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.