Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo Warnings

It's that time of year. The month when huge numbers of wannabe authors plan on writing that full novel in November. While the NaNoWriMo campaign is great for getting people interested in writing and maybe kicking a few in the butt to finally do something, there are a few things I should remind you of.

First of all, the idea behind this is just to write and get words on a page. Although this approach is great for speed writing, it is pretty much violating the guidelines in the writing process of planning and thinking about what you put on the page. If you do not take the time to have a rough plan in mind for that day's worth of writing, you will end up with a ton of edits by the end of the month.

Secondly, the writing process does recommend that a writer spends a lot of time editing as the writing progresses. You don't wait until the end to check things over, but check it as you go. Again NaNoWriMo emphasizes to not look back and just keep going. Unfortunately, without editing as you go, there will be worse problems down the line. Your story will head off in the wrong direction and then you will spend countless hours trying to get your characters back on track. You will contradict yourself, You will create scenes that are not necessary.

At the end of each day, take the time to edit the stories. Look over what you wrote. Think about how the material fits with what you did the day before and how it fits with what is going to happen next. If you are off track, plan on that next chapter or block of writing to start where it needs to be and not necessarily where you left off. That screwed up chapter can be put in a stack of "this needs to be reworked."

Finally, the biggest issue with the NANoWriMo is that it emphasizes the amount of words you are writing daily. It is all about word count. The problem here is that authors are not really thinking about the story. Let me give you an outside story that might stress why this is not the best approach.

My wife's grandfather used to be amazing at Blackjack. This guy could sit at a table and make a huge amount of money. But, he also had two rules he operated by. The first was, if he lost three hands in a row, he got up and quit. End of story. The second is the one that applies to the writers. He would say that if he ever thought during play "If I bet this amount or win this hand, I can get back what I lost." he would then get up. The reason is he was thinking about the money and not thinking about the game.

For writers, if all you are thinking about is word count or page count, you are missing the most important piece of the puzzle. The story!

This program has potential, but I will tell you, if you ignore the rules of the writing process, then you are dooming yourself to serious problems down the line!


  1. I never have done the NaNoWriMo thing. The one time I started it, I dropped out because it didn't fit the way I think of stories. So I was glad to see this post. I always like your posts. Even though I don't write in the genre you specialize in, I always find your posts applicable to what I do write, and full of so much common sense. Have a great day.

  2. As a writing teacher, I have to totally disagree with this advice.

    A writer must write in a way that's comfortable for them. Some writers, particularly experienced one, can edit as they go, but most find that editing as they go totally destroys the forward momentum of their writing.

    A writer should find what works for them and stick with it. The editing process after the story is finished; however, should be a slow and methodical process.

    My personal method is a mixture of the two methods. I start my writing day by rereading and editing what I wrote the day before to get my brain and imagination back into the story. At this point, I start writing new material.