National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo—or even just NaNo–for those in the know).
One month set aside for amateur and professional writers to stop talking about writing that novel and actually get to writing it. 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 novel. Or more accurately, a manuscript draft of a novel, but I’ll get to that in a second.
Sounds great, right?
Well…kind of. Maybe. Perhaps. Permaybehaps.
NaNoWriMo is one of the few things in life I am truly ambivalent about. I see a lot of positives about the event, but the more I think about it, the less I want to have anything to do with it.
3 Reasons Why Not To NaNo
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Beej, you’re an up-and-coming writer who loves the Internet, eBooks, and writer camaraderie. What isn’t there to love about NaNoWriMo? Why should I not participate in this glorious, month-long Internet extravaganza of literacy?”
Well, since you asked, I guess I can tell ya.
1. It takes time.
And more than likely, you’re not going to be able to cut it. You ever look at the blank page and weep a little inside? Well, NaNo isn’t for you, then. You’ll run home to daddy when you realize that writing a novel isn’t all fun and games—it’s work.
It’s hard work, and 1,600 words a day, 7 days a week is more than likely going to break you. It takes discipline and work ethic to be able to power through those words, and if you haven’t planned ahead, it is only going to be harder.
And God help you if you miss a day. Suddenly that 1,600 turns into 3,200 and the time requirement doubles, too. Now, instead of 2 hours a day, you have to dive into 4 on a day you already had scheduled out. But if you put it off, it’ll just keep adding up until you’re drowning in a quagmire of 12 pt. Times New Roman quicksand. Then you’re dead. Or at least your novel is. Because you stopped because it was too big of a task.
And it is. Writing a novel is a monumental task, and saying that you can write one in a month just by pounding the keys is completely out of touch with reality.
So do yourself a favor, and if you think writing a novel is an artistic exercise, then I suggest you wait until the muse comes knockin’ and take your time. That way, you’ll have 20 years or so to make it absolutely perfect. No rush, no push, no nothing—including a novel.
2. Your novel is going to be crap.
Crap, I say. Crapola. Crap on a cracker. Crappy McCrapperson. Crap 2: The Reckoning.
So if you think you’re going to sit down and turn out a masterpiece in 30 days that gets you on the Amazon bestseller list, stop. Do us all a favor and save the world from your brilliant idea that doesn’t need revision because it came to you in a fit of inspiration. It’s not brilliant; it’s crap.
Don’t think you can write a novel in 30 days that’s worth reading.
(In fact, don’t think you can write a novel in 30 days; 50k words is not a novel. It’s the foundation of a novel. You’re in for some deep revision and expansion before you have an actual novel in your hands. Do yourself a favor and research word count recommendations for novels before trying to NaNo yourself into being the next John Scalzi.)
If you’re not okay with doing a significant reworking of your NaNoWriMo novel, then keep it on the backburner. In fact, keep it on the backburner indefinitely. If you’re not in for the long-haul, you’re not in it at all. (Fun fact: there’s a reason why so many literary agents close for submissions between Halloween and New Year’s Eve—I’ll give you three guesses why.)
3. Everyone’s Doing It
And you don’t want to be just like them, do you? If Suzie jumped off a bridge, would you?
Seriously, one month a year dedicated to writing novels for everyone who ever wanted to write a novel. OMG. It’s perfect!
Only it isn’t.
You’re not a special and unique snowflake. Your zombie unicorn spy novel is only one of thousands of zombie unicorn spy novels being written this month. Outside of that, all the people who are NaNo-ing think they know exactly how to do it. And we all understand what we should know about writing advice, right?
I’m no expert. You’re not either. Neither is that lady who’s telling you how to write your novel, or that guy who claims that Amazon or Barnes and Noble aren’t inundated with NaNoCrapMo at the beginning of December.
I love writing communities. Twitter hashtags and writer chats are just the bee’s knees. But there’s a point at which a group of amateurs getting together to help each other becomes less a community and more an unpublished writers’ support group/bitch session.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to be is just another statistic. I don’t want to be just another science fiction writer. I don’t care about being famous necessarily, but I’d like people to know that the name B.J. Keeton means something specific. And with NaNoWriMo, you’re not going to get that.
You’re going to be just another unpublished writer slogging away at the keys. Buying into the idea that there’s a single, unifying month for people to get together and write novels is absurd. There’s not. If you have a novel in you, write it. It doesn’t matter if thousands of other people are on the same deadline as you.
In fact, it’s probably better that they aren’t—that way when you start looking for critique partners, beta readers, and literary agents, you’re on your own timetable and no one else’s. The people who matter will see that you are a writer, a real writer, not a once-a-year, give-it-a-shot-er who writes like Jackson Pollack paints.
The 1 Reason Why You Should
1. You’ll have written a novel.
Yeah, you heard me. You should NaNoWriMo because at the end of the day (or month), you’ll have a novel. That you wrote. Nothing else should matter. You will have written a novel. How many other people can say that?
At the very least, you will be at least 50,000 words ahead of where you would be if you hadn’t sat yourself down and written it.
I’ve said for a long time that the only way you can become a writer is to treat it like the job you want it to be.
NaNoWriMo, flaws and all, helps you do that. It shows a writer exactly how hard it can be to work on a deadline, to prioritize craft and story, to force time for writing in a schedule that’s full of diaper changes, past-due bills, full-time jobs, and other everyday obligations.
And even if you don’t “win” by completing 50,000 words, you still have what you wrote. You still have the 10, 20, or 30,000 you wrote. You still have the experience of creating something and telling the story you want need to tell.
That’s what it’s all about. Telling your story, making the effort to tell your story. Last year, I gave myself a quota and wrote. I wrote 2k words per day minimum or 10k each week. I finished 35 days later with an 86,000 word manuscript that I’ve since revised and expanded into 116,000. It wasn’t November; it was June. I finished a novel draft. It may never be worth reading or publishing, but I did it. I learned how to start writing a novel, which is what NaNo is all about.
So you can either look for excuses not to NaNoWriMo or you can realize there’s only one reason you need to do it. If you want to write a novel, you’ll write one. So take this opportunity and do it.
What are you waiting on?