” … is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly-yet-firm due date, and miracles will happen.”
(NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which happens each November. Participants commit to writing a 50,000 word rough draft between November 1 and November 30.)
I’m inclined to agree.
NaNoWriMo calls itself a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to writing a novel, so it seems appropriate that I decided at the very last minute to go for it.
In the kitchen Saturday morning, after I’d done my first 1,667 word session, Will asked me what the point was. Why write a novel in a month?
Many people do it for fun; many do it for the community aspect. Many more people seize the opportunity to move another bucket list item from “someday” to “now.”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know exactly why I want to do it, and it has everything to do with personality.
I’m an INFP, heavy on the “P.” I’m terrific at endlessly generating ideas (or characters, themes, and plot points) but terrible at committing to one course of action and following through. (As the authors of Creative You put it: “I’m an endless lightning storm of ideas, but the bolts don’t often strike the ground.”)
Trying to commit to a single course of action (or, in this case, a single story arc) brings out all my worst perfectionistic tendencies. I get paralyzed with indecision thinking about the infinite possibilities for a first line, an opening scene, an inciting incident.
This is where deadlines come in.
I need deadlines. I love deadlines, because they help me follow through.
The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to write a good novel, it’s to write a 50,000 word rough draft in a very short—probably too short—window. My goal isn’t to write something good, it’s to write 50,000 more-or-less coherent words. Most of it will be crap. Knowing that frees me to actually begin.
(I’d be very curious to hear more about why other NaNoWriMo writers’ personalities and why they choose to participate.)
By the way, I read No Plot?, No Problem! in preparation for NaNoWriMo (if you can call skimming it the night before “preparation,” and while it’s known as the NaNo handbook and has some good tips, there are other books on writing I’d recommend with a lot more confidence.
I love Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k (65 pages, Kindle only, $0.99), which is aimed at fiction writers but is equally applicable to nonfiction, and Marion Roach’s The Memoir Project, which addresses creative nonfiction but is equally applicable to fiction.
I keep coming back to The Getaway Car, Bird by Bird, and Stephen Pressfield (especially Do the Work). I’d like to be able to recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser, but I haven’t read it yet. (Don’t worry: I have a deadline for that, and I’ll have it read before the year is out.)
I’d love to hear about your relationship with deadlines, your experience with NaNoWriMo, and your favorite books on writing in comments.