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NaNoWriMo: Why You Shouldn't Quit

Aimee Jodoin

Editor’s note: We are encouraging Deputy Editor Aimee Jodoin’s literary ambitions while using her as a guinea pig. We ordered her to write for her food and participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but do it on her own time outside the office just like everybody else. We are just mean like that. Aimee is writing weekly updates. Read week one.

At nearly halfway through the month, NaNoWriMo participants ideally should be at almost 25,000 words—and likely experiencing doubt over whether to continue. Unless someone is placing bets on if you win or is literally holding a gun to your head, there really aren’t any consequences if you drop out of the game aside from personal disappointment.

There are so many excuses for quitting, and there’s really only one reason to keep going. But it’s a really, really important reason.

I’m too far behind to catch up

If you missed two days of NaNoWriMo in a row, catching up is a daunting task. Even nonconsecutive days is tricky. I have missed a total of three so far, one due to illness near the beginning of the month and two in a row last weekend when I was out of town visiting friends. I was bad and didn’t try to get ahead to prepare for the days I knew I would lose. Now, the 50,000 word horizon seems to be located in December.

Not making it to 50,000 words by November 30 is no excuse to quit, though. Giving up is the easy way out. You might feel guilty for a minute, but then you’ll be free to do what you like. However, you won’t be accomplishing anything other than the thousands of words you’ve written in the past two weeks. If you stop now, your draft will stop, too. The only way to finish is to keep writing. Even if you don’t get to 50K, even if you only get to 40K or 30K, that is 40K or 30K more than you had before. And that is nothing to be disappointed about. Use the support and motivation of the NaNo community to help you get as much writing in as possible. Be proud of yourself no matter how much you accomplish.

This book is too awful for eyes

As a writer, the more you write, the more your writing improves. But when it comes to NaNoWriMo, you may feel as if your manuscript is getting worse and worse each day. If you’re anything like me, you’re likely losing that inspiration you felt on day one, and the quality of your writing is taking the brunt of it. I am writing in a genre I am not very familiar with—New Adult Dystopian—and while I was excited about my premise at first, I can sense my credibility diminishing the deeper into the story I go.

Writers say this all of the time, but it’s worth repeating: a bad draft is better than no draft. It’s a draft. You can fix it later. Don’t dwell on the “later,” though, since it’s likely intimidating, but a little fantasizing about how great your book will be when it’s finished—those thoughts you were overflowing with in the first few days—might push you to keep slogging through.

I’m getting burnt out

Writing for two or so hours every single day—on top of a day job, family, friends, and other responsibilities—is tiring. For me, even writing this blog post is hard. At the end of the day, when you finally reach your 1667 word daily goal after the rigorous teeth-pulling process of pounding the keyboard to make semi-respectable sentences, you may be relieved, proud, or simply glad that it’s over. But then you realize: you have to do it again tomorrow.

Stress is no fun. Everyone knows that. But you shouldn’t let it stop you from writing. Remember than NaNoWriMo is meant to be fun, not overwhelming. That’s a hard thing to keep in mind thirteen days in. Yes, you want to have a completed novel filled with your blood, sweat, and tears at the end of the month, but it should also be filled with your joy. If you need to, take a break. Take a long bath, drink a glass of wine, do whatever helps you relax. Then come back and approach your computer screen or notebook with a fresh palate. Remember that it’s fun. Remember that it’s fun. Remember that it’s fun.

NaNoWriMo is pointless

Whether you’re a serious writer or a newbie attempting NaNo for a fun challenge, doubt about this venture may be coursing through your veins at this point in the game. This painstaking process has given countless writers nasty existential crises. “Why I am doing this?” they ask. “Why do I do anything?”

While I, too, am dealing with the struggles of pragmatism, I happen to know the answer to this. And you do to. It’s just hard to convince yourself of the truth.

You do it for you. You may think you’re doing it for future readers, to enlighten them, to entertain them. You may think you’re doing it to show off, so you can brag about how you’ve written a novel and your friends haven’t, na na na na naaa na. But you’re not. You’re doing it for you, for a confidence boost, for belief in yourself, for hope. If you can do this, you can do anything. You do it for you, and that’s the most important reason of them all.

Aimee Jodoin
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.

Aimee Jodoin

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