On NaNoWriMo and Why as a Professional I Have Reservations

I must admit I get a little bothered how some people beat themselves up because they’re not on pace with NaNoWriMo. I don’t like to Stay true to the story and yourself rather than a meaningless word vomit exercise.see that. Writing is hard enough without having to go through that. I see way too many beginning writers pulling their hair out over this. I don’t think that’s good.

I understand the concept behind NaNo, but I am not convinced it helps more than it hurts new writers. I don’t view writing as a one month sprint. It’s a twelve month activity for me. I know NaNo works for some people and that’s great. It is supposed to teach dedication and concentration and force writers to finish stories and I think it does for some who respond to that sort of thing. But I also see a lot of writers denigrating themselves on Twitter and Facebook and other online venues because they are not on track to write the requisite number of words every day. Therefore, in their mind, they must be failures. That’s what they think. And that bothers me. It bothers me as a professional who works in this field and it bothers me as someone who used to teach.

We want new writers to learn and grow and adapt and prosper. Don’t we? I do. But I don’t see how throwing them into flensing knives accomplishes that goal. I guess when you get right down to it way too many writers take NaNoWriMo much too seriously. I mean, come on, guys, it’s writing. Yeah, it’s hard and difficult and frustrating and a pain….but it’s still only writing. It ain’t rocket science.

NaNoWriMo is an instrument. It may even be a valuable instrument under proper guidance. But it is not a good teaching tool.

Come on, guys. Seriously. Writing is hard enough without this. Just keep working on your story and stop slamming yourself because you’re not up to speed on NaNo. NaNo means nothing. Absolutely nothing. You don’t win anything and you don’t lose anything if you finish or if you don’t finish or if you start or stop or never even think about it at all.

Just keep writing, keep working at your craft, keep learning and keep honing your talent. Sit down and stay dedicated and finish your story. Concentrate on quantity and quality both. Stay true to the story and you will be okay. That’s what you should be concentrating on.

Focus on that and you will help your writing career much more than concentrating on some artificial word vomit exercise that carries no weight whatsoever in the real world.

10 Replies to “On NaNoWriMo and Why as a Professional I Have Reservations”

  1. I understand your concern, and I think the fact that they are under this pressure, is a good tool.
    You and I know how stressful it is to meet a deadline. Whether it’s an agent or editor, it’s your contractual obligation to meet that deadline, and Nano, let’s them have a taste of what it’s like to play with the big boys. So to speak.

      1. How is it artifical? They’re writing and isn’t that the whole point behind Nano? Granted what they have is NOW WHERE NEAR PUBLISHABLE but I’ve always said a Nano novel is a foundation novel. You build on it after the competition. 🙂

        1. I meant there’s no real consequences other than an artificial limit of finishing a certain amount of words in a definite time frame. That part is artificial. I mean, yeah, it’s a deadline, but you and I know there’s a real difference between a deadline that means something and one that doesn’t. I suppose it gives them a peek into what awaits them in the future. But I don’t like seeing these writers beat themselves up over NaNo.

  2. Don’t you hear digitally how loudly I am applauding this post? True, making yourself actually WRITE every day is essential, but if you are not fueled by a passion for what you are writing, how can you expect anyone else to give a flip? You WILL teach yourself “how to write” by the writing and by digging deeper and deeper into your own bottomless treasure trove of everything that brought you to this point in your little pea-pickin’ life. Your “pea-pickin’ life” being invaluable to all the rest of course, if you only tap into your center enough to realize this and therefore SHARE from that inner store of true spiritual gold!

  3. NaNo is a kick in the butt and most writers need one. And it helps writers break down barriers, and most of the novices need that too. And it works. Quite a few published authors have come out of that mess or just participate in it anyway. Mary Robinette Kowal, this year’s winner of the short story Hugo award, wrote her book, Shades of Milk and Honey, during NaNo. However, I get the impression that it is the exception and not the rule. Even so, it should be pointed out that the tool is not the problem, the writer is. Many writers never submit stories because they are to freaked out by rejection letters. Do we then say that getting published is a bad thing because it is not good for many writers?

    I still think your underlying point has merit and that people need to chill out. I’d add to what you wrote above about writing being simple that I think for most writers it has to be fun, or at least compelling and/or addictive. I think if you get to the end of the month and you had fun, or you have a sense of significant accomplishment, then the exercise has been a good one, regardless of how many words you write. If the fun comes from the social aspects of NaNo or the purpose comes from the competitive nature of NaNo, it all seems pretty good to me. But don’t fit into NaNo, make NaNo fit you.

    I’m doing NaNo, but I was sure to set my own goals and to merely enjoy the social aspects of Nano. I allowed myself complete flexibility in what I wrote and Was happy to get 20-30K words, or 3 or 4 short stories. So just fun and super flexible. In the end I have worked only marginally on 2 novels and instead found myself doing a large amount of personal writing. I’m at 18,774 words so far, ahead of my own pace, behind the official pace, and content and unstressed… but there is no way in hell I’ll be submitting my words to the NaNo site. It’s just too personal and I’m not remotely convinced that it is secure.

  4. I won’t lie, I’m of two minds about NaNoWriMo. On the one hand, I definitely understand your perspective as to why NaNoWriMo can be problematic, especially to novice writers. And the points you make in this point are both excellent and valid.

    On the flipside, Hollowstone is the product of my first year in NaNoWriMo. I will say this. I think a lot of people expect to have a finished polished novel at the end of November and as such are usually setting themselves up for fail.

    NaNoWriMo, to me, is a good exercise for discipline and an opportunity to get a huge portion of the novel done. Granted when I did my first NaNoWriMo, I was experienced enough as a writer to keep that in mind. And I think that helps when it comes to your objective and your goals.

    But that’s been my experience.

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