National Novel Writing Month is exciting in the beginning. You feel like you’re standing at the starting line to a long distance race – I assume, I’ve never participated in any kind of race – you have a new and interesting story you’re ready to dive into, the support of your friends in the NaNo community and the energy of a good challenge running through your veins.
NaNo at week three is… tired.
I was ahead! For the whole first two weeks of this month, I was pumping out up to four thousands words a day, caught up in the whirlwind of this new and exciting story. And then my cousin’s wedding came last week and we spent four days running back and forth to the city for myriad parties and events that were a ton of fun but also a huge distraction. I lost my lead and found myself back on the day to day grind.
And that’s a lot. Writing nearly two thousand words every day can be really overwhelming. After all, you have to figure in at least an hour extra to everything you plan to get done for the day – and that’s assuming you actually get it done in an hour and don’t mess around on Pinterest when you should really be writing… cough.
It is interesting through. I’m really into this story. I think the characters are unique, the plot is simple but compelling and the theme is similar enough but also different enough to set it apart from the other books in the series while still remaining true to it. I’m actually enjoying writing this book very much, despite the challenge of trying to work on it every single day.
And yet, it is a challenge. Would I enjoy it more if I were writing on it on my own schedule, perhaps with more leeway? Would it be a better book for the time and energy I put into it, or am I writing a better book now by doing it quickly and consistently, but keeping up with the tone and the pace of the book nearly every day?
Recently, and my apologies for forgetting the source, I read a Tweet that essentially said,
Stop glorifying the idea that writers write every single day. That would be a prison.
It stuck with me, especially during this time of the year, because it so directly opposes nearly everything we’re taught. After all, writers love to write so they should want to do it all the time. But that’s a very short-sighted way of thinking. I can do NaNo because I know that I’ll be done at the end of the month. But if I tried to keep up with the grueling task of writing 2-3 thousand words every day forever, I’d probably really start to resent writing. Let’s not forget that the second we’re told to do something, we immediately don’t want to do it.
Now, none of this is to say that we don’t benefit from pouring out a rough draft in a matter of weeks. We absolutely do. But it’s easy to forget that writing can take a lot of out of you. That, while not physically demanding, it requires connection, planning, research and a deep involvement with other people’s lives that will eventually suck us dry if we tried to work every single day.
And, of course, there’s always other work to do be done. There are blog posts, social media content, newsletters, and promotion. There’s even other stories, which can help to take you out of one head for a little while and put you into a different one. The trick is to change it up so you don’t feel like you’re going to explode.
Now, I consider National Novel Writing Month an incredible tool. I think it’s useful for novices and professionals alike and I’ll undoubtedly use it again in the future. After all, I’ve now written 33,000 words of a story that I will be able to complete by the end of the month and send off to my editor. (After TLC, I promise!) The turnaround time is incredible and it helps to keep me on track with the sequels and trequels that I’m a little in over my head with right now. But still, there’s a reason that NaNo only lasts a month. Writers burn out. After writing a book in a month, we need a break.
And we’ll have plenty to do with a full book to edit!
I’m not complaining here. I’m pleased with my progress and I look forward to working on this story more. But I do think it’s important to remember that writing is a challenge, it’s complicated and emotional, and no we really can’t do it every day. Yes, NaNo pushes us to the limits. That’s fantastic. But at the end of the day, we need to do what’s best for our books and what’s best for ourselves. At least until we have to hit tomorrow’s word count. ♦