A Novel in 30 Days, or Why I Don’t Think NaNoWriMo Is The Devil

If you know about National Novel Writing Month, chances are you fall into one of three camps:

1. The I-Love-It-Let’s-Do-This Camp

2. The Writing-Like-This-Is-Evil-And-Unproductive-And-Encourages-Bad-Writing-I-Won’t-Take-Part Camp

3. The That’s-Cool-Maybe-When-I-Have-More-Time-AKA-You-People-Are-Nuts Camp

Wherever you reside on the NaNo opinion spectrum, let me just say that I really enjoy NaNoWriMo and I’m going to tell you why I don’t think it’s the worst thing to happen to writing since that five paragraph essay baloney (we’ll save that rant for another day, though).

This is my fifth year attempting to write a novel in 30 days. The first two years, I had the energy right out of the gate, but about two weeks into it, my ideas and motivation fizzled, self-doubt set in like a heavy fog, and it was over. The third year, I was determined to hit the 50,000 word mark, and I did (although, in honor of full disclosure, at the time I was writing that Nano novel, I was in a graduate class with the most pompous, impossible professor known to mankind and had a character in my story who was modeled after him– but by the end, I was so sick of him and all the other characters, that I filled a building with explosives and blew up everyone in the book so I would never have to revisit them again. I hit 50,000 words, though).

The next year, in 2009, I had big dreams of writing historical fiction and did some research, though definitely not enough to support an entire novel.  Again, I hit the 50,000 word mark, but the novel wasn’t finished and I knew that it needed more time to come together (meaning I needed to learn more about the time period of the Chicago World’s Fair and Armenian immigrants. Maybe someday I’ll do that).

This year, it feels very different. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done this so many times that I know what to expect (the surge of motivation at the beginning, the waning self-confidence in the middle, the final push through to the finish line) or if it’s because I’ve just written a 116 page creative thesis full of short stories and I finally feel like, for the first time, I’m in total command of my writing. Whatever is going on, this novel feels more doable than ever before, like I can tackle this NaNoWriMo thing and come out with a solid manuscript to edit and revise for a while.

And this is why NaNoWriMo isn’t as bad as some people say it is: it’s just an exercise. Seriously. This whole thing is just one, big, fat, long writing exercise intended to hush your internal editor and let you just write. The people behind Nano do say that you’ll do a lot of crappy writing, but I think that’s true of any first draft. You put things on the page that you may later remove or alter, but as long as it’s on the page, that’s what counts. Once you have created it, you can mold it into something better. Fact of the matter is, you can’t mold nothing. Know what I’m saying?

I think NaNoWriMo gets a bad rep from people who perhaps don’t understand that the purpose is to motivate creation, not write Amazing Novels on the first try. It seems to me that those who are hating on Nano are the ones who think it’s just a crap-fest, a chance for anybody with a pulse to write really bad novels and call themselves writers.

Yeah? So what?

If a person likes to write, he or she should write. Maybe you’ll publish someday, maybe you won’t. The point is that you’re writing. Every person is creative in his or her own way, and if it takes a month of writing 1,667 words minimum every day to get some folks in the habit of writing, then who cares? Like I said, this is a big exercise in just putting words on the page and fixing them later once you can see the scope of the whole thing.

If you don’t like it and you have other ways to be productive with your writing,  power to you. Get some words on the page in whatever fashion works for you. But just respect that for some, a month of frenzied writing is the way they want to go about expressing their story. Sure, this process may not produce good books that will line the shelves in Borders, but that hardly matters. This isn’t about publishing; it’s about creating.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo, or have you done it in the past? Or do you hate it with a passion? Share your thoughts with me below in the comments section.

5 thoughts on “A Novel in 30 Days, or Why I Don’t Think NaNoWriMo Is The Devil”

  1. LOVE THIS! I was gonna blog about that dreadful hate-nano article, but well, you summed it all up! Thanks for that.😉 I’m doing NaNo, though got a very slow start with a death in the family on Nov 1. Nothing like a little pain to tap into the creative muse of writing.

    This is a great exercise for people who want that kick in the butt and the support of an entire community dedicated to the same process. I love the connections I’m making with other writers. And the focus it is giving me. So, yeah, NaNo critics should just go do something else. We’re not forcing you to participate, or eve to read our work. Why should it matter to you if we get a little excited and supportive of each other for one month out of the year?
    btw, I’m KimberlyKinrade if you want a NaNo buddy🙂

    Like

    1. So sorry about your loss. It can certainly slow down the creative process, but in some cases it can fire the process up, too.

      You make a GREAT point that I didn’t touch on, but agree with– the community. The connections you make with other writers who are going through the exact same insane process is a huge perk of Nano. Writing can be extremely isolating, so when writers can reach out to other writers and feel a connection, it’s a great thing.

      I’m going to add you as a buddy! My username is antaram310.

      Like

  2. Hey, good post!
    This is my first year doing nano and I have to say it’s been a fantastic (hmm…ok, not completely fantastic sometimes it’s been hell) experience.
    I really struggled with the idea of NOT editing and am happy to say it is now completely switched off for the month. Learning to do that is a very good thing. I also jumped into nano without plot or plan but I’ve always suspected that I’m more panster so I went with it and didn’t put much thought into it until Nov 1!!
    I promptly fell behind.
    I deleted a huge chunk halfway through the first week and really lived to regret it.
    It wasn’t until the end of the second week that I caught up.
    I kept telling myself I would be happy even if I ended up with 25K, that it’s an achievement because for me it’s a START.
    I’m now almost one thousand words AHEAD of target and my speed has increased each day, my focus has gotten better and the struggle isn’t so much a struggle but (dare I say it) a fun experience!
    I’m thrilled because I now see that this nano novel isn’t going to be finished at 50k…I now know I will hit the word count, but the story has exploded and I think I should really be getting it to 100k.

    So I really can’t knock nano. As you say, it is one big writing exercise and what I’ve learned about myself as a writer since starting is invaluable.

    Obviously I won’t be sending it to publishers as of Dec 1. No first draft is ready without multiple edits anyways.

    I don’t get why people are against nano – don’t do it then and leave those who do want to and can do it alone!

    I’m there as S. May if you want a buddy!
    Good luck!

    Like

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