Not exactly the title you were expecting to see from a NaNoWriMo-prep article on Kingdom Pen, now was it?
Pretty soon, the beginning of November will hit and writers all around the world will be starting NaNoWriMo: when they attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month. At this point, several of you probably plan on doing it, several of you have probably decided against it, and some of you are on the fence.
This article is written for those people who are on the fence about it.
A bit of background information about my own experience here may be appreciated. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice before: once in 2011 and once in 2012. Both times I competed, wrote, and managed to succeed at hitting the 50,000 word mark. I was more productive in writing than I had ever been before, and more than that, I enjoyed the challenge.
But then I stopped doing NaNoWriMo. There were a couple of legitimate reasons for this. First off, I was in the middle of revising my work from the previous years, and I wasn’t about to put it down mid-progress in order to start a new work. But there was another reason as well. I had started college. And the idea of trying to write 50,000 words while handling a full load of college classes sounded insane to me. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
This year, however, I’m planning on doing NaNoWriMo. But not only that, but I’m also planning on failing NaNoWriMo. Why, you might ask? The short answer is that trying while failing is better than not trying at all. Read on as I try to answer this question more fully.
1. Why to Do NaNoWriMo
Now, the first question you may be asking is why to do NaNoWriMo in the first place. A quick Google search might find better and more complete answers than the one I’m going to give here. But in brief, in my opinion, there are two major advantages that NaNoWriMo provides writers.
The first advantage is goal-setting.
While each writer deals with goals differently, generally speaking, setting goals is incredibly helpful for getting stuff done. The goal of writing 50,000 words is certainly an intense goal to set. But many writers who never pound out 50,000 words in an average month somehow manage to do so in the month of November. Why? The act of setting a goal is motivating. And so because of this goal, many writers are able to do that which they didn’t think possible before.
The second major advantage provided is accountability.
I’ve personally been able to connect a good bit more with different writing friends because of NaNoWriMo. Whether it be by doing word wars with them, discussing our different writing projects, or just logging onto the site and watching their progress, this sort of accountability has both attracted me to participate, and also provided a healthy sort of peer pressure to keep me plodding along toward that 50,000 word mark. Goal-setting when combined with accountability can be pretty potent. And so these two advantages together really help writers to write more than they would otherwise, making NaNoWriMo a rather profitable use of time if you can pull it off.
Of course, that’s where the conditional comes in. It’s profitable if you can pull it off. But what if you can’t? And that’s where the title of this article comes back into play. Because I’m actually trying to write a novel this year instead of just editing one, I’m interested in doing NaNoWriMo. But there is still the issue that I’m doing college full-time, interning for six hours a week, and then working for another six. I’m not sure that I really do have the time to write 50,000 words this year. And that’s where the whole failure aspect comes in.
2. Why to Fail NaNoWriMo
If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly. That’s a motto that I first heard from my mom, and one that I’ve kept in the back of my mind ever since. The idea is simply this: even if you fail doing something, if you were trying to do something that’s worth doing and you actually get somewhere, then that’s better than just not trying at all or simply settling for something less.
The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel. But NaNoWriMo is more (or ought to be more) than just writing an arbitrary amount of words. It’s about challenging yourself to write more than you otherwise would. It’s certainly a laudable goal to write 50,000 words. But even if you can’t hit it—even if you “fail” by missing the mark—if you emerge from it having written more than you otherwise would, have you really failed NaNoWriMo? You didn’t hit the highest goal, yes. But if you’ve written more than you otherwise would, I would strongly suggest that you haven’t failed at all.
“Because at the end of the day, trying to do something hard, even if you don’t succeed, is better than not trying at all.”
So, that’s why I’m going to fail NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not going to necessarily try to fail—I’m going to try to do it. But I am well aware that I will in all probability fail given the amount of other things that are also on my plate. But as I considered whether or not to do it, I came to the realization that while I may not succeed in hitting the 50,000 word mark, if I write more than I would otherwise because of the advantages listed above, then it’s something worth doing.
NaNoWriMo isn’t something for every writer. But for those of you who are on the fence on whether or not to attempt the venture, the option of trying and failing may be worth considering. Maybe you set a smaller word goal for yourself. Maybe you try even though you’ll likely fail. But either way, NaNoWriMo is not really just about the goal—it’s about the mindset and the process that gets you there. So maybe you won’t be able to make it all the way. Maybe you’ll “fail” by the competition standards.
But if you challenge yourself and give it your best, then it’s all worth it.