NaNo and Sprinting vs. Marathon Running

| Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Today's Tune: Bonnie Taylor Shakedown

First! You guys know I'm running a contest for the next two weeks, right? A big one? With signed books and manuscript critiques? You should enter.

Next! I contributed a guest blog post for TL Conway's great big NaNoWriMo blog party. You can view my entry here, and there are lots of other great entries from great bloggers around the 'net about NaNo thoughts, strategies, and more.

Speaking of NaNo, I had a few more thoughts I wanted to add on top of my guest post. So here are those thoughts, and then you can hop on over to TL's and read many more great posts :)

I mention in my guest post that I'm a big fan of NaNoWriMo because it gets people to actually sit down and write. And I stand by that. However, I think it's important to keep a realistic head on one's shoulders and understand what NaNo is truly about: proving to yourself that yes, you can be a writer. You can write a novel-length work. You can write every day. You can create something from scratch. And all of those things are very important and inspire a lot of people.

However, NaNo is not a key to success. It's not the magic pill that will make you an accomplished novelist, or create an immediately publishable manuscript, or even train you on how to incorporate a realistic writing schedule into your life. NaNo is a fun, competitive bonding experience for people who want to be writers. But let's face it: 1,667+ words a day isn't a realistic writing schedule for most of us, especially for those of us with other jobs or family obligations. It's fun for a month, but it's not something most people can stick with on a regular basis.

Sometimes it's easy to fall into the NaNo trap... dictating our worth and dedication as writers based on how quickly we can churn out pages and how high our wordcounts get. It can lead to being more concerned with numbers and appearances than the quality of what's actually going down on the page. It can lead to burnout and shame when we don't meet our lofty wordcount goals, which leads to writer depression/anxiety and eventually giving up altogether because you can't "keep up."

This is why a dear friend of mine -- Johnny Dale, author of the YA serial The Darling Budds -- created a site dedicated to writers who want to try a different tactic. The site's called It's Not A Sprint, It's A Marathon, and it's dedicated to helping support writers in finding a healthy and realistic daily writing goal that works for them. It's not about carrying the competitive and overzealous spirit of NaNoWriMo throughout the rest of your writing life, it's about finding that pattern of regular writing that's right for you.

So, this month, if you decided to do NaNo and you find yourself falling behind for whatever reason, don't worry. Not everyone can swing 2000 words a day. And that is okay. It doesn't mean you're a failure, or a poor writer. You just need to find the path that works for you.

I'm wishing the very best of luck not only to November's NaNoWriMo participants, but to all writers out there who are trying to find the place where they fit in. I'm here to reinforce that it's okay to let go of the wacky wordcount goals and constant Twitter updates about your status. You can do this. You just need to find the right path :)

Write on!


{ Lisa Aldin } at: November 2, 2011 at 5:52 AM said...

I agree! I'm not doing NaNo this year because I've already got a manuscript I'm working on. But I'm come to realize that 500 words a day usually works for me. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. I edit a bit as a go along. It took me a really long time to find my pace/process (this manuscript, in fact). I kept thinking I must suck because I can't write as quick as some authors. It's not a race!

{ Mel Fowler } at: November 2, 2011 at 7:35 AM said...

You're right. And I'm glad that you posted this. Everyone needs to remember the quailty of their story.

I decided to try NaNo this year because I've never done it. I didn't start from scratch, so maybe I'm cheating. But I write an average of 7,000 words a week anyway. So we'll see how this turns out.

Thanks for your post!

Thanks for your post.

{ Connie Keller } at: November 2, 2011 at 8:13 AM said...

I've never done NaNo simply because I'd never be able to get the word count and then I'd be horribly depressed. But I have amazing respect for those who can do it.

My daily writing goal is at-least-fifteen-minutes-of-butt-in-the-chair-writing-time. It's what works for me.

{ Miss Cole } at: November 2, 2011 at 11:19 AM said...

Brilliant definition. For me, it's a way to sit myself down and get the second book down, no matter how rough.

{ prerna pickett } at: November 2, 2011 at 12:10 PM said...

I don't care about the word count, I just needed an excuse to start this new story! I love NaNo for being an inspiration to all those who were afraid to write, but are now giving it a chance.

{ brittanyroshelle } at: November 4, 2011 at 1:12 AM said...

I totally agree! I just blogged about this in fact. Huge word counts are like exercising too hard. I know I'm going to abandon it the next day :-)

Thanks for the awesome post!

Brittany Roshelle

The Write Stuff

{ fairyhedgehog } at: November 4, 2011 at 2:44 AM said...

For me, Nano isn't about being a writer. Not everyone who runs in the marathon is a professional runner; most aren't. I'm not planning on becoming a professional writer but I do love a challenge!

This year, I'm writing entirely for myself. I doubt that what I'm coming up with will be readable by anyone else but it's fun to try and put down that many words.

{ Laurence MacNaughton } at: November 4, 2011 at 7:26 AM said...

What people forget is that hitting a wall is the best part of NaNo. It forces you to grow as a writer. Let's face it, we're all stuck where we are until we find a way to do something better. NaNo doesn't help you learn by forcing you to write a bunch of words -- it helps you by shining a spotlight on you when you get stuck. That's why I tell my clients to approach NaNo with a plan: What does my character want? Why? Who/what stands in the way? What does my character need to do next? If you learn how to answer those questions on the fly, you'll never be at a loss for what to write. You'll laugh in the face of writer's block, and "win" NaNo like a pro.

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