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.