I’m Terrible at NaNoWriMo…
and I’m (Sort of) Participating Anyway

by Kayla Whaley

I’m terrible at NaNo. Just complete and utter garbage at it. I’ve tried for the past several years to be less garbage-like, but I inevitably quit a week in with nothing but a few thousand words and absolute disgust for myself, those words, every blazing atom in this disgusting universe.

It’s not pretty, is what I’m saying.

And yet…I’m doing NaNo again this year!

No, it’s not because I actively enjoy wanting to douse my laptop in accelerant and toss a lit nutmeg and spice candle on it. It’s not even because I like a challenge, or because I think I’ll be better at it this year.

It’s because I love the atmosphere, the community, the creative joy practically pulsing out of the internet. That collective drive is more motivating than a picture of the Avengers telling you to write and more energizing than the venti-est of pumpkin spice lattes.

But before I could commit this year, I needed to figure out a new strategy. Because attempting to bang out 50K words of trash is the fastest way for me to lost interest in a story. It’s happened every time: after NaNo, I never touch that story again. I’ve finally figured out it’s because language is my way into a story. Yeah, crafting beautiful sentences that you might delete later seems like a waste of time. It goes against not just most writing advice but the very spirit of NaNo to spend an hour fidgeting with a single paragraph. To lose a day to restructuring a scene for better clarity, tone, flow, etc. To hunt for the perfect metaphor even as your peers zoom past you with 5, 10, 15, 20K. But that’s my process. If I don’t love the words I’m using, I won’t love the story I’m telling.

So this year, I’m trying something new.

Instead of aiming for 50K (or even a reduced word count), I’m resolving to immerse myself as deeply into my story as possible. I’m going to spend the majority of every day hunkered into this dark, beautiful, terrifying world I’m building. I’m not promising myself words this year. I’m promising myself focus.

Yeah, it’s a bit more nebulous a goal (and a helluva lot harder to track), but I’m hoping this strategy will let me participate without sabotaging myself.

If anyone else wants to join me in my rebellious ways, please do. Because the real gift of NaNo isn’t a pile of words; it’s the fact that for one month every year we assert–as a community–that stories matter. And when I inevitably feel guilty for not plowing through my draft as fast as I can just to hit that 50K mark, I’m going to remind myself of that assertion:

Stories matter.

The speed at which you create them doesn’t.

2 thoughts on “I’m Terrible at NaNoWriMo…
and I’m (Sort of) Participating Anyway

  1. I love this strategy and have resigned myself to a similar rebellion–instead of word count, just writing *something* that counts as fiction. Best wishes for your immersive world-building and sentence-crafting. Seems like you’ve got a good thing going by knowing your strengths and work-flow. Happy Nano!

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