For all you NaNo folks out there – stop reading this and get to writing! And good luck.
But I do want to talk about NaNo for a second, because I think it serves a fantastic purpose: getting people to write. It wakes up those muscles that some writers need to get to it. Then it also drives the writers who are stuck to just get something on paper that can be fixed later.
After doing a few word-writing races this year, and after a few discussions with my writerly fellows, I’ve concluded that getting stuff down is, indeed, incredibly important. It’s satisfying to see paper accumulate. Trees be damned!
But…and you do hear the but, don’t you?…if you are looking to improve your writing and you already write consistently (not necessarily every day, I mean, we do have lives, or some of us do, maybe) then I would consider skipping NaNo.
Why? Because the mindless plopping down of words – which is the definition of NaNo, to get those words down whether or not they are very coherent – only helps you if you’re not putting words down already. So, if you’re not putting words down, stop reading this and get to work. You won’t get that coveted NaNo blog patch otherwise.
For those of us working on a larger project prior to NaNo, and who are moving the words along: Step 1 accomplished.
The next part is considering how those words work. Sure, you want to outrun your inner editor/heckler but throwing words at a page, and hoping they stick, is no way to learn how to write better. The real way to outrun those inner editors/hecklers is to write any-friggin-way, and get better at the writing. Then there’s more confidence, which leads you to work on writing better, which leads to more confidence, which leads to better writing, and so on and so on.
NaNo doesn’t allow you to take that into consideration, that’s not its purpose. If you’re already writing and moving along at a steady clip, then I say keep that clip, don’t sweat the word count, and focus on what you are doing. Changing pace or schedule because it’s a celebratory word-smith month could actually stall you, distract you, and/or make you think you’re working too slow. As long as you’re writing, just keep going.
If you’re not writing, then stop reading this and do the NaNo challenge. 50K(words) to you.