Sunday, October 18, 2020

Is NaNoWriMo for You?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is:  To NaNoRiMo or not.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. I have mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo, mostly because I think it encourages writers to essentially binge-write, often exhausting themselves creatively in order to get that 50K.

Anyone who's followed me any length of time - by reading my blog posts or listening to my podcast - knows that I'm a strong proponent of finding a sustainable pace for writing. I've tracked my own productivity for years - almost a decade now - and I've talked to countless authors about their process. The binge method feels good in the moment, but also results in crashes. Overall, I've found that the creation binges don't compensate for the resulting crashes. This lowers overall productivity.

Conversely, discovering a sustainable production pace - a daily wordcount that a writer can produce over the long term without crashing - increases overall productivity in an amazing way. 

So, is NaNoWriMo for you? I think it can be super useful for building that daily writing habit and discovering what your sustainable wordcount is. But I think going through NaNoWriMo should be focused on that: discovering what you can do in the long term. Writing 50K in November and then crashing for months afterword won't lead to a sustainable writing practice.

Now, if you don't care about developing a sustainable writing practice and just want to see if you can write 50K in 30 days, then go for it.

But if you DO want to be a career author, then consider setting up a schedule for NaNoWriMo where you slowly increase your wordcount over the course of the month, like this:

1 100

2 200

3 300

4 400

5 500

6 750

7 1000

8 1250

9 1500

10 1750

11 2000

12 2000

13 2000

14 2000

15 2000

16 2100

17 2100

18 2100

19 2100

20 2100

21 2100

22 2200

23 2200

24 2200

25 2200

26 2200

27 2200

28 2200

29 2200

30 2200

By the end of November 30, you’d have 50,150 words. By slowly increasing the wordcount and not exhausting yourself at the beginning, you'll build up your ability to write sustainably, much like training in a new exercise. Best of all, by the time you’ve got yourself in the habit of doing 2,200 words a day, it will feel very easy and natural. Because you’d be in shape for it.

And if 2,200 words/day isn't sustainable for you, drop it back. Find out what IS sustainable. Writing is individual and what's key is finding your own process and owning it. NaNoWriMo is just one tool to discover that. 


  1. I don't nano, but I've used your write everyday to steadily increase word count advice and love how well it works!