It's that time of year again. . . writers and would-be writers all over the world are wondering whether or not to 'do Nano'. In fact, sometimes it seems that so many people are passionately pro-Nano that not to do it means you aren't a real writer.
I'm as pro-Nano as they come and I disagree. Nano isn't for everyone. And even if it is for you, it's not necessarily for you this year.
5 Reasons To Do Nano
1. You think you'll enjoy it.
The absolute best reason to do almost anything. If Nano looks like something you'd enjoy, and there's no outstanding reason not to do it, I suggest jumping right in!
2. You have a book idea that you've been considering for a while, but can't seem to get started.
Nano is a great way to get a kick-start - the forums are full of people all over the world, at every stage of experience, and they act as a great motivator (and a terrible time-drain!). The deadline, the challenge and the community can be a great way to galvanise yourself and get going. Which brings me to. . .
3. You don't know anyone else who writes and feel a bit lonely.
The blogosphere is amazing. It is a fantastic way to meet other writers, talk about writing, and feel less alone as we sit pounding the keyboard while our friends and family wonder why we aren't in the pub. Nanowrimo is very similar, except on a larger and somewhat less personal scale. Instead of connecting quite deeply with a smaller number of writers through reasonably in-depth posts, you get quick, message-board sized titbits from thousands upon thousands of writers. I don't think anything beats blogging for forming connections, but if you want to feel as though you are part of a large, global community, Nano is the undisputed king.
4. You're a perfectionist who writes five words and changes seven of them.
I've done this. I get so obsessed with writing a perfectly publishable future bestseller than I can't get anything actually written (I'm reliably informed that this is a prerequisite for any of the other stuff happening). I write my opening line: 'Heather took a long drag on her cigarette.' Then I think 'Does one drag on, off or from a cigarette?!' and ten minutes of frantic Googling follows. Then I decide that to say someone has dragged or pulled on a cigarette is a cliche. Then I think 'No one will publish a book if the first line shows someone smoking. How about she took a sip of her coffee. . . but will I be accused of copying Friends if the first scene is in a coffee shop?!'
The Nano ethos - write fast and write fun, essentially - cuts through all that. Heather has her cigarette and the novel keeps going, because I have to write 1667 words that day to stay on target. She can quit smoking and start on the protein shakes in December, when the editing starts. But as (I think) Sam Goldwyn said, at least you have something to change.
5. You want to write outside your comfort zone.
This is my favourite reason to do Nano. Usually, I write historical fiction. Last year, I fancied trying an urban fantasy for a change, and I loved it (the experience, not the book. We will talk about how crap the book was another time). My latest idea is also an urban fantasy and I can't wait to get stuck in. Without Nano, I would have been completely paralysed by the fact I was attempting something new (see above reason. . .). Next year I'm hoping to try a whole new genre if I'm feeling brave!
. . . and Two Reasons Not To.
1. It doesn't fit in with other, higher priorities.
It would be lovely to think that writing was our top priority all the time. But life is very big, and people have families, friends, day jobs, college, illness and all manner of other things. If something is a higher priority for you than doing Nano, you need to decide if you can balance the two. And if you can't, applaud yourself for knowing what's best for you and your life. Regardless of what anyone says!