The Good And The Bad Of A 30-Day Writing Challenge


It’s officially October which means that the National Novel Writing Month of 2018 is right around the corner. Usually this time of the year, if I’m participating in the 30-day writing challenge, I’m in the prepping phase of writing (also known as Preptober): thinking about my idea for the year, brainstorming the plot and the characters and wondering how I want to reward myself if and when I win the challenge.

However, this year I have decided not to participate in the crazy but awesome month of writing. There are a few reasons to it:

1) I already have an idea I’m working on, and it doesn’t require 50,000 words to finish (current word count being 56,675 words, and I’m aiming for approximately 75k).

2) I also work on two other writing projects in addition to my book which means I write about 1,000–1,500 words per day already. That amount of words, adding up to almost 40,000 words per month, is enough for me in my current life situation.

3) And, as I’m finally having the mindset of I’ll become a full-time writer, participating in a 30-day writing challenge doesn’t feel like the right alternative to me, not anymore. For me, it doesn’t feel like NaNoWriMo will help me become a full-time writer. Actually, quite the contrary: I think it will hinder me from becoming one.

And this is what I’ve been thinking about lately: do these 30-day challenges help us get to the place where we want to be?

The Good And The Bad

I wrote down some sort of a +/– list for participating in NaNoWriMo. This is how the list turned out:

The Good Things

+ The ’preptober’: prepping for the month, creating playlists for writing, brainstorming your ideas for the novel, hyping the upcoming month.
+ The first day(s) of writing: you’re energized, jazzed about your idea and about writing.
+ The days you’re flying: your plot is working out, you love your characters and enjoy the writing process – a great, awesome feeling.
+  The feeling of creating something that didn’t exist before (it’s magical).
+ The last week of November that consists of ferocious writing: finishing the last 12,000 words after you have already written forty-frigging-thousand!
+ And, of course: finishing your novel, hitting that 50k and feeling like a true champion.

The Less Good Things

– The second week of writing, almost always: you are finding out about your plot holes, everything isn’t working out as you thought it would, real life might get in the way of writing and so on.
– The deflating feeling you have after you finish your 50,000 words: you’ve given everything you have and have nothing more to give, not at least for a while.
– The continuing deflation when it comes to writing: after finishing something that big, what will you do next? Motivating oneself to get back to that keyboard is harder than one thinks, especially after you’ve finished a 50,000 word literary (master)piece.
– And, most of all: now what? What do you want to do with what you ended up with in the end of November? Should it collect dust on your hard drive or do you want to edit it and actually finish it?

Although the list shows more positive sides to the writing than negative (six to four), I’d like to make the statement that the negative sides weigh more than the positive ones. This is because the deflation, the empty feeling after finishing your novel is a more long-term feeling than the energetic feeling of flow during NaNoWriMo.

So my question to anyone who wishes to become an author or simply a better writer is this: do we actually get better at our writing if we enter (and win) the National Novel Writing Month?

Better Or Worse Off

As in most cases, there is no single correct answer to the question and I think it’s because the answer depends on why we in the first case decide to participate in NaNoWriMo. What does the writer wish to get out of the challenge? Is it because

… you just want to write?
… you want to try writing a lengthy novel of fiction?
… you want to become a better writer?
… you want to have fun?
… you want to make November go faster (because after November comes December which for many means getting ready for Christmas)?

Maybe it’s all five of the reasons, maybe it’s only one of them. For me, participating in NaNoWriMo was a way of trying to kick-off my writing again (because I lacked the almost-daily habits of writing that I have now). It was an opportunity to plan and bring to life an idea I had and thought could be turned into a novel. But for me, NaNoWriMo and the weeks prepping for it were also a way of surviving the dark, stormy and cold November, a way of making time go faster.

And yes, I did experience all the positive aspects of participating and writing that I listed above – but I also experienced the negative aspects. The deflation after finishing eventually led to that I didn’t write anything fictional before next year’s NaNoWriMo. I didn’t want to touch the novel I had written and I wasn’t motivated or inspired to start anything new. And this makes me think: am I better or worse off for participating in NaNoWriMo when it comes to becoming a better writer?

And again, I think the answer depends on how I look at it. If I just wanted to write, wanted to have some fun and give life to an idea I had, then yes – I am better off for participating. But from the perspective of becoming a full-time writer and a published author I really think I would be worse off for participating in the 30-day writing challenge.

Right now, I’m writing Yellow Tails approximately 3,000 to 5,000 words a week which is enough to make me feel like the story is progressing. Of course, NaNoWriMo would be a quick-fix, a way of finishing quicker than I will at the moment, but what will I end up with? I feel lucky for not having experienced the deflation NaNoWriMo usually leaves me with while writing Yellow Tails and I wish to keep it that way. It also feels like I have more time to think about my book, reflect over the development of the characters and the plot when I’m not writing 1,667 words per day.

So this year I won’t be participating in the month of writing. However, for you who do participate I wish the best of luck, no matter the reason why you’re participating! Enjoy the preptober, enjoy your writing, be kind to yourself but remember to have self-discipline as well when it comes to getting those words on your Word-document.

(And, by the way: if you are participating, what are you writing about?)

Instead of participating, I’ll keep on writing. And hopefully, in the end of November, I will have finished my first draft of Yellow Tails and will celebrate some sort of the end just as the winners of NaNoWriMo will.

I hope you are enjoying your Tuesday, I’ll see you on Thursday!

3 thoughts on “The Good And The Bad Of A 30-Day Writing Challenge

  1. It was nice to read these pros/cons. For myself, I find its always helpful to lay it out when making a decision…I’m better at coming to conclusions if I write versus talking my way through a problem. Glad you figured out what works well for you!


    1. Hi Monica, and thank you for your comment! 🙂 I think +/- lists are one of the best ways to make as informed and well-thought decisions as possible. It’s easier to think when you put your thoughts down on paper and the mind is clearer. Enjoy your Wednesday! 🙂

      Liked by 1 henkilö


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