NaNo-ing or not?
Are you one of the 287,052 writers participating in National Novel Writing Month?
I'm not, lots of writers I know are, but either way, signed up or not, there's a lot about NaNo that can help a writer.
And not only novelists, either. Plenty of NaNo writers are working on memoirs, poetry, children's books, essays collections, general nonfiction, plays. And writers of all kinds can learn something from how NaNo is designed.
The concept travels well across the literary landscape: You commit to banishing your inner critic, to keep moving forward without dropping back to revise or edit; you commit to keep track of your word counts, to be accountable, and at the end of a month, you have at least 50,000 words (do-able at a daily rate of about 1667 words).
You get to say I Did It!
That alone is a good thing, because writers so often say the opposite: I never got around to finishing X. I planned to write Y but life got in the way. I can't seem to get going (or keep going) with Z.
I completed the NaNo sprint twice in the last five years, but instead of expecting to end the month with a draft of a book manuscript, I used the motivation and group peer pressure, the sweep of public let's-all-get-it-written, and the external productivity and accountability tools to carry me along toward private goals, accumulating pages that would feed several projects.
Whether you're "doing NaNo" or not this year, you can still benefit from the wave of NaNo mania that is certainly showing up in your social media stream. Maybe you don't want to write 50,000 words in a month (there are good reasons NOT to!), or your writing goals and projects are in different stages right now than would benefit from such a blitz.
But you can take the time now, while many writers around you are re-dedicating themselves to meeting daily word counts, to ask yourself if you're meeting your daily word or page or time-in-writing-chair goals. Is your manuscript draft humming along? Are you visiting it often enough?
In less than two months, you'll be asking yourself what you got done as a writer this year. Maybe November – NaNo or not – is a great time to begin taking stock, while there's still time to do something about it.
Are the chapters moldering? Are you watching reruns instead of revising? Have your submissions slacked off?
For many smart writers who don't expect to come out of NaNo with anything other than a stack of pages that need an awful lot of work, the real reason we all need a productivity boost once in a while is just that: You emerge with pages that need work, pages that you can work on, revise, edit. And isn't that the goal of every writer, every day, every month anyway? To end up with pages filled with words? Because you know what you can't do with a blank page, right?