NaNo–Nah, No

Today marks the second day of November, which means it is day number two of that much-heralded event, NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month). If you’ve never heard of NaNo, I suspect you of having lived in a cave for the past 3-5 years or of not being in any way connected to the writer community. Because NaNo haunts the consciousness of writers everywhere, even those of us who don’t “play.”

Just in case you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, let me explain the “rules” in brief. The idea is to start a fresh WIP on November 1 and to write 50,000 words by November 30th. If you write those 50,000 words, you’re a NaNo “winner.” If you don’t, well, I wouldn’t say you’re a loser, but you don’t get to call yourself a winner, either.

I know a lot of writers who swear by NaNo. It pushes them to set aside everything else and just pound on that WIP for a month. It forces them to turn off the nasty internal editor and write like the wind. And a fair number of folks have had amazing success with books they wrote for NaNo. Carrie Ryan, author of the much-celebrated YA novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, wrote that manuscript for NaNo in either 2006 or 2007. She “won” NaNo, then won a very nice contract with Delacorte Press and a movie deal (after, I have no doubt, my revising of the initial manuscript).

But for some of us, NaNo just doesn’t work. I’m one of those someones. I’ve tried a couple of times, but I’ve never managed to stick to it for more than a week or so. There are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I am, by nature, a slow, plodding writer. A 25,000 word month is cooking for me! But there are other factors as well.

First of all, what lunatic decided November, of all months, should be the one we use to pound out 50k? Did they forget Thanksgiving in the US is in November, not to mention Black Friday? (I never, ever shop on Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean I forget its importance.) In addition to the three days to a week kids usually get off from school for Thanksgiving, there’s also the Veteran’s Day holiday, and (in my school district) the dreaded weeklong early dismissal for parent-teacher conferences. Seriously, even if I thought I had a prayer of generating 50k in a month, it would never be in November (just as it would never be in the summer months, during the Christmas holidays, or spring break). Also, as an aside, why not choose a month with 31 days rather than a measly 30?

For me, I think the perfect NaNo month, were I to choose one, would be May. It has 31 days, only one brief holiday (the three-day weekend for Memorial Day), and the kids are in school full-time. The weather’s nice, but not so nice you can’t bear to be indoors.

But even then, I doubt I’d really ever be able to commit to NaNo to the point of being a winner. In the final analysis, it’s just not set up for the way I write. And while I have nothing but respect and encouragement for those who do NaNo, and I hope they’re all winners. Meanwhile, I’ll keep plodding away on my WIP at my 1k-per-weekday-if-I’m-lucky pace and watch you all fly by me.