Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

This is probably going to be an unpopular post with lots of writers I know.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it occurs every November.  The idea is for people to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, and this is supposed to spur a lot of people into really getting into their writing careers.

I, on the other hand, hate NaNoWriMo, and I think it's an exercise for those who aren't serious about being writers.  "What?" you say.  "How can writing a 50,000 word novel appeal to those you claim aren't serious?"

I've written before about the fact that every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there - or Tina, Dora, and Henrietta, if you prefer - says they want to write a novel.  There is no shortage of surefire bestselling authors out there who just need to pen that one great work that will put their name on the lips on everyone who reads.  The reality, though, is that most people don't have the follow through.

To me, a writer writes, regardless of what month it is.  I don't need a special mark on the calendar to get me in front of my computer to pen my latest story - there's simply something inside of me that compels me to write, and I find it insulting that someone thinks I need a special month in which to do it.

Let's be fair - this month is mostly spoken of by "artists" as they wistfully dream about how unappreciated they are in their time.  But, by God, they've completed NaNoWriMo, and they think this gives them a certain amount of street cred.  "You haven't done NaNoWriMo," they'll scoff.  "Therefore you aren't a real writer like I am."  Of course, they'll soon put down the manuscript and won't go back to it until the next NaNoWriMo, if ever.

I typically do about 30,000 words on whatever I'm working on per month.  Sometimes I've fallen a few thousand words short, and sometimes I've exceeded that by a little bit.  However, I'm always writing.  Those who talk pretentiously about what they accomplished in NaNoWriMo won't ever put pen to paper again.  Instead, a lot of them will bitch about no one giving them their shot, and how the industry is only for insiders...all as an excuse for not being successful.

Further, unless you're doing it full time, and most writers have day jobs, you can't write a good novel in a month.  Sure, you can poop something onto paper that might be marginally coherent, but it's usually just an exercise in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that never sees the light of day because the writer knows that they rushed to meet the timeline in order to brag about how awesome they were.

Someone recently said to me, "It's like running a marathon - it was an accomplishment just to finish."  To which I responded, "Sorry, but that's pure bullshit.  You don't get points just for trying.  A real accomplishment would be writing something someone else wants to read and paid you for."  If you want to go out and just do it "for fun," then please do so.  However, don't have any illusions that what you're doing matters.  There's a difference between running that marathon in four and a half hours, and the guy who took the medal stand at the end.

Yes, this is very harsh, but most people who do this are posers.  If you feel you aren't a poser, then it's incumbent on you to show that by not stopping once NaNoWriMo is done.  That's where most "artists" fail - they reach the end of a month, let out this big sigh of relief like they did something useful, and they go back to their regular lives.  That's not persistence - it's pretension.

Now everybody go ahead and tell me what a jerk I am for daring to question the sanctity of this special month.  While folks do that, I'll just go back to writing.


  1. RD, I happen to agree that NaNo is poo. There might be a comparitivley few "real" writers/authors out there who for some reason feel compelled to put their lives (and their family's lives) on hold for this once a year event.

    I, on the other hand, am like you. I've been writing for (dare I say it?) more than 30 years--way before there were computers I put pen to paper/banged it out on a typewriter zillions of times.

    Nano holds nothing for me. I write continuously. I've got projects I may not get to until next year, and am waiting for my editor to send my edits to me so we can get a 3rd book out there (meanwhile i'm on my 5th one)

    So, I can only nod in agreement with you. Take care and keep on writin'!

    1. Yup. I've been writing since my first blue notebook in 4th Grade. No need for a special month.

  2. Hi Russ. I will finish the last 18K in my book this month. Not because it is NaNo. I could give a crap about that. But that is me. I just want to finish my novel.

    Some people need the motivation though. So I say whatever gets them to write then great! To each their own.

    1. The problem I have is that it's not real motivation. Most will write for a month, fail to come anywhere close to 50,000 words, and then stop the second it's December 1st. Even the majority who actually do make it to 50,000 words will stop on December 1st.

      Those that can keep going - awesome. But most won't.

      Further, you know as well as I do that writing something coherent requires more than just a set number of words. Sure, a few can produce something good, or even great, but most can't. A book is a large undertaking, and those who have other stuff to do to keep food on the table more than likely can't produce the next great novel in a month. There's a difference between quality and quantity.