This was my first year participating in NaNoWriMo. Here are some rambling thoughts on my own experiences and what I think of the 'competition.'
Why it’s cool:
There is a group of people who will tell you that NaNoWriMo is pointless because no one in the publishing field will read your work. Or worse, they claim that the competition is giving non-writers the unlicensed right to feel like real writers for a month, and that all they may produce is shit. First, give the finger to all those people, then read on…
NaNoWriMo is cool simply because it encourages you to write, to be creative, and to stare at the dragon beast that is the white page and conquer it one word at a time. We need art. It’s part of being human. We soak up the art around us every day, sometimes unknowingly, and it makes us who we are.
Inside every one of us is the ability to tell a story. Is that story necessarily meant for the world to see? Maybe not. Could be that it’s meant for you alone, whether you like it or not. But don’t despair. Realize how many people have talked about ‘that novel I want to write one day’ but how few have actually written it. You’re in a select group now. You’re a writer regardless of whether you have a book deal or not. And if you enjoyed the process, you can always write another, and then another (and it doesn’t have to be written in November either). You’ll get better over time, trust me. Maybe when you reach that fifth book, you’ll have something truly worthy of sharing with the world. Or you know, you could you be that genius who gets it right the first time. In which case, you scare me. . . But really, what I mean to say is that art matters. So, if you can, give some art back to the world. And if the world’s not ready for it (or if you’re not ready for the world), then at least your art has enriched your life in some way, and that matters perhaps more than anything.
But there’s also this togetherness to NaNoWriMo. The ‘competition’ is mostly devoid of actual competition, at least with your peers. It’s more like a marathon where everyone’s cheering each other on. The finish line is all that matters, no matter who reaches it first. There’s something awesome and rare about that kind of a creative community.
Will many WriMoers see their books available at Barnes & Noble one day? No, but I think we all knew that already going in, and the people who want to claim the competition is about getting published miss the point. Imagine a world where we actively discouraged our youth, our friends, our family, to avoid doing anything creative. That’s some awful dystopia shit right there. But we don’t live in that world. NaNoWriMo is proof of that. So, that’s cool.
Why it’s not for everyone:
There is something about NaNoWriMo that I do not like. It’s this idea of winning. I mean, I get it’s a competition of sorts, but I think it could potentially send the wrong message to certain new writers that if they fail, then they must not be cut out for the whole being a writer thing.
Speaking personally, the idea of writing every day is nothing new to me. I tend to write with chapter goals in mind as compared to a word count, but I rather liked the NaNoWriMo site’s daily count doodad. And while I think the whole NaNoWriMo thing was exactly what I expected it to be, I found that I wrote in a way totally unlike myself, and I’m not sure if I liked that.
Driven by a force that I’ve not yet come to identify, I wrote every day in November at a speed that I was not accustomed to. At first, I thought, ‘well this is great!’ But then comes that point in nearly every novel I write, where I gotta stop and look at things as the story threatens to derail itself.
Except in NaNoWriMo, with a clock ticking on me, I didn’t give myself what I deemed the appropriate amount of time to reexamine what the story was meant to be and where I wanted it to go. I worked like a hungry shark, fearful that if I stopped going forward, I might sink to the bottom and die.
Disclaimer: I don’t enjoy rewriting much. This is something I mean to work on as a writer, but for now it’s just who I am. When my story’s done, I like it to be relatively well groomed, so that the editing process goes more smoothly. . . I’ve never written a sloppier book than I did this November. I already want to edit it, but I know it’s too soon (wait 3-4 weeks to edit your finished manuscript—doctor’s orders). I accomplished what NaNoWriMo asked of me, but there’s this emptiness I feel, because the book’s not quite what I wanted it to be when I started it.
I came to this conclusion that a writer should be suspicious of deadlines, but personal goals are something to be actively encouraged.
NaNoWriMo is a great but flawed thing. It encourages us to tell the story we want to tell, but doesn’t grant enough freedom to the storyteller.
Listen: Writing is a very personal craft. We all do it a little differently, which is why the ‘rules’ on how to write a great book are mostly to be ignored. There should be no rules on how you write your work day-to-day, or a sense of failure if you do not reach the number at the end of the month.
Ultimately, NaNoWriMo may not be for you. Don’t be discouraged if you wrote less than the competition asked of you in November. I ‘won’ the competition and got a little certificate to print up and put my name on. Also got this, check it:
In no way does that certificate prove I’m a better writer than the ones who couldn’t reach 50,000. Someone else who took three months to complete their novel instead of three weeks might’ve produced something much better than I did. Really, I’m certain of it.
I think that if you’re already pretty comfortable with writing, then NaNoWriMo will be useful to you if you need something egging you on and keeping you honest about your daily writing. It can potentially instill good writing habits into your daily routine.
It could also potentially lead you to despair because the idea of ‘losing’ is never a good thing, especially when the competition isn’t totally fair to begin with.
I guess I mean to say that you should NaNoWriMo at your own risk.
…and why that’s okay:
You didn’t get your book finished in November? That’s cool with me. It should be cool with you. The little badge thing that NaNoWriMo gives your profile page for 50,000 words is overrated, like a toy thrown into a cereal box. IT’S THE CEREAL THAT MATTERS!
It’s cool to be able to say that you wrote a complete book in a month’s time. I mean, holy shit, what an accomplishment. But it’s just as cool to say you wrote your book your way, even if writing it spilled over into the next year a little bit.
Some writers actively hate on NaNoWriMo for an abundance of reasons. Some of their reasons I can even agree with, but mostly I feel like we should just let it be.
There exists a competition that encourages people to write, to interact, and to build something with their MIND POWERS. That’s so cool. Lots of the participants in NaNoWriMo may not write at any other time of the year and that’s fine. November means something to them that it may not mean to the rest of us who think about writing every month of the year. Don’t ruin it for them.
There are lots of things I don’t like about NaNoWriMo. I’m not even totally satisfied with my own experience with the project, despite the fact that I did everything they asked of me. But let’s not forget that it’s a powerful motivational activity for a great many people.
Let the WriMos go on WriMoing.
For those still fighting to finish before the 30th. . .
I believe that there’s still plenty of time for most of you to get your work done before December’s arrival. But if you don’t make it, that’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
I do ask that you keep writing in December, though. Hell, if it keeps going on into 2014, that’s fine, too. Keep writing until you finish your thing.
If there is one thing that I’d like you to take away from all my rambling, it is this:
The requirement for every book should not be the length of time it takes to finish it, or the number of words hidden between the covers, but rather the fact that it says THE END on the final page.
Finishing your work is what matters most.
And writing THE END feels so damn good.
I’m done now.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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