National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, has grown into a writing institution over the past decade. Started in 1999 with less than two dozen writers, it now has over 200,000 participants and has taken on a life of its own. I know a lot of people who consider it an annual “write” of passage (I know, that was bad). Just a look around at writing websites, it seems like everyone is doing NaNoWriMo—much to the chagrin of some fellow writers. Posts with word counts abound. Posts trumpeting finished chapters. More posts angsting over falling hopelessly behind.
But you know what, NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. NaNoWriMo is not the be-all, end-all of writing. In fact, I think it can be counterproductive for some writers. There is no one way to write—there are as many ways to write as there are writers. Some people write slowly; others spill words on the page like water. Pantsers versus outliners…people who draft once and are done; others who need two dozen drafts and even then they might not be comfortable saying “finished.”
I view NaNoWriMo as a tool to aid writers. Like any tool, it should only be used if it’s the right one for the job. If needed, it should also be modified to suit a writer’s needs. Who says you have to write a novel? Why not write five or ten short stories, instead? Is 50,000 words too much? Then write 40K? NaNoWriMo isn’t a magic bullet to writing success—in fact, I would guess over 99% of the words written during NaNoWriMo will never be publishable—but it can be an effective tool. If used the right way.