NaNoWriMo: Biting the Bullet

NaNoWriMo: Biting the Bullet

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Writers tend to fall into two camps, this time of year: pro-NaNo, anti-NaNo. Everybody writes blogs about it (including me, apparently, hmm.). People who are doing NaNo write posts about how exhausted they are already, and how rude it is to not like something they like, and they’re totally writers omg. People who don’t do NaNo write about how irritating it is to see their pastime/profession turned into a sort of writerly social media feed one month out of twelve, how it encourages you to write crap, how they’re the ones who are totally writers, no really.

I roll my eyes and, like most years, decide to take a pass. I don’t know what makes someone a writer, but I’m pretty certain it isn’t arguing vociferously that, yes, you’re a writer. (Actually, on an aside–I’m pretty sure it’s writing that makes you a writer.)

But a few days ago, I thought again. I had a novel I’d started on the second, with a decent NaNo word count. Why not? If writing makes you a writer, I’m failing pretty hard at being a writer at the moment. I could use the boost and the competitive excuse to write. I’ve done NaNo before, when I was a kid–2003 and 2004, I think–and I won once. It was fun. I got all caught up in it. I talked to other people who wrote things. I was thoroughly proud of myself.

Of course, I was also like fifteen. I had no job, no car, nothing to do but sit around at my parents’ houses, splorting my daydreams out onto a keyboard while hoping, hoping, my boyfriend would get on AIM so we could talk even though he was grounded. Those were pretty prime conditions for writing–prime in a way that November could never be for me, as an adult.

Allison Maruska wrote this post about NaNo that sums up a lot of rock-solid reasons not to do NaNo. Chief among them, of course, being why November, why, why, why. November is a busy month. There’s stuff to do, people to see, houses to clean. If NaNoWriMo happened in, say, March, it’d be easier to deal with.

But here’s what made me stop and decide to do it.

I need to make writing a commitment. And I need to make good on that commitment.

I’m pretty prolific. Always have been, always will be. The recommended 1,667 words per day is probably about what I write anyways. But I’ve always had trouble finishing stories. I get distracted, I lose the plot, I lose interest. I come up with another idea that’s so much better.

The first real novel-length work of fiction I ever finished was that 2003 NaNo novel. And it was crap–I mean, total crap–but I was also fifteen. I had no idea how to edit anything. And rough drafts are always crap, especially if you leave ’em rough.

I was super proud. I told all my friends and family members. They said, “that’s nice”. I didn’t make anybody read it, because I think even at fifteen I recognized what total crap it was, but I sure did carry a printed out version of it around for a while, wrapped in writerly twine, and made red marks on it judiciously whenever I thought anyone was looking.

And, in that paragraph, you can see the reasons I posit for doing (and not doing) NaNo.

For Doing It:
–A greater commitment to your craft. Specifically, to finishing what you stared.
–Fun chance to meet other writers in your area
–Possibility, with months of editing afterwards, of producing a novel someone might actually want to read.

For Not Doing It:
–#NaNoWriMo twitter feed updates incredibly annoying
–Not particularly sure I understand what doing NaNo has to do with being a writer or not, or that I care if it does,
–Might make young writers a little too dependent on head pats and trophies, and not dependent enough on their own ability to keep a story going,
–There IS a lot of other stuff going on in November.

This year, I’ll do it. Some years I have, some years I haven’t. I’m not particularly interested in the rah-rah-lookit-you-you’re-writing aspects of NaNo, but it’s a good exercise, and it’s one I could stand to take part in again. The hard truth of the matter is, to make it writing, you need to be able to churn out a finished story sometimes, and it doesn’t hurt to do it fast. Do I think it needs to be your entire reason for living during the month of November? No. That’s sad. But that 1,667 words per day is, roughly, two hours of writing. Two hours a day. If it’s something you love to do, you can and should make that kind of time.

Much as the miniature NaNoSplosions all over my twitter feed might annoy me, it’s good to see people get excited about writing, even if I feel like it’s more the word count than, you know, the actual story. I guess as long as folks are happy, I’ve got no cause to complain.

This has been your account of an anti-NaNo writer doing NaNo, because putting your money where your mouth is is fun.

14,000 words and some change so far. Wish me luck.

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11 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Biting the Bullet

  1. No, wake up. This is what happens when you wear zombie make-up on Halloween. You turn into one ‘o them. If you need a gee up to get writing, tell me and I’ll give you a virtual kick up the arse every day until you’re finished.

    1. Hey, now. I can drink the NaNo Kool-Aid every once in a while, can’t I? I have this dream in which I churn out a novel in a month, meanwhile bonding with other writers in my area and not giving two shits about whether or not someone considers me less/more of an ‘author’ while doing it. Can’t I make this dream a reality? By writing really REALLY fast, and foisting housework chores onto The Boyfriend?

      Besides. I feel like selling out is the new never selling out. 😛

      1. If you do the NaNo shuffle you haven’t got time to go drinking Kool-Aid.

        But the issue is not about being perceived as an author or not, I leave the judgemental metaphysics to others. It’s about whether the writing is good. NaNo would be better if it encouraged writers to write something good in a month, be it one sentence or an entire novel. I know good is subjective, so it would be down to the individual to be honest with themselves about what they had written. But the organisers who dreamt up NaNo obviously thought a 50 000 word count was easier to measure.

        Instead of ‘selling out’ why don’t you sell The Boyfriend. Kidneys, hair etc: put a $1000 Buy it Now on Ebay and job’s a good un.

      2. Hmmm. I could probably get five hundred for the hair–he’s got real pretty hair–but the kidneys are kind of a crapshoot. Not sure what kind of condition to put on ’em. Maybe it’s time for Definitely Not Dave to get a yearly checkup. 😛

        NaNo, for me, is more of a challenge in editing than it is in writing. Yes, there are those amazing first drafts that come out well and need little tinkering, but to be honest, that’s not most of my first drafts, if it’s any. I agree with you, NaNo isn’t about quality, but I’m not sure it has to be. I do think there should be NaNoDriMo in December–where you drink and do nothing for an entire month–and then NaNoEdMo in January, where you open up that piece of crap you wrote in November once more and turn it into a good novel.

        For me, good is often the paper-mache moulding around the bare wire armature of crap that is a first draft. If I can push out crap faster, I’ve got a better chance of winding up with more good stuff. Sounds awful–probably IS awful–but it’s how I work. NaNo is effective for people like me, but do I think it is for everyone? No.

        I think NaNo actually stands to teach a lot of new writers about the values of editing and rewriting, if it’s done properly. It’s a shame more folks don’t take it that far.

      3. You’ve reassured me. (About NaNo, not selling your boyfriend.) I like your last paragraph and I can imagine all those faces when December comes and they realise they have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite…. and rewrite…

        Good luck. I bought Aurian and Jin by the way. Will review it in a couple of weeks time when I get past a backlog.

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