This is a post I stumbled upon through the twitterverse about the author’s opinions on the myths of NaNoWriMo, and why she won’t be participating. While there are a few blog posts now debunking her debunking of these myths, I wanted to add my two cents worth as a NaNo virgin, looking forward to my first attempt at the NaNo marathon. So, read this first to get some context, and come back and read my post in reply.
Thanks for coming back.
So Ania’s “myths” consist of the following basic points about NaNo that she takes to task. Nanowrimo will:
- Motivate me to sit down and write
- Give me a great way to get involved in the writing community
- Force me to write the first draft in a specific time
- Give me prestigious awards when I achieve my goal
- Give me a publishable novel by the end of it.
- Make novel-writing fun
I see no bad points about any of these that Ania makes – though I suppose it depends on your perspective. The following points I make because I’ve actually read the book “No Plot? No Problem” by Chris Baty (as I’ve said in a previous post) so I have a little knowledge on the background and the purpose of NaNoWriMo. And it was only after reading that book, and checking out the online forums and community that I decided that I would compete this year. I’ll tackle the above points in order.
- Motivation – It’s bloody hard to be a writer, especially when you have a busy life outside of it. It’s also hard to be a full-time writer, because it’s so easy to procrastinate when you have no-one to kick your butt whenever it’s planted in front of the TV. The motivation from NaNo comes from two main places. The first being other NaNo-ers themselves, as you race each other to get to the magic 50,000 word mark. The other, if you’ve prepared correctly, are all the people you’ve told you’re a shoe-in to write a novel in 30 days. If you pick the right people, they’ll all collectively kick your butt back into your office or wherever it is you write from to hit your word count. Some of us need a little extra motivation. From my own experience, I can sit daydreaming for hours of the novel I know I want to write, and even plot-plan to the Nth degree, without actually writing the damn thing. Having someone hanging over your shoulder asking for the next chapter, and the next, and what are you doing with that character really gets you cracking. Either that, or you die with embarassment at not having achieved anywhere near what you said you would.
- Getting involved in the writing community – It’s not actually the “writing” community NaNo is spruiking, it’s the NaNo community – like-minded people meeting in one place to share their mutual interests. That is, afterall, what a community is about. Yes, there are plenty of other “communities” out there to be involved in if you’re a writer, and NaNo can be a jumping off point for those NaNo-ers who realise that they may actually have a talent. I’m not actually involved in any writing community as yet – though I do site- and blog-stalk some of my favourites, with a view to eventually start posting comments.
- Forcing me to write a first draft in a specific amount of time – Well, that’s kind of the point. If not now, when? is the question NaNo asks. Most people say “when I have the time, I’ll write a novel”. Most people, however, never find the time. NaNo just provides the excuse for those “one day” writers to sit down and have a go. The first draft is always the hardest thing to write, and NaNo is all about just getting the words down, no matter how crap it is. If you’re anything like me, your inner critic steps in as soon as you type the wrong word in the second sentence, and your motivation and plot goes leaking out of your head, while your critic argues with your muse. The major point of NaNo is to just write, and accept that the first draft is just that – not a masterpiece, but the beginnings of the structure of the great novel you’re building. Or a load of crap, to only be seen by the insides of your garbage bin or shredder. Either way, you’ve gotten 50,000 words of something out of your system.
- Give me prestigious awards when I finish – Well, no, not really. And if you read the NaNo website, you’ll realise that the prestige is only with regards to your own ego and boasting to all and sundry about how you kicked ass and wrote 50,000 words in a month, and oh, that’s about the size of a (small) novel, did you know? The thing I want most out of NaNo is to be able to prove to myself that I can finish something I start – that’s prestige enough for me. And for those people who say 50,000 words doesn’t constitute a novel, I say who cares? While I know publishers have guidelines, I prefer to write the story in as many words as it needs, and then edit fom there. As for cheaters, well, there’ll always be people happy to take credit for something they haven’t really achieved at all. I know that won’t be me, and knowing that there may be some people who “win” who did it the easy way in no way takes anything away from my hard work.
- Having a publishable novel at the end of November – Look, no matter whether people write their novel in November, or take twenty years to get it done, there’ll always be aspiring writers who think their first draft is the best thing to ever be written. And there’s a way to make sure us, as readers, never have to read their dribble – it’s called Big Publishing. As ebook self-pub is taking off big time, the gatekeepers of bad writing will become the readers themselves. Most people go into NaNo realising what they’re writing will need heavy editing if they hope to one day be published – or, to be thrown in the bin. And those who don’t would be writing their crap and trying to get it published regardless. They just have an excuse to churn out 50,000 words a lot quicker than they would have done otherwise.
- Making novel-writing fun – Now this depends on your attitude. As I said earlier, it’s bloody hard to sit down for the duration and finish writing a novel that you were so excited about at the start. No matter how long you take, it’s a war of attrition. NaNo attempts to take away the critic, so you can get from start to finish without all that hand-wringing and self-doubt. Just punch out the words over 30 days and see what you have at the finish – then let your critic go nuts. But hey, you might just have some fun doing it in the mean time. Or, you might hate yourself and what you write but you’d probably do that anyway, so NaNo just confines it to 30 days. Then, after the dust has settled, you can get over it and say you’re never going to do it again. Besides, I’m guessing it’s hard not to have fun if you’re writing while wearing a stupid hat, or a cape, or whatever writing totem you’ve decided on.
Overall, love it or hate it, NaNo is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I think it empowers people to achieve something so far out of left field that it will translate to other areas of their life. Me? I’m a writer, so the proof will be in the manuscript. It’s a psychological thing for me, and a confidence thing. Proof to myself that I can write that many words in one manuscript, rather than over the twenty or so I have starting to pile up on my hard drive. It’s less about allowing yourself to write crap, and more about understanding that while most of the stuff you write might be crap, there’ll possibly be some gems to be found if you dig a little deeper – gems you can pull out of the rubble and craft into something beautiful, but only after the NaNo dust has settled.
Plus, I get a really legitimate excuse to shut myself off from the world for a whole 30 days and indulge in my passion without feeling bad about it.