We're a few days into November which means, like every year, that thousands of aspiring writers are sweating with dread. As NaNoWriMo ended last year I had to console multiple people in outright hysterics - just as I finished comforting one, the next IM’d me. After three hours, I think I ran out of patience. It’s for such things that I'm writing this again this year, to reminded you that National Novel Writing Month is imaginary and you’ll all be fine no matter how it ends.
There are a few dozen professional authors with whom I speak regularly. None of them are currently doing #NaNoWriMo the way it’s intended. Most aren't doing it at all; I'm not, either. A few are using the community aspects and inspirational messages to psych themselves into getting as many words as they can for their projects – most of which, I think, are going to finish at double or more the 50,000-word goal line whenever they do finish. Novels are how they pay their bills, and they just wanted progress on hard projects.
I frame this in terms of what they do to ask you something simple: what do you want out of this thing?
Do you want a publishable book? Bullshit! Almost no one in the history of almost everywhere has ever written a decent novel in one month. Maybe Stephen King, maybe once, out of a career headed for triple digits.
Are you doing it for camaraderie with other writers? Then enjoy the bonds you're forming. And good news: those people will still be around in December, so you can still talk to them, encourage them, and share your work with them.
Are you trying to start writing again? Then you did, and if this art form expressed something from within you that nothing else reaches, you probably ought to keep going. Maybe writing this, maybe something different, maybe something shorter. You've got a lot of November left to experiment, and if it doesn't work, then maybe December is your National Short Story Writing Month, where you nail a smaller thing that squirmed out of the novel, to feel that you can conquer an idea. Or maybe you just keep pace until this novel itself has an end.
Is the high demand stressing you out, wrecking your outline, or otherwise leaving you unable to work effectively? Then start over with a more generous time table. There are eleven months before the next NaNo, and many talented people will be writing during those, including every single professional author I know. It is actually legal to keep writing today. You have my permission.
Look: today's word count doesn’t make you a novelist. Unless you were contracted to someone for a manuscript by today, you haven’t failed at jack shit. You will only fail if you don’t embrace what you wanted out of this before you die.
Also, take it for granted that if you die, there’ll be greater concerns than word count.