NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month is upon us. Several years ago, I heard about NaNoWriMo and signed up with enthusiasm; the idea of writing a novel within a months’ time was too tempting to disregard. It had been my dream (and still is) to write a novel.
I learned that NaNoWriMo isn’t for me. It was such an oppressive process (write 50,000 words in a month, nearly 2,000 words a day, without regard to quality) that I was driven into a six months long writers’ block afterwards, throughout the long winter of 2003-2004. I was miserable trying to keep up the pace, and I dropped out after a couple of weeks with a collection of words I can only describe as gobbledigook. (Over at Writerland, Meghan’s description of her NaNoWriMo book jibes with what I produced in those two weeks).
NaNoWriMo isn’t my process. I’ve been plugging away at this draft of the novel in earnest for nearly a year now, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through. I’m not editing as I go, but this is the speed at which I write, and my process doesn’t involve writing fifty thousand words in one month (p.s. my novel’s first draft is going to end up at around 100,000 words, double the NaNoWriMo goal).
I estimate that I will probably revise the draft at least five times, if not ten times, before I consider sending it out to an agent. And then after that, I estimate, I will have to revise the draft again (maybe another five times). This entire process will take years.
NaNoWriMo is a great exercise–but that’s exactly what it is: an exercise. For those of you who did sign up for NaNoWriMo, I cheer you on (wearing some of my many NaNoWriMo tshirts). And hope you get what you need out of it, whether you are a new mother re-engaging with her writing and using NaNoWriMo to kickstart that re-engagement, or someone who wants to get all the words down on the page.
And for the record: my friend Tayari Jones, the author of Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, has a post up on why she doesn’t participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s well worth a read, whether or not you agree with her.