NaNoWriMo Is a Death Sentence But I Will Not Give Up

Maintaining daily writing goals has never been so important

By Jan-Carl Ressureccion

Staff Novelist-in-Training

I am four-thousand three-hundred words behind my NaNoWriMo schedule (at time of starting this article). Naturally, I chose to write a nine-hundred world article about it.

For the uninitiated, National Novel Writers’ Month (NaNoWriMo) is an event that takes place during the month of November. Writers are given a lofty goal – fifty-thousand words in only thirty days. That works out to almost seventeen-hundred words a day. Even speedy writers often need a couple hours to hit their daily goal.

For the numerically uninitiated, allow me to impress on you how many words that is. Most articles in this publication run from six hundred to a thousand words, and the majority run upwards of eight hundred. The October issue ran nineteen articles over eight hundred words. The whole publication ran roughly sixteen-thousand words. NaNoWriMo asks you to write over three copies of the paper in one month. Go grab three copies of the paper. I’ll wait. That’s a lot of words, isn’t it? (Don’t forget to put those copies of the paper back, unless you plan on sharing them. As much as it looks good to pad our consumption numbers, it really is inefficient.) To put it another way, NaNoWriMo asks you to write two long articles for the paper every day.

And words on a paper don’t appear in a vacuum. One cannot forget the amount of time spent planning out the story, the characters, which professor you want to impugn by secretly giving the villain of your novel the same name. Things like these are huge time sinks, and while some (if not most) of the planning should be done prior to November, inevitably one is going to have to spend time thinking about what to write during NaNoWriMo itself. Indeed, the time commitment is so huge that many participants suggest abandoning all editing work until after NaNoWriMo is over. (In fact, one should wait a couple weeks to let the novel stew before you go back to edit it.) You have enough on your plate getting words down; making sure those words are good words will triple your time commitment.

The fact I am forty-three hundred words in the hole shows I am not speedy enough or devoting enough time to finishing my goal. Unfortunately, life has decided November to be the month where everything comes due, and my time to write has basically vanished in the face of midterms, projects, and even essays. (That last category really upsets me.)

One is tempted, quite frankly, to abandon some of these engagements in favor of just getting more words down for NaNoWriMo. Alas, these things are too important to me to give up so easily, and so my novel lies languishing.

To add insult to injury, it’s not as if I am usually a slow writer. In the mood, I can turn out eight-hundred to a thousand words in an hour, and even on a slow day I can put out five- or six-hundred. But the sheer volume of work I have has consumed all of my writing time.

My other complaint with NaNoWriMo lies in its focus. One is supposed to pour all of their writing effort into one singular work, so as to finish it. Now, this is an admirable goal, and one I actively choose. Not all who participate in NaNoWriMo follow this so strictly. But I am the kind of soul who has many ideas, and I have a bad habit of jumping from project to project on my whim, slowly working on many things but never committing to one. It is a useful tool for combatting burnout, but it also tends to leave a lot of projects by the wayside unfinished, should I never regain interest in them. This is why I chose to focus on one project for NaNoWriMo. But the ideas don’t stop coming just because you choose to not work on them, and every time my progress stalls on my novel, some other idea or project comes knocking on my proverbial door, asking for its share of my time.

The big problem with holes is that they have a bad habit of compounding. Each day’s commitment does not decrease just because you need to catch up, and so the gap between where you are and par grows and grows. Really, a week off of progress is a death sentence without a herculean effort to recover, and I can only hope next week will give me the respite I need to put it in. Unfortunately, there are only bad options from here on out. It is simply impractical to close the gap in a few days. There is no way I will be able to write five- or six-thousand words in one day to catch me up to par. Writing so much in one day will burn a soul out, which is why progress has to be gradual. This is why maintaining a daily writing goal and meeting it is so important. When one stops writing daily, one loses the groove, and it takes a few days to get back into it.

Alas, gradual progress is a door also closed to me. I will almost assuredly need to more than double my daily word goal for the rest of November if I wish to hit the fifty-thousand before the end of the month. Such an amount will probably lead to burnout anyway. Nevertheless, my bed was made, and I need to lie in it.

But I’ve put enough words into here. I have a novel to get back to writing.

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