I love NaNoWriMo.
Let’s just be clear here, in case I haven’t laid it on thick enough. I think NaNoWriMo is a fantastic event for writers of all ages, abilities and goals. When I first discovered it I fell head over heels, and even though I’ve only won twice in the last decade, I continue to sing its praises and encourage any fellow authors I know to participate.
Which is why it always boggles my mind when they don’t want to!
I know that trying new things can be totally frightening to people, trust me, I absolutely relate! But don’t be frightened little bunnies, because NaNoWriMo might possibly be one of the most UN-scary things a writer can do! So I’m here to set the record straight on some of the misconceptions I’ve seen floating around about this great, writerly event. Trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to wish you had joined in sooner.
9 Misconceptions about NaNoWriMo
1. I have to compete against other people
False! NaNoWriMo is a competition only against yourself! While thousands around the world compete beside you, they are not pitted against you. Instead, you’re all on the same team! Don’t be intimidated by other authors, we’re all in the exact same boat and no one wants you to drown.
2. I can’t write fanfiction/poems/short stories/etc.
False! While the traditional goal of NaNoWriMo is geared toward completing the first draft of a fiction novel, the true spirit of the event is simply to WRITE! Everyone will encourage and help you as best as they possibly can. NaNoWriMo has room for any type of written word-whether it be non-fiction, fanfiction, memoirs, essays, or anything else you can think of!
3. I have to be a professional writer
False! NaNoWriMo is for ALL levels of writers! Whether this is your first book, you’re twentieth book or your thousandth book, you are welcome with open arms. And don’t for a second think you have to aim for publication either! Write for your friends. Write for your spouse. Write for yourself. There’s absolutely no rule that you have to aim for publication if you don’t want to.
3. I have to write a good story
False! This is a HUGE pressure I constantly see writers put upon themselves, and it’s absolutely terrifying! There are so many versions of this too:
“My writing isn’t good enough.”
“My plot is weak.”
“My characters aren’t fleshed out.”
“There are too many mistakes.”
But honestly? First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect. And that’s exactly what you’re writing-a first draft! Absolutely NO ONE is going to look at your novel if you don’t want them to. This draft is for you, and there’s no rule against going back later and cleaning it up a bit. Cut yourself some slack. The road to perfection is messy and long, mistakes are part of the journey! Don’t be afraid of making them, and don’t let fear be the thing that stops you from even trying in the first place.
6. I have to use a computer/fancy software
False! Sure, lots of writers have a fondness for particular programs or tools like Scrivener or moleskine journals to help them write, but they are in no way a necessity! You don’t have to invest a single penny into this venture if you don’t want to. And if you can’t write on a computer? Good old fashioned pens and papers are perfectly acceptable. NaNoWriMo is all inclusive and has no entry fees whatsoever.
5. I can’t continue an old novel
False! In the beginning NaNo was all about starting a new novel, but just like in real life, there have always been rebels! Folks who wanted to continue an already established work-in-progress have always been around and included in the festivities, and nowadays they’re more common than ever. So don’t feel pressured to drop what you’re doing and start something new. Just keep pushing on with what you already have, and if you’re novel is over before you hit 50k? Start a second novel!
7. I’m too old/young/inexperienced/etc.
False! NaNoWriMo is for everyone! I honestly can’t say this enough! It’s impossible to be too old, young, poor, inexperienced, whatever! I can guarantee you that the community will be happy to have you and every unique thought you have to contribute. NaNoWriMo bars no one from entry, and the great thing about the community is it’s desire to learn and teach! If you need help then don’t be afraid to ask, and you might be surprised how much you have to offer to other writers in return.
8. Other writers will judge me if I don’t win
False! The NaNoWriMo community is quite possibly one of the most welcoming I have ever been a part of. People join in from all walks of life, and we share an understanding that sometimes writing just can’t be top priority. You will always be encouraged to do your best, but never at the sake of your mental, emotional and physical health or your other life responsibilities. The only thing other writers want from you is to write and be happy! If that means writing a bit less than others, then that’s perfectly valid too.
9. I’m going to have to outline or write like everyone else
False! NaNoWriMo has a HUGE section of the community devoted to simply writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (or “Pantsers” as they have grown to be lovingly called). Some writers don’t even have a clue as to what they’re going to write about until they sit down in front of a computer on November 1st! Ultimately, NaNoWriMo has space for all types of writers, whether it’s deep, complex outlines, figuring it out as you go, or something in between. Don’t let NaNoWriMo control you, you’re the one behind the keyboard!
So what do you think, are you ready to join me and my fellow bunnies in the crazy adventure that awaits us in November? Have you been fooled by some of these misconceptions before? Ultimately of course, the choice if yours. If you truly do not feel that NaNoWriMo is the right for you, then don’t feel pressured to participate. But if it’s fear holding you back, maybe it’s time to get to know the community a little better. You’ll likely find it’s a lot friendlier than you think!
What myths and misconceptions do you see floating around about NaNoWriMo? Were you afraid to join the first time too?