Big Triangle News: We’ve added another team member. Matthew Kabik is a Lancaster-based fiction writer who holds an MFA from Arcadia University. We’ve been meeting with him covertly in local coffee shops of all shapes and sizes. Our upcoming publishing workshop (Submit Smarter: How to Find the Right Home For Your Stories and Poems) is hosted by Matt. He’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Twice. He likes to compare rejections on Submittable. We may or may not be working with him to start a literary magazine right here in Lancaster. He runs Lancaster’s first and only Bike Polo blog. He’s bright. He’s motivated. His writing is the real deal.
National Novel Writing Month (or as it was previously known: November) is a time when new and experienced writers alike try desperately to mute every single #NaNoWriMo tweet possible in their feed.
Okay, I showed my hand a bit there, sorry.
It’s a time when people from all levels of the writing life join together in an attempt to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. It’s fun, it gives a sense of community, and it gives some impetus to folks who otherwise wouldn’t have a drive to really push themselves.
And those are all great things. They are terrific, even—but I don’t know that they are really all that swell for the sake of really helping you as a writer.
Let me make the case before you find me on Twitter and unleash your wrath (@mlkabik, btw, if you want to do that anyway). NaNoWriMo is really quite difficult to do, and I applaud anyone who manages to actually complete the 50k goal. But it’s also…well…difficult to do. It’s a great way of shocking your writer’s brain. I for one can’t imagine anyone wanting to write anything for at least a month after the event, and I can see how that month could stretch into two, then four, then a whole year up to the next NaNoWriMo. It’s not a healthy cycle.
The argument is, of course, that you could potentially have a 50,000 word novel by the end of it—but if you wrote 300 words every day for a year you’d come up with a 108,000 word novel. What I mean is: consistency over the year is better than one month of burning yourself out.
Furthermore, consider what you’re now associating writing with: instead of something you squirrel away to do every day (hopefully your writing schedule is that good), it’s something that you are legit pushing people out of your life to do for a full month. It’s something you pain yourself over in regards to word count. It’s something that keeps you up at night and makes you have a constant anxiety around. At best, it’s gamification of something that really shouldn’t be made into a game. Much like those fun experiments we learned about in high school psychology, NaNoWriMo is providing negative reinforcement around writing. How can that really help you in the long run?
My suggestion is this: If you like the community and the goals, get yourself a good writing group and set weekly goals for yourself throughout the year. Set aside one or two hours each day (or, more realistically, two or three times a week) to sit down and just write. Count the words if you want—give yourself a word count, even—but stick to that schedule and see what you’ve got by the end of the year. If all went according to plan, you’ll have more than enough material and you’ll also not see writing as a sprint (which it isn’t) but as a marathon or, really, as the long walk that it actually is.
I resisted putting in a picture of Bilbo Baggins walking out of the Shire, so at the very least you should appreciate that.