Why I’m Not Participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.

April heralds the first Camp NaNoWriMo for 2023, and I’m giving it a miss. Why? Because, personally, NaNoWriMo never works for me.

The Deadline

I’m not against deadlines. I enjoy the adrenaline buzz those short periods of stress can propel me to achieve. Except, it doesn’t work like that with my writing methods, and combined with the word count, the quality of my writing seriously degrades.

The Word Count

Combine the word count with the deadline, and I am doomed to fail. It makes me think of all those cheap reality TV shows like The Great British Bake Off, which takes a typically enjoyable activity (in this case, baking) and turns it into a competition. The only person I am competing with in my writing is myself the day before. How can I improve myself? Except, go onto social media, and I’ll see people proudly posting their word count wins that day. I should be happy for them. I am. But then I look at the pitiful word count I managed today, and it suddenly feels like I am competing against others and no longer just against myself. It sucks the joy out of writing, and writing is something I really enjoy.

Quantity instead of Quality

The starting goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel. A few days in, my goal switches to reach the word count by the end of the deadline. I consciously added info dumps, filler words and dragged out scenes because I wanted to hit today’s word count goal. It ended up having zero to do with the story. I didn’t feel I had the time to brood on character development or the plot. I’d use overused cliche tropes. If I won NaNoWriMo, I typically halve the word count afterwards by cutting all the fluff I’d added to reach it. Plus, (because I never had the time to think deeply about the plot and the characters) I usually rewrite most of it.

Was it a waste of 30 days of writing? Maybe not, because you can’t edit a blank page. But for me, it is better to stick to my own manageable goals, allowing me to explore the story I am writing and giving me time to disappear into research so I can make an immersive world and fully developed, believable characters.

Life? Don’t talk to me about Life!

It always gets in the way. A family emergency interrupted yesterday’s writing. I am all for manifesting my desires, but sometimes situations in life are out of our control.

Can I carve out time to write every day? Yes, but some days I can put aside a few hours, and others I will only note down a brief paragraph or a piece of dialogue that comes to mind.

Are there any redeeming qualities to NaNoWriMo?

Unlike November’s NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your word count to something challenging but achievable.

NaNoWriMo is a fun way to have a go at writing a novel if you have never tried it. Plus, you will also find a community of like-minded people.

I have used NaNoWriMo to kick-start an ailing writing habit. My focus is not so much on the word count or the deadline but on using the month to get back into an achievable and enjoyable writing habit that will continue long after NaNoWriMo has ended.

How to make a Writing Habit which will stick

Make challenging yet achievable goals.

Challenging yourself to write a novel in 30 days is unlikely to succeed. You know your schedule. Carve out a couple of hours a week to focus on your writing. If that is too easy for you, up it a little. If life is turning hectic, dial it down. Adjust your goal regularly so it always remains achievable. But not too easy you end up losing your drive.

Focus on the quality of your work, not the quantity.

Set time goals for your writing rather than word counts. Keeping your focus on the story and not reaching a number will mean your work will be better and require fewer rewrites and editing later.

Other things can count as writing.

Research is a good example. Mentally sitting a character in your head and learning what they are like. Getting inspiration from real life and other creative works.

Measure your progress against yourself, not others.

Whenever I feel my writing is rubbish and why I bother, I dig out an old first draft from years back. I have a read-through and cringe at just how bad it was. Holding onto old drafts and earlier work acts to remind us how far we’ve come. Using your history as a benchmark means you stop looking at other writers and comparing yourself to them.

Creating writing habits which stick is different for everyone. Some will thrive on the competition and deadlines that NaNoWriMo brings. Others, however, will find breaking their goals into more manageable challenges much more beneficial. It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing, and it is all right to try something out and find it doesn’t work for you.

What does work for you? Do you find NaNoWriMo helpful? Or do you prefer sticking to your own writing habits? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  1. Pingback:Why I am doing NaNoWriMo – Emma Cox

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