Man! Do I write about the kewl new Arab/Muslim issue of Apex, or NaNoWriMo, both topics which surfaced on the Internet today? I guess after the day I’ve had, I’m going for the lighter topic, but make no mistake, I will be back for the other topic as soon as I can be. It’s an AWESOME issue.
That said, as you all know, it’s time for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done this before…twice. I have friends who do it on a regular basis. I have friends who are playing with it right now.
Here’s a snapshot I apologize for, as it’s not very flattering. I stopped in Coffee Talk, where I get my morning grande skinny latte with sugar free flavoring. Susan, the shop proprietor, asks me if I’m doing NaNo, as she has some clientele who are writers. Before I even think, I say, rather snobbily, “No, that’s not something real writers do. I try to write some every day. I don’t need a special month to do this. ” *sniff*
WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM?
Because that’s not what I believe at all. Not exactly. There are some very good reasons to do this.
1. First drafts can suck. If you’re having trouble actually coming up with any words, for some people, this is a chance to give yourself permission to write.
2. If you need to really push yourself to get some clay on the slab so you can start shaping it, ditto.
3. Bonding with your other buddies who are NaNoing, or failing to NaNo, well that’s good.
Now, for me, the NaNo method doesn’t work so well. Often I revisit material I’ve put down before I gush out 50K words. I can usually hold out until I’ve spewed about 20K, but then I need to look at what I’ve got. When I look at it, I want to tinker with it, and then move on. As with every other process, your mileage may vary.
Good old Maggie Stiefvater. She has some thoughts on this: At first Why NaNo didn’t work for her, and then Why NaNo might work for some, but still not for her.
Maggie asks the question, would it be better if the period were for longer? Yes, Maggie, and for that, I direct you over to the incomparable Jo Knowles, who hosts JoNoWriMo, which is 2.5 months of working on a project or projects. I’ve been doing JoNo for around 3 years now, and it’s seen me through a few revisions. Right now I’m on the second of the three goals I hope to complete for this year’s session. It’s an alternative that’s happening RIGHT NOW over NaNoWriMo.
Of course, there isn’t quite so much hype, because it’s just a bunch of writers quietly doing their work. Deadlines help to make it sexier.
I can think of several reason to NOT NaNoWriMo too, by the way. Like Maggie, what I find is that I tend to get focused on the word count, and not the quality of the story I’m telling. I rush, rather than let my subconscious do its subconscious thing. It’s not my way.
Here are some other things to consider.
1. How many NaNo manuscripts are actually revised and turned into stories? Spewing out 50K words is not easy, BUT revising 50K words into something beautiful is pretty damned hard. Especially if you’re not thrilled with the words after you look at them later.
2. Is your goal publishing writing, and not hobbyist writing? If that’s the case, why do you want to establish a habit of binge writing? If putting these things down on paper, and reshaping them works for you, go for it. Most of us, writing pedagogy tells me, need to reflect, revise, and redraft over a period of time.
I think a lot of people are attracted to the camaraderie of the experience, but I doubt that it’s a good method for most writers, because most NaNo people don’t come back to the draft they’ve produced. They give themselves the freedom to write with abandon in November, and then it’s hard to win the time again to write. Or they’re tired, and when they get back to the draft, the love is gone. Or they discover that revision is harder than chasing word count.
And I could be totally wrong in your case. Am I?
Maybe an analogy is appropriate here. Let’s pretend that for a month, I decided to exercise every day, and eat well every day. At the end of the month, I decided that I was done with that, because I only had enough in me to make this effort once a year. Overall, what would my health look like? I speculate that perhaps it would be better and more honest for those wanting a taste of the writing life to set aside time every day to
go to the gym write, research, and revise, and accept that what produces books that publish is slow, steady, constant good work that you’re willing to take time to do.
In the final analysis, my advice (yes, my advice. World famous writer me) would be to develop the writing habits that will last you a lifetime if you want to be a writer.
If you just want to be a novelist for a little while in November, pretend, and have a good time, knock yourself out. And if this works for you, and my vision is too narrow, I’m not trying to convince you of anything. Nothing to see here. Move along.