NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, begins in November, which means my twitter feed is starting to get choked with related writing-tool-and-advice links. From style guides to plot models that show you exactly how you can write the next Harry Potter book, it seems that you need to become the next Harper Lee is a word counting app or calendar printout, a laptop, and a coffee shop. Take a little step back from all the genuine enthusiasm for writing, and you will see a horde of retailers taking advantage of the event to sell you just the right pen, notebook or laptop bag that will make you a successful author.
So before you click on that can’t be missed writing tips link or head for checkout, a few things you might want to think about:
Tools do count. I know the joy of notebooks nice enough to make you want to use them, but not too nice to make you afraid to use. But remember that tools are only there to facilitate writing — there is no pen or writing app that will do the actual writing for you. Buying stuff will always be easier and more fun than sitting your ass at a table and getting the actual writing done. Writing is and always will be challenging, to everyone.
NaNoWriMo is probably setting you up to fail. 50,000 words in 30 days is more than even professional writers can deal with, and they do it full time and with years of experience. Writing 1,667 words a day, every single days is a herculean task, a feat of writing bravado that will probably result in something far, far, far from publishable, even if complete in time, and yes, even as a draft. Writing requires time stewing with yourself, your plot and your characters. There are no shortcuts, and steaming through the process is a bit like trying to see Rome, Paris and London in 3 days. It may be possible, but you are so busy rushing that you miss a lot.
Word count is just a metric for writing progress — sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. Putting an emphasis on it rather than on your plot, setting or characters is like planning your family vacation for the sole purpose of maxing out your flight miles.
So here is my bit of NaNoWriMo advice: use the enthusiasm and sense of community around NaNoWriMo to get writing, but take a step back from the mayhem for the sake of your story and your peace of mind.