The popular November writing spree known as National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) seems to be bigger than ever this year, topping the charts with articles written about it and multiple trending hashtags on Twitter (which, for non-tweeters, means that a lot of people are talking about it).
When I first discovered NaNo back in college, I felt as if it were a dream come true. It was a time I could connect with other writers all over the world for one month and push my writing harder than ever. It meant I could take an idea I’d been lightly toying with for a while and see what would happen if I sat down and wrote it. I was surprised after I got married last year to find that, though my writer husband was already familiar with it, he doesn’t like it–he wishes to discourage it, in fact. Looking around, I see other people popping up with similar opinions… and they have good reason for it.
People like NaNoWriMo because it’s approachable. Writing a novel in a month is a fun activity and something to brag about to your friends. The site’s atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, with many goodies and activities to keep you involved, including sweet deals from sponsors to local get-togethers to forums to help with every problem you experience (and to procrastinate). You can chart your progress, you don’t have to worry about writing well, and even if you don’t succeed you can rest with the knowledge that you still wrote more than you otherwise would have.
But this challenge is not without its downsides. Its increasing popularity over the past few years has taken it from being a more literary event to a more popular event. It’s nerdy, commercial, and produces some rotten excuses for literature. True, it’s just supposed to be the first draft. I usually edit my NaNo books months after November before finally publishing them on Createspace. But that’s not the case with everyone. Some people who would otherwise have serious potential as writers find it too easy to use November as their writing month and don’t touch their rough novels when the challenge is over. They don’t bother writing anything the rest of the year because of all the work that entails. Instead of being inspired by NaNoWriMo, people use it as an excuse to get lazy and let it detract from their writing that could have been much better.
I like NaNoWriMo. I’m going to make time for it next month alongside my other writing projects because it helps get me in the habit of writing more content more frequently, and it’s a good way to re-ignite my passion for writing if I’ve hit a slump. I love taking old ideas and watching them soar, even if I’ll never be rich or famous from doing so (though I did earn a grand total of about $3 from selling copies of last year’s novel, Mostly Human. It’s not a challenge for everyone, and if it’s taking away from your more serious writing possibilities, you might want to consider something else instead. But it’s fun, immersive, and something I would definitely recommend if you want to give your writing life a bit of spice.