National Novel Writing Month: Good or Bad?

We can’t ignore it anymore. NaNoWriMo is coming. You know what I’m talking about, right? That thing where thousands of writers try to write a 50K word novel in a month? While they write, they tweet and whatnot to let us know their progress, troubles, and what they had for dinner.

Before the insanity begins, let’s take a brief look at why NaNoWriMo is a good thing, and the points where folks get confused and make it something really annoying instead. This way, whoever participates takes something good away from it, and the rest of us recognize that yes, although annoying, this yearly event has value. It also helps remind me that I don’t want to kill anyone. That it’s only a temporary thing and life will go back to normal in no time.

NaNoWriMo gives folks who may not see their desire to write as a “calling” the opportunity to see what they’re made of. It has the potential to spark the creative fire in a new generation of gifted authors that may never have tapped into their well of talent otherwise. It also encourages folks who should never put the metaphorical pen to paper to go out there and try to sell books. These are the writers who, after hammering out their 50K words, submit that bad boy to agents, publishers or just slam it through Smashwords or CreateSpace because they can’t wait to rake in some cash. Don’t be one of those writers. Okay?

The people running NaNoWriMo really do make an effort to educate participants about the craft and I believe they want to spark a love of all things literary in the world. On the other hand, focusing on word count instead of quality really clouds that bundle of good intentions. Let’s all remember that reaching the goal before November 30 is just the first step in a journey full of really tiny baby steps. Listen to the advice given by the NaNo veterans and sponsors and use the wonderful opportunity this event gives to find your voice and your style. Don’t view it as a way to launch your career as an author. You’re not there just because you typed a lot of words.

While the community around NaNo seems like a bunch of obsessed loons, I really do like the concept of writers supporting other writers, particularly right now, when writers are behaving very badly in the press. It’s nice to see that most of us are still in this because we love it. But sometimes writers are too supportive. You know what I mean? Telling someone they’re fantastic just because they do what authors do every day is kind of like telling your kid he’s destined for greatness because he learned to tie his shoes. Honesty. This is what NaNo is lacking in my opinion. Writing 50K words in 30 days is not that big a deal. I write that every month easily, but it’s not all on one project. And that is the difficult part of the challenge. Not the word count. The focus. Yes, it’s great that you took the challenge and are serious about getting down to writing, but what you produce will be crap. Every first draft is a big pile of gloriously stinky shit. What participants deserve kudos for is focusing on one project for a set length of time, and prioritizing their time to see that the work gets done. This is a major challenge for many writers. NaNo helps us to see that with a little hard work and perseverance, we can do this writing thing. On the other hand, doing it for just one month a year is not an accomplishment at all. The successful writer takes that newly gained focus and confidence and carries it with them forever.

So, we’re all clear on the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo? I know, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I wanted to keep this brief. Some people have hinted that I tend to be “wordy.” Before we go our separate ways, can I ask everyone to resist the urge to post hourly Twitter updates and such? Please? I really need you to do that for me, because you see, I’m going to participate this year. Surprise! I bet none of you that know me even saw that coming.

And I dragged Katrina into it too. She’s not sure if we’re still friends. Stay tuned for updates on the NaNo experience from the eyes of two very skeptical and notoriously cranky writers.

4 thoughts on “National Novel Writing Month: Good or Bad?

  1. This — "Telling someone they’re fantastic just because they do what authors do every day is kind of like telling your kid he’s destined for greatness because he learned to tie his shoes." — fucking brilliant! I'm all for supporting, motivating, inspiring and otherwise kicking writers' butts, but giving meaningless praise does way more damage than good. Every time. NaNoWriMo. I'm curious what shapes the madness will take this year. :)Thanks for a really great and superbly balanced post on the creative chaos about to start.

  2. And now a separate comment on your participation this year, cause it deserves an own comment with an own setting, mood, conflict and outcome.Oh dear Lord. *grabs popcorn*Shit just got real.

  3. The visual you just created with the second comment gave me coffee nose. You know what that is right? It was almost ruined keyboard. 🙂 I truly believe NaNo has something of value in its concept. I also think it's insanity. However, I feel criticizing insanity I've never experienced is wrong. Also, I'm so very curious to see if I can do this without hurting another living creature. No, the pets probably aren't safe. Shit in my closet in November and you die motherfucker.

  4. The most important part of NaNo November is re-write December, and January, and February…I think the worst part of the whole NaNo concept is some writers think they've actually written a book when it's done. Once upon a time that was mostly a problem for agents and publishers who had to deal with a glut of these one draft masterpieces. Now, we have the joy of self-publishing. How many really quality books will get lost in the waves of crap created during Nano?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s