A NaNo Alternative

During November there is a lot of writing going on. Some good, some bad, and some writing is so terrible that the author’s mom wouldn’t even like it. But still people rush to participate in NaNo every year.

The only alternative that I’ve seen gain any traction online is people blogging each day of the month. Even though the two really have nothing to do with each other. I have a better idea. Why not study the craft and see how much you can learn about writing? Instead of spending the month working on something that is most likely years away from being ready for the eyes of an agent or self publishing, why not just try to become a little tiny bit better?

Read some writing books. See if you can learn about the writing process of some of your favorite authors. Heck, even taking James Patterson’s class on becoming a bestseller would probably give you a good amount of information. NaNo doesn’t.

People talk about it like it’s some great community. Or like it’s something to get better. But no. No one actually gives a damn about your writing. Why would they? They have no stake in it. And NaNo surely isn’t a means to improve your writing. Still just a gimmick.

What do you think about using the month to study the craft a bit and perhaps just gain a little knowledge rather than trying to get as many words written as possible?

37 thoughts on “A NaNo Alternative

  1. I like your alternative proposal for NaNo. This year, I decided to simply use the month as a kick in the pants for all of the different writing projects I’ve fallen behind on. No word counts, just a commitment to do more for my writing this month than I did last month. It’s still a gimmick – this should be my goal every month – but it’s one that helps motivate me, and I think that’s what matters most.

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    • Well that sounds better than tweeting every 12 hours about your word count like I’ve seen some others do. Motivation is always key. Just see if you can find it during the course of other months.

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  2. I like these suggestions! I don’t think I’m going to do NaNoWriMo next year. I really don’t like the word count aspect either. It feels like you’re forcing people to write second-rate content.

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  3. I like your alternative but…NaNo is still a good thing. It gave me the impetus to finish that novel I’ve been working on for years. Yes, I’m editing and spending lots of time reworking it, but I have that foundation that sometimes can be the hardest part. And numerous published authors have used NaNo in that way…don’t discount it out of hand.

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    • Because you needed a particular month of the year to get writing makes it a good thing? Yeah. Okay.

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      • No, but it’s a good thing to push yourself and have a community that can encourage you. Some writer’s need more of an incentive to stop procrastinating or using life as an excuse to not write. And NaNo has more than just November, it has Camps in April and June and can be a year round thing.

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  4. I think NaNo provides the motivation that some people need to write and put words on the page; I know it did for me last year. I do, however, agree that it could be more useful to spend the month trying to gain knowledge about writing

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  5. Really good alternative. Like the idea – but there is no better way to learn how to write, than to write, but even that only work when you add the next step – you get criticism and that is the big problem with NaNoWriMo, all congrats you wrote 50k, very little, now go do some actual work on making it right (there is some mind). I do NaNo as a reason to actually work though some plotting issues and get the first draft on paper rather than sitting looking at the plotline – but compared to a lot of NaNo’er there’s a difference in itself – I do work out where I want to go, who my characters are and what they are going to do. So rough as the draft always in – and it is – it’s not just a brain fart cluttering up pages, and I’m not going to straight publish it as some do. And I’ve done way more than the million words to learn your craft way before I started NaNoWriMoing.

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  6. If anyone goes into NaNo thinking they’re going to have a publish-worthy novel at the end of the month, then they need to back up and do exactly what you propose: study the craft-and-job that is writing. I personally use it to rededicate myself to my writing after a few hell months (also known as the beginning of the school year for my kids). I set my own goal, and I make it happen.

    All that said, Chuck Wendig wrote a great post on terribleminds about NaNo, and how he basically writes a NaNo per month… 50k is a number, not a magic formula. Some people write 1k/day and call it good, others write 10k in a sitting, and some people go months between writing, then pound out a novel in a week. NaNo is about creating good habits for yourself… nothing more.

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  7. Nano. I did it a couple of years ago when I was writing 50,000+ words a month any way.
    Why did I do it? To say I had, motivation, the challenge.
    I don’t write as much now but I think that’s because I was limiting myself in my chosen genre of a particular show/series of books instead of branching out, getting out of my comfort zone and using everything I’ve read and experienced to help me create something much better than the drivel I had been writing.
    Everybody has their reasons for doing Nano and other group type things. Getting an outline done for an idea they’ve already got. Motivation. Just because *shrug*.

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  8. I’m not much of a joiner, so NaNo doesn’t appeal to me particularly.
    My equivalent to your alternative method was writing a first draft of a novel – realising it was crap. Deciding I had to learn more. Going on a course, reading guides, joining forums, being part of a writer’s group, sending my work to a literary consultant, writing another two books, writing, writing, writing …
    It’s taken seven years so far and I think I’m starting to get there 🙂
    You need to be able to write all year round, everyday – even on days you don’t much feel like it. That’s how the pros do it

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    • Exactly. Be able to write all year long. Not during November because you want to be be a part of NaNo. One of my favorite authors writes eight hours a day, seven days a week. But he’s established and knows exactly what to write to sell books. Just any kind of routine for the nobody writer is better than waiting for a month or two to get as much writing done as possible.

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  9. What I think is that they feel inspired to write in this period because it is a mass movement! It’s like a revolution to many out there.
    But I do like your suggestion. They could take up a class a few months prior to NaNoWriMo so that their writing can be better! Can’t hurt to know more, right?

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  10. I also think that it could kick start one’s habit of writing everyday, just like I’m trying to blog everyday. And they’ll probably do this year round, with a smaller or no community.

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  11. Thanks for coming by my blog – I really felt a need to comment here.

    Nanowrimo is a subject pretty dear to me.

    I actually did things as described… For a year. I read every book I could find on stories (Anatomy of Story by John Truby, On Writing by Stephen King, Elements of Style, Techniques of the Selling Writer, several books in the “Write Great Fiction” series…and more.)

    The problem I found with that (and this may just be me) is that it became a trap. I read lots about writing, wanting to arm myself to be the best I could be, and never finished one damn story (short, long, flash, whatever).

    Nanowrimo really jump-started my writing. You absolutely get a ton of utter crap that isn’t worth reading. The fact that there’s a “cheat” thread tells you that people are writing for the sake of writing. Many of the winners didn’t write anything of value.

    But they wrote… And so did I.
    Now if you ask whether or not I participated in Nano this year: Nope. Didn’t need it. I’m already writing, and feeling comfortable getting a draft out without the need to edit every line as I write. Definitely think nano-writing has a place (just usually not on a bookstore shelf.)

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    • Well you say it jump started your writing, but that you didn’t participate this year and that these NaNo novels aren’t typically going to land on bookstore shelves. I think we agree on just about all of it.

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  12. Pingback: Another Month Gone | Write me a book, John!

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