Monday, October 11, 2010

Why I'm not NaNoWriMo-ing

Every fall, my thoughts turn to NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 words, hopefully a novel or close to it, by the end of November. In the writing community it's hard to avoid it. Every fall, almost every writer I know starts talking NaNo. Many of my online writing friends have completed and loved NaNo (I blogged about it last year, with a round-up of other writers' posts about the experience).

However, my schedule has never permitted me to participate in NaNo. I've been away on trips, or in the middle of another writing project. Last year I was just starting my MA.

But this year I don't yet have a job, I've just finished a writing project, and NaNo falls at the perfect time.

People give numerous reasons for participating in NaNo. It demonstrates that anyone can write an entire novel in a short period of time. It forces a writer to put all negativity on the back burner. It enables a writer to trust their subconscious, and sometimes it can be amazing (in a good way) what emerges. It's a really exciting idea.

But after doing a lot of thinking, I've decided NaNo isn't right for me. At least not this fall. I know some people will say I should try it at least once, but I just don't think it would be beneficial to me or my writing.

The kicker for me was a comment author Candy Gourlay made. She said, "Well it's easier to edit words than to write from scratch." The comment really stuck with me because for me, it's not true at all. This is something I learned about myself in the past year. My writing is much fresher and more original in my first draft. Of course, it gets better and better as I revise, but if an original grain of insight isn't there the first time, I will never find it through revision. I need to scrap the whole bit and write it again.

I'm afraid if I did NaNo, I'd end up with a whole lot of crap writing. Everyone says that. And of course I'd then revise it. But I worry that in my rush, it would be so bad I'd end up having to rethink and rewrite most of it.

I keep coming back to a post author Maggie Stiefvater wrote last year entitled, "My Dear John Letter to NaNoWriMo" (the whole post is worth reading and also hysterically funny). She writes: "You're a bad concept for me, NaNo. This is why: you make me write crap, NaNo. You make me make bad novel decisions. You take away my ability to brainstorm between chapters. You make me rush through characterization. You make me pack filler in that will only get ripped out later, having taught me nothing about my novel. You make me into a bad writer... Basically, if we played the game your way, I'd end up rewriting every single word I wrote."

Yes, that's exactly what I'm afraid of. So this year, I won't be NaNoWriMo-ing. However, I am being ambitious. I'm working on a new novel (the Demolition Derby novel, or Demo, I think I'll call it). Will it work? Will a plot emerge? Will any of the characters be worth sticking with for the long haul? I don't know. But my goal is to finish my planning and write a big solid chunk (maybe all of it?) by the end of November. So a sort of NaNoWriMo, except with a bit of help from October and none of the guilt. One of my former classmates has already joined the challenge with me. Maybe we should call it October and November NaNoWriMonth with no guilt (OctAnNoNaNoWriMowithNoGuilt-o). Or something. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, for those of you thinking, 'Sure, NaNoWriMo sounds great, but I'd like to try something more insane', a few weeks ago I followed a novelist's journey through a Book in a Week. Really interesting, and on on the plus side, it takes much less time than a month! Link here.


  1. Anne, I'm not doing NaNo anymore. I also read Maggie's post and I have to agree with her.

    Some people do very well on NaNo. I can't. The writing is just so out of whack that I usually end up trashing the words and starting from scratch anyway.

    Is it a waste of time? Not necessarily. But I've learned that I can't write that way.

    Every writer is different though. You won't know until you try it out.

  2. Good for you, Anne. Promise to check in here with updates! (I want to offer to join you, but... we'll see how far I get on Project K this week.)

  3. Karen, it really is such an individual thing, isn't it? So many different writing styles. I think for me one of the hardest things about this whole writing journey has been figuring out what type of writer I am and what works best for me. I think you're right about trying, and I don't intend to completely discount NaNao, but with where I am right now, I just don't see it being helpful.

    Of course I'll check in with updates, Anne! And you are WELCOME to join, no matter what. Remember, it's NoGuilt-o! =) Good luck with the writing! Does Project K stand for something, or is it more like the hurricane names, you just go through the alphabet? =)

  4. I've written 2 1/2 NaNoWriMo novels and haven't been able to salvage them.

    When I set my goals and resolutions last December one of them was, "I am not doing NaNo this year." Ha! I don't think it works for me either. I've given it a good go, though, and the excitement of others is certainly infectious. It almost makes me want to jump in again (almost!) but I'm resisting.

  5. I've done two NaNos and won both. Both novels (one German, one English) were planned extensively beforehand and turned out to need little revision. I do agree that NaNo isn't for everyone. For me, it provides focus and a deadline, and it gives me a handy excuse to indulge in my favorite pastime. For others it's just for fun. Even others find that they cannot salvage much of what they've written during NaNo. I believe that everybody has to figure out for him/herself which group (s)he belongs to, and no other writer has the right to frown upon this decision.

  6. That's where I'm at, Casey! The pull is so hard to resist. Maybe one of these years I will go for it. I feel like I have to try it once. But interesting to hear that it hasn't worked for you, either.

    Wow, Cat! So good to hear a NaNo success story! How great that it's worked out so well for you. Perhaps part of the difference might be between the planners and non-planners (pantsers).

    Thanks, both Cat and Casey, for stopping by!

  7. Great post, and I get what your saying. I'm still undecided about Nano for this year. In the past two years I just used the Nano vibe to do a lot of writing in November, but I didn't care if it was new work or how many words I got in. I think I'm leaning towards that again this year, though I think it would be fun to try it out for real just once. If not fun, than at least enlightening!

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Elle! Sounds like I'll be doing what you've been doing the past two years. I do wonder if we're missing out by not officially signing up though.

    In the past two days, I've written about 1300 words. Not anywhere near how fast I'd have to write for NaNo, but I've been happy with the work and what I've learned about the story along the way.


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