It’s mid-November. Those of us who are doing Nanowrimo (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth; nanowrimo.org, and admit it, I’m not the only one, am I?) are nominally halfway through our 50,000 words. We are grinding our teeth and swearing or we are feeling it’s all going far better than anticipated, or more likely, we’re several thousand words behind and suspect it’s all a lost cause.
Nanowrimo–which has an express purpose of getting people to sit down and write 50,000 words in a month, no matter how bad those words are–is a devisive subject among writers. Some think it’s terrific. Some think it’s the worst idea in the history of writing. Me, as a professional writer who has participated in Nano about eight times (and succeeded once), I fall right in the middle. So lemme tell you what I think is good about Nano, and what I kinda hope you take away from it if you’re participating, and what I think is bad and what I therefore hope you leave behind.
The Good: the discipline. Whether you actually reach 50K or not is completely irrelevant, not just to me but in general. The really important thing is, have you sat down every day, or nearly every day, and written? Awesome. Keep that up. That’s one of the most important take-aways from Nano.
The Good: silencing the internal editor. To some degree this is a necessary aspect of writing. You can’t get published (assuming that’s your goal) if you never finish something, and Nano helps shunt off the polishing, nit-picking and procrastinating aspect of not finishing.
The Bad: silencing the internal editor. I don’t care how many times I see somebody say “Writing “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” 50,000 times counts, right?”, I will never actually think that’s cute. Yeah, Nano says “50K words, no matter how bad they are,” but there’s a difference between writing a story and filling a page. I know (I hope) most people who say that are joking, but it sets my teeth on edge anyway. The internal editor knows better and should not always be silenced.
The Really Bad: there is only one right way to do it. This is the one that gets me about Nano. The program is so focused on no editing, no revising, nothing but forward motion and words on the page that Nothing Else Is Permitted, and that’s awful.
There is no right way to write a book. There is no wrong way to write a book. There is what works for you. If Nano’s headlong rush works, that’s terrific. But for lots of people it doesn’t, and a great number of them end up feeling like they’ve done something wrong by ‘failing’ Nano’s rules. Last year at a local Nano meeting I mentioned I was working on a book I’d started earlier, and I got taken to task by the local group leader: that was not the way to do Nano, she told me. As a pro with fifteen published novels under my belt, I barely refrained from telling her not to try teaching her grandmother to suck eggs.
So I’ll encourage anybody to do Nano–but I’ll also emphasize not getting so caught up in their rules that you stifle yourself. I’m polishing and editing a bit as I go along; that’s how I work. Will I reach 50K by the end of the month? I sure hope so, but if I don’t it’s not because I stopped to polish a bit. It may be a lack of butt-in-chair (though really with my schedule right now it’s a bit more too many projects, not enough time o.o), but it’s not because I dared walk my own path on this instead of following their exact rules.
Now, tell me: am I all alone, or are there fellow Nanoers in the reading audience? How’s it going? How are you handling the Rules yourselves?