NaNoWriMo: Is it Worth the Stress?

Is NaNoWriMo Worth the Stress?

Today is October 23rd: just over a week away from the first day of November.

When most people think of November, images of falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes (which are disgusting, by the way), and the occasional Christmas tree are probably what comes to mind. But for the writers out there, November is infamous as the most stressful, and perhaps most rewarding, month of the year.

November is National Novel Writing Month, 30 days where thousands of people lock themselves up in their offices and attempt to write 1,667 words a day, or 50,000 over the course of the month. Nanowrimo is simultaneously exhilerating and anxiety-inducing, and I have yet to decide which weighs out the other.

I have never personally tried Nanowrimo (though I’ve had more than a few hopeful Octobers, only to finish November with a blank page), but I have high hopes for this year. I have more writing experience than any previous year I’ve dreamt of Nanowrimo success, and thanks to my half-written novel I somewhat abandoned this summer, I have learned a few lessons about what it really takes to be a writer.

But part of me isn’t quite convinced. Thinking about it now, it sounds almost glamorous—sitting at the keyboard for hours every day and coming out much more productive because of it—but the realist in me knows that this could easily turn into a negative thing. 1,667 words a day isn’t an unrealistic goal, it would take only a few hours, but in those few hours you are forced to sacrifice other things that you might rather be doing: reading, blogging, sleeping, etc. This is the reality whether you write a novel in a month or in a year, but I worry that the stressful nature of the challenge might spark a resentment toward writing itself.

In other words, when I write a novel I want to enjoy writing a novel. Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that in any span of time writing such a long story will constantly be your top priority, but regardless, it should be something you love. But how do I decide that Nanowrimo is not for me without even giving it a fair shot?

In Nanowrimo’s defense, it takes a huge amount of discipline to get yourself to the computer or notebook and writing those thousands of words, and that amount of discipline would be good for anyone to learn. Discipline and stress are likely to go hand in hand, but all good things require hard work and sometimes pain. The idea of working so hard on something and giving up other things I enjoy scares me, but I know that the reward in the end will be worth much more than anything I have to give up to achieve it, and the difficulty of the challenge even makes it a little more appealing.

Really, it all boils down to one question: do I want my story written, or do I want to sit on it forever while waiting for inspiration to strike (which could literally never happen)? Nanowrimo isn’t an easy task by any means, but whether I finish or not, I’ll come out of it with a lot more if I try than if I let the bad days discourage me from the whole endeavour.

Whether or not you believe in Nanowrimo, it is always worth a try. Writing your story in such a short period of time has a lot of pros: the flow will be better, the ideas will find their way onto the page quickly, and you will have a few hundred pages of horrible writing that you can spend December turning into something that can one day be amazing. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I don’t know how far I’ll get this Nanowrimo, but if it’s a little more than one blank page, I’ll take that as a win. I would encourage anyone considering trying it out for the first time not to let fear hold you back, because every little effort counts.

Hopefully I will have positive updates in the future, now time to start planning…happy writing!

Bailey

39 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Is it Worth the Stress?

  1. You’ve nailed it on the head Amy. Do you want your ideas to be written? I struggled with that for years myself until last year I really sat down with my first NaNo (I did it the year before but wasn’t serious, only 7,000 words). Last year I was able to accomplish 15,000 words. This year I’m hoping to accomplish that elusive goal of 50,000. I know i’m a lot more serious writer than I used to be. And believe me, that almost 1,700 words a day will go by quickly once you sit down to write. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good luck to you, Bailey — with WriMo or any writing adventure.
    There are many kinds of stress, and they all affect each of us differently. I’m under huge detrimental (to health) stress with my job. Yet I opt for the additional stress of NaNoWriMo. It’s a different kind of stress. Last year I said I needed the distraction. This year I say I need the “rah-rah!” of the exciting, supportive environment.
    So, just write. Type anything that comes to you. Don’t worry about literary rules or form, just write. (You can edit for those things some other time.) Take all the limits and rules off your imagination. Let your thoughts be a convertible with the top down, cruising down the highway. No limits.
    If you need the occasional word of encouragement, my ID at NaNoWriMo is “Riordain.”
    Now, go WriMo-mo-mo! Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For me, NaNoWriMo is like riding a roller coaster. I get in line, all excited; I get to the front of the line and start to regret everything, but not enough to chicken out; the ride itself is a mixture of adrenaline and “weeeeeeeee” and “lol why am I doing this”; and then at the end of the ride, I want to get back in line again.

    My user name over on the NaNo site is atmilliways, feel free to add me as a buddy if you like. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I thought about doing NaNoWriMo once or twice, but never actually sat down and did it until I’d already proved to myself I could write 50,000 words in a month. I actually used it to push myself into getting a novel finished when I’d spent the last twelve or fourteen months writing a novel a month, all in the same series, and I was getting a little weary.
    I had a number of advantages, and the largest of those was that I had no life. So, sitting down and doing a few thousand words a night was no big problem. Then I turned professional and did it a couple more times, when I had the opportunity, but I came to the conclusion that it was doing nothing for me. I’m doing it this year because the timing worked out right more than a strong urge to do it. It does let me smash out something experimental once in a while which I’m not really sure is ever going to be read by anyone.
    But… I think NaNo works best, and is easiest to achieve, if you follow the original spirit of the thing. Writing 1,667 words in an evening isn’t a hard thing to do if you have a start and an idea of where it’s going, and you never second-guess yourself. Just write. Don’t worry over the perfect word. Don’t worry whether that first sentence is terrible. All of that’s for editing. Just write.
    Look at it that way, and NaNoWriMo isn’t stressful, it’s liberating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great way to look at it! It is liberating in a way because you don’t have time to waste worrying if it’s good, all you have to do is make sure you have something down, which can really push you to get started on a project. I hope this month is just as successful for your writing as all those other months were, thank you for sharing your opinion!

      Like

  5. I didn’t do Nanowrimo last year, but I did commit to writing 50,000 words last November and I feel like it was a great warmup. For you, I think focusing on why you want to participate will help you decide. If you just want to finish a novel, go ahead. If you want to finish a high quality novel and you don’t feel ready today, then you probably won’t tomorrow either. Best of luck to you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s definitely important to consider, and I’ve decided I will be doing it because I love writing and I want to push myself to do try something new! Whether you write a novel in a month or over a span of 10 years, a first draft is for testing the waters and getting your ideas into words, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo is about! If you plan to participate this year, good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Starts Today! – Thar She Blows!

  7. Beautifully said. I agree with everything except about the pumpkin lattes. 😉 I enjoy them, although I admit all the flavoring can disguise a poor quality coffee. 😉 I’m especially feeling the pressure today when we’re asked to double our word count. Not sure if I’m going to succeed at that!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it is a great way to establish story writing as a habit in your life. If you wrote 1,000 words a week, in 52 weeks you have that 50,000. It isn’t so much about word count. It is far more about doing regularly and not quitting. If it takes a month or a year, it doesn’t matter. Finishing the story, however long it is – short, novella, or novel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautifully said! It’s not about the time frame, it’s about writing and enjoying it nomatter how much time it may take. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. If you are participating in Nanowrimo, good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the like on my blog! I am cheering you on! My personal philosophy is that no matter what, at the end of the month I have gained some clarity and perhaps even changed gears completely. Most importantly, whether I write the 1,667 words a day (which I have not, I average about 1.500 words a day) or not, I am writing each day and it helps my focus. Enjoy the process! And I am with you: Pumpkin-Spice-Lattes are disgusting! Best wishes, Anna

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how I try to look at it! As long as I’m writing, I’m accomplishing something, so I’m trying not to get too caught up in the stress of my word count! Good luck on your writing!

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  10. As you could see from the blog post of mine you read today, I am doing a personal goal of 2,000 words this year. I participated in NaNo in 2014 and 2015 taking a break in 2016. Now, I’m back at it using the event to do the first rewrite of my novel.
    I think NaNo is also stressful but it’s also a kick in the pants for someone like me who needs a bit of a push now and then to write. I love writing, don’t get me wrong – I am always writing something even if it’s just a quick note to myself. Still, with my health issues, writing on the computer gets painful, literally.
    Still, NaNo is well worth the effort and sacrifice, especially getting to the end and knowing you did the best you could.
    Good luck on your project, and I’ll see you at the end of the month!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s definitely a good place to start, and I’m also the kind of person who needs a little nudge to get into the habit of getting things done. Good luck to you as well!

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  11. Hi Bailey

    Really interesting!

    At our recent writing retreat which you read about, our tutor/author Ed Docx said that the key to writing a novel is 300 words a day, every day. He gets up at 6 am and writes that in under 2 hours. This way he ensures consistency of progress, enjoys life and the book gets finished.

    NaNo is a great idea if you want to achieve quantity quickly but the downside is that quality gets lost in the rush to make the numbers…and what happens on 1 December?

    With a target of 300 a day, if you miss a day, you can easily catch up.

    You don’t even need to do 300 every day. 5 days out of 7 gives you 1500 words in a week or nearly 80,000 over the year. It also leaves you that valuable time to go back over the first 30,000 and to start on redrafts.

    There’s no one right way but the key has to be achievability and consistency and 300 words a day for me gets the right balance.

    Good luck!

    Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree that sometimes quality is sacrificed for quantity during nano, but for me I think getting my first draft down quickly is more effective. It keeps me close to my story so that I can easily remember what happened all the way on the first page, which makes consistency easier for me. However, 300 words a day does sound like a nice pace to get things done without making yourself crazy! Thank you for sharing that advice and good luck in all your writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s not necessarily about whether you win or not. It’s about thousands of people from around the world trying to write something for a month, and talking with other hopeful writers about the experience. Even if you only write a couple thousand words, you can say that you wrote something. You can call yourself a writer. And if you can write 50,000 words in 30 days, or even just write more than you usually do, then that’s a bonus.

    And I’m saying that as someone who’s on his 5th NaNoWriMo, and has never written less than 150,000 words since I started participating. This is my second year as an ML in my local region too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. 1667 is the daily goal for NaNo but I tell newcomers to start with a hundred. After a couple of days of zipping through a hundred words, folks find their comfort zone. And even if no more than a hundred words are written every day for thirty days, that’s three-thousand words you didn’t have November 1st.

    I wrote just short of 39K during NaNo 2014…and froze. I didn’t finish and have learned from my mistakes… while making new ones! LOL! 😀 Have fun with it and good luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. To write is pain. It’s sacrifice and torture to chase a dream that often times seems like a fictional pot of gold at the end of a rainbow made of razor blades and nails. But to have written, that it inexplicably makes all the anguish worth it. Cheers to you on your journey. Whether it’s through Nano or a timeline yo determine, I know you will see the day that you can proclaim “I have written!”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: Nanowrimo: Week Three Update | Pretty in Print

  16. Great observations! I felt the same as you – I just needed to “do it” and not worry about winning, etc. I set a goal of “officially winning” (and I did!) but I would have been satisfied with any forward progress at all.

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  17. Thanks for the like on my blog! I haven’t done Nanowrimo since 2009 (the only year I actually finished), as I realized I really would rather focus on art (and found an Art Every Day group to cheer me on instead.) I do think that Nanowrimo is pretty liberating. The year I finished I actually started over after the first week (when I realized I didn’t have much more than an opening scene) and then ended up writing about 3000 words a day. I didn’t clean my house (beyond washing dishes) for a month, but I still did Thanksgiving and football games with my family and managed to do at least some writing every day. It was kind of a personal test. Or maybe an exercise in obsession. But knowing that all these other people were doing it too was great incentive to push on. I hope you are doing well with it! You’ve got a few days left. 🙂

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