I recently read an article called "3 Reasons Not to do NaNoWriMo," and while she makes some valid claims, she's missing the point of NaNoWriMo.
Marla says the three following reasons are reasons not to participate:
1) Is this your real writing goal right now?
2) Set up for stress
3) Short-Term imbalance, long term effects.
I will argue the following:
1) Write with purpose: NaNoWriMo, is called National Novel Writing Month but the goal is only 50,000 words. Does this make a novel, no. Does it make a great start to a novel, yes. The problem is that most people continuously say "I want to write a novel," but do they?
I read an article last week that said out of the houndreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people that say they want to write a novel, only 5% actually ever finish the script and have a completed project in their hands. That's a handful of the initial amount. That means, if you're sitting there thinking "one day I'll write my novel," you've got a one in twenty chance of ever getting it done. In a world where one in four get cancer, those odds are pretty slim-comparatively. So, you're more likely to get cancer than write your novel.
Catch my drift? Nanowrimo gives you the ability to say, "I don't care if I finish it all this month, I'm going to start." And how can you finish something you never start?
2) Plan your time: 50,000 words is the goal, but it's not necessary. If you don't complete 50,000 words, you won't fail. They won't throw you in jail. So, participants need to be realistic and can't expect a whole lot in a month. It took me over 16 months to write my novel, and it's still not done editing. Also, I had to work. There was not way I was going to complete a novel in a month, even as a single person without kids, a job etc. An author in my genre, Laurel K Hamilton, takes on average 6 months to write a novel and she's in the double digits of published novels. If a professional writer has a hard time living life and pumping out novels within 6 months. You are not going to finish a completed and edited version of a novel in 30 days.
Try this instead:
Every weekday, write 1000 words. It's about an hour's worth of writing, if you've planned ahead and don't get stuck. If you don't type quickly, write it out by hand. On weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, write 3800 words a day. This works out to exactly 50,000 words by the end of a month. This can be done in the morning before you wake, over your breaks at work and perhaps at night to unwind before you go to bed. When you take 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there, over time it all adds up. If you miss your 1000 words today, do you owe 2000 tomorrow? No. You don't. You owe 1000 words tomorrow. Mourn the loss of yesterday's possibilities and get over it. If you go into writing debt, you'll never get out of it.
Do what you can, don't break your back and it'll lead to my next point.
3) Create a Habit. Nanowrimo isn't just for the newbie writer, it's for people who want to write. Those people who have always enjoyed writing but for one reason or another don't. Perhaps they've been told by local artists that writing fiction isn't a worthy art form, perhaps even writing at all has been taught to them as a "necessary evil" throughout their lives, but something makes them want to tell a story.
That's what writing is: you are a story teller and you are telling the universe that you deserve to tell that story. Writing can consist of writing in a journal every day, making sketches of a story line or writing scenes as they come to you. Writing is a habit and it's one that takes a long time to pick up. There's always excuses and there's always a reason not to. I've found it akin to going to the gym, "I don't have time," tends to take the lead when I think of excuses. Like the gym, I end up feeling grateful I hauled my butt out of bed though. It's been a long lesson to learn, but when I start writing-even when it's hard to continue writing, I look back at what's on the page and I hate it, but I feel great it's out. Sometimes I end up throwing it out, but most times it works just fine. Most of the time, if I show up my muse will too...it's just harder to detect her presence if I'm in a crappy mood.
This time is to create, not necessarily a novel, but to create the habit of writing and making it a priority in your life if you're serious about being a writer. Perhaps you only want to write a memoir, perhaps you absolutely hate writing. If this is the case, don't do Nanowrimo. If you hate writing, don't write.
If you hate writing, create an outline of how you would want your memoir organized right down to the chapter and perhaps paragraph. Once done, speak into a voice recorder. Then, send the recording to get transcribed. Take the transcription, organize it into your format and then edit it or send it away to be edited.
In the end, it doesn't matter how you write, only that you learn what your commitment level is. If you truly hate to write, then don't. Hire someone else or don't write at all. Paint, draw, skydive. Usually, people who aren't just having a hard time but truly loathe writing produce writing that people loathe to read.
If you truly love to write, Nanowrimo is the time of year you can commit to writing on a regular basis and teach your family or friends about your new commitment. Because, if you love to write- you won't mind doing it on your breaks, early in the morning or late at night. You'll find the time because after November, you'll have taught yourself that even when you don't feel like it, it's worth it to earn the exhilarating feeling of creating something from scratch and being a part of that 5%.