’ve signed up for NaNo but feel the crippling fear that I have virtually no free time already, so how will I ever make NaNo time. Then the other part of me chimes in that it might at least help me get part of Novel Number 2 fleshed out and some ideas flowing as to where it should head. I do worry that it will just result in a lot of wasted time and a whole heap of gibberish and I’ll regret having taken the time away from other things/people.

  6. And neither of us wants to abandon the challenge half way through. I think I’ll still be undecided the day before it’s due to start. One of my concerns is ending up with another big chunk of work to finish but still no time to do it. Waste of time, or the makings of a bestseller? Decisions, decisions…. I wish you luck however it turns out. 🙂

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