Sometimes, when I can’t think of a blog post, I’ll take myself off to Google with a couple of keywords. Today, I realized I hadn’t written anything for Monday and I knew I wanted to write about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). So, I went to Google to see if I could find a little inspiration.
What I found was that there are those who are either appalled by NaNoWriMo, offended by it, or just ignore it as not for them. That last reason I can understand. Not everyone can keep up with NaNo’s insane pace. Or, they aren’t happy with the end result. But the first two? It blew my mind and, as I read more into the posts, my mind stayed blown.
NaNoWriMo is Offensive to “Real” Writers
Some time ago, a blogger came across an article by a “professional writer” (I guess that means someone published by one of The Big Six) who was offended by National Novel Writing Month. She was offended because it took her years to perfect her craft and it wasn’t only her craft but also her vocation in life. For someone to think they can churn out what it took years for her to learn was akin to someone taking a month to learn to be a doctor.
Now, I realize that the linked blog is a couple of years old and the article she’s referencing was old when the blog post was written. But if one person felt that way back then, then there are people feeling that way now.
My very favorite writing quote is by Ernest Hemingway, that womanizing, drinking, fighting, uber-man-writer. He said, in his usual succinct manner, “The first draft of everything is shit.”
It doesn’t matter if it takes you one month or six to write the first draft of a work. It’s still going to suck. The novel that took six months to write might suck less than the NaNo project but it still stinks worse than a sick baby’s used diaper.
And I am so very sorry that someone making themselves do what they always wanted to do crushes your special snowflake toes. Everyone has a beginning. For some writers, that’s NaNoWriMo.
When I read the above reason, my immediate reaction was, “And this is different from the rest of the year…how?”
People write crap novels all the time. And when they don’t get accepted by a major publishing house or are ignored by agents, they take themselves off to KDP, Smashwords, Wattpad, and other such places to publish their crap novels, making it difficult for good indie writers to be taken seriously.
So, I can see how NaNoWriMo sets up for a major glut of bad writing that makes life more difficult for everyone but that doesn’t mean the whole thing should be written off. Really good writing comes out of NaNoWriMo all the time. Such examples would be Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Wool by Hugh Howey.
Saying that NaNo should be done away with because of bad writing is pretty much the definition of the cliche phrase, “tossing out the baby with the bathwater”.
It’s Unnecessary Because It’s Asking Writers to Do What They Already Do
The above reason came from a Salon article written by someone who doesn’t write novels. This person who doesn’t write novels apparently doesn’t know the basic personality trait all writers share: we are procrastinators.
The main reason why writing groups and associations are so popular is because writers need to be held accountable. You can say all day and everyday that you’re going to write an awesome space opera but the fat doesn’t hit the fire until someone at a meeting asks, “So, how’s that space opera going?”
Trust me. After being asked about a particular project every week for three straight weeks, your ass will glue itself to the chair because you just don’t want to stutter pathetic excuses anymore. National Novel Writing Month provides motivation, plain and simple, because nothing makes you write like being part of a competition.
(There are other reasons about community being important to writers but I just wanted to cover the most basic reason.)
Being forced to write everyday makes you evaluate your writing habits. However, if you already know that you are incapable of writing everyday, then why the hell are you trying to participate in NaNoWriMo? That’s like saying, “I can’t swim very well” and then signing up for a swimming competition. No, better and more precise example: That’s like Fezzik (Mister “I can only dog paddle”) signing up to compete in the 200 meter butterfly race.
Perhaps you’re one of those people who just don’t do well in a competitive atmosphere. We writers can be neurotic and anxious and a screaming bag of mental health issues. Some of us can pretend we’re normal and be a part of something like National Novel Writing Month. Some of us can’t and that’s a good enough reason to avoid it. Don’t feel bad and don’t feel like you have to write ten blog posts explaining yourself.
November is a bit of a crap month to commit to something like writing a novel. I’m still recovering from Halloween and all I did was eat a bunch of candy and walk around the mall while in costume. Imagine how parents must be feeling. And then there’s Thanksgiving with all of its traveling, family issues, and food comas. Yeah, it’s an awesome test of diligence and discipline but not everyone can reasonably expect to keep to their writing goals.
I mean, you could plan ahead and write above and beyond a week or two beforehand but…that would mean around 2k words a day and…yeah. Like Chuck Wendig says, you really only have 20 to 25 days to write and not thirty. For that reason alone, it’s okay not to partake if you know you can’t commit to it.
It’s Not for Everyone
National Novel Writing month is not for everyone. You may not be able to commit for a wide variety of reasons. Or, your idea may not be fully formed enough.
That doesn’t mean, however, you should pee in someone else’s watering hole. If another person wants to partake, that is no threat to you or to your craft. If that other person wants to ignore all advice and pursue publication the month after NaNo ends, then that’s their stupidity and not yours. And if you already have a community that helps you write or you don’t feel the need to challenge yourself, then good for you, but not everyone can say the same.