Tuesday, November 09, 2010

All This Talk About NaNoWriMo

There's a lot of talk on the web about National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo), the month long event where the goal is to write a novel that is 50,000 words or more. Some folks are for it and praise the event as a great way to crank out a novel in 30 days, while others say it ecourages writing that is unstructured and just plain trash.

Here's a piece from the Los Angeles Times written by Carolyn Kellogg titled, "12 Reasons to Ignore the Naysayers: Do NaNoWriMo" . In Ms. Kellogg's article she counters one naysayer in particular, Salon writer Laura Miller in her rant titled, "Better Yet, DON'T Write That Novel."

And here's another advocate for the event, Marjorie Kehe from The Christian Science Monitor: "NaNoWriMo: Five Reasons Why You Should Participate".  And then another opinion on the down sides by bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, "My NaNoWriMo Anti-pep-talk".

Lot's of opinions on the subject; the above are just a sampling. For me, I think the event has a lot of great qualities & potential drawbacks, the best I've listed below:
  • -Benefit: For writers trying to break the "edit as you go" habit, NaNo is the perfect framework to do it. It forces you to simply draft a story with little care for anything but story development. This could include character develpment, scenes, world building, dialogue, etc
  • -Drawback: Words on a paper do not a story make. In other words, if you think that you'll have a completed novel on December 1st then you've missed the whole point. NaNoWriMo creates a draft, a very rough first draft. Alot of work lies ahead in order to shape up that draft into a cohesive, well-written novel.
  • -Drawback: If you don't write smart, most of your novel will end up in the recycle bin, which could get frustrating and make you question the validity of doing such an event. What do I mean? Just because you put all these words on paper, are you still thinking about what makes a good story? You need to make sure you're working on the elements of a novel. The title of the event is National NOVEL Writing Month. Not National Dribble Writing Month. Don't write words for the sake of writing words just to get your word counts up and reach 50,000 words. Winning NaNoWriMo by doing that doesn't benefit anyone, least of all you. Your goal should be to have a drafted novel, something that can be revised into a book that could be published. So remember what makes a good story, and don't get so trapped into word counts that the novel doesn't get written.
  • -Benefit: NaNo forces you to set daily writing goals. This is important for anyone serious about making writing into a career. You must have goals and force yourself to write even if you're not in the mood to do it, even if you feel uninspired. Those are the times you need to write the most. You wouldn't go two weeks without going to your job would you? No, because you wouldn't get paid. Same for writing, except here all the work is frontloaded, and if done right, the pay-off comes at the end.
  • -Drawback: It's easy to get discouraged when some participants crank through their novels and you're still moving along at a slow pace. If you're not careful you can sabatoge not only your motivation in this competition but also in your other writing as well. Compare yourself only if it helps you get where you need to be. Understand your writing capacity and set writing goals to match it. Perhaps you can crank out more words on the weekend than you can during the week - set your goals accordingly. No two writers think alike, write alike, or approach a novel the same way.
  • -Benefit: There's a great community of writers drawn to NaNoWriMo. Writing is a lonely endeavor, so to be able to connect with others who share your interest is a rewarding feeling. Befriending NaNo writing buddies could help you forge relationships with writings that could become critique partners for the rest of the year. Also, the community offers encouragement on days when the doubts creep in or your word counts are low. Many of the regional/local NaNo groups offer links to tools like Name Generators and schedule local write-ins.
  • -Drawback: The community can easily become distracting, and this can take you away from the actual point of the event which is writing. So be careful not to devote excessive time to your buddy list or local NaNo Facebook page, find the balance that works for you.

1 comment:

Raven West said...

Sometimes it's the journey, sometimes it's the goal... NaNoWriMo is BOTH!

Some people participate in marathon running, some people participate in marathon bike riding, some people participate in marathon WRITING, and it's a lot easier on the knees!!