On Productivity in Writing

Well, I got to post my "winner" badge for NaNoWriMo on November 30th, with 12 hours to spare. Looking back, the question I ask myself is this: will I ever do NaNo again?

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNo, November is National Novel Writing Month, and NaNo is a challenge to authors to write 50,000 words in one month. This boils down to just under 1700 words each day, but for most real people, works out to many more words per day they write, because very few people I know (if any) write EVERY day on the same project.

Like most NaNoers, I slumped in the middle. A nasty cold got a hold of me and obliterated my plans for getting up at 5 am to write every day. Or maybe the cold was just an excuse. While there are things I did genuinely like about working in the quiet of the predawn hours and starting my day off with some creativity, I am, by nature, a night owl, so I probably only got up at 5 for about two weeks total.

I may get back to the getting up at 5 routine after the holidays, but not every day. Likely every other day. But I don't think I will tackle NaNo again, and here's why:

  • November is a gruesome month to try to write like crazy. We have performers in my house, and November typically begins the craziness of holiday rehearsals. It's just too dang busy to be pouring every spare minute into writing top speed.
  • I don't have a problem being prolific. I can see NaNo as a huge benefit to writers who struggle to make progress on their projects, and it's likely very rewarding to see the word count pile up. I did gain some gratification from making headway into my work, but...
  • Writing without revision does not fit my creative process. Under normal circumstances, I write a passage, let it sit overnight, come back to it, read it, tweak it, and write the next passage. Doing so helps me avoid continuity errors and repetition. The 50,000 words I cranked out in NaNo have some nuggets of good stuff, but because I only outline in the loosest interpretation on the word, I need to have a very solid grip on what poured out in the last writing session before I plow forward into the next. I am going to be getting this draft off to my crit partner, with the understanding it is a ROUGH draft, but I don't like working this way. I don't want to waste my crit partner's precious time in asking her to read and comment on stuff I know isn't really written to the best of what I think I can do without input.

So am I glad I did NaNo? Sure? Will I do it again? Probably not. But what I will do is challenge myself to set aggressive word count goals year 'round. After all, the folks waiting on the next Windrider book and the next installment of the Risen Age Archive deserve that.


  1. Your experience tallies with mine. I did the two summer camps, because they were in June and August (I believe next year they'll be in April and June or something like that). My life is a lot less hectic in the summer, usually, and it worked out great. Doing it in November was like pulling teeth. Plus the added stresses of my hubby being out of town in his job search, and it was positively nutty. I don't even know if my writing was any good. I'll look at it later.

    Besides, I like to vary my writing with drawing and other artistic endeavors, and so do you. It's hard to have so MUCH accountability. :-p

    1. I wonder if there is such a thing as being too creative. ;) Clearly, we all want to work sacrificially in order to make a strong run at this author thing, but each individual has to evaluate what is most efficient. My preference is to right relatively clean in the earlier passes and not have to do mountains of plot fixing in later passes. But again, if I would get over my weird aversion to detailed outlining, that would alleviate most of that.

  2. Becky, I agree it's a good idea to focus on everyday consistency rather than an annual binge. Thanks to some advice from Terri Main, I made a commitment to Write Every Day, even if it's just ten words. It's amazing how just opening the document and adding a few sentences keeps the fire going. And of course, most days I wind up with way more than ten words. ;)

  3. I wonder if it changes with the seasons we are in. November is a bad month to do it for sure. Before I had kids, NaNo was an awesome time for me to put aside what I was currently working on and flesh out & write a rough draft of another story idea I had. But...I'm beginning to think the season I'm in isn't conducive to NaNo. Time will tell.


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