When I think of NaNoWriMo critics, I generally imagine them to be sitting in front of an old-school typewriter, or perhaps a piece of parchment with quill in hand, their lips upturned with a scowl of self-important concentration (if this is your process, totally cool, but I can’t help but giggle a little). They’re probably the ones who think that there hasn’t been a decent work of literature written since War and Peace
and that the fantasy genre is hardly literature at all. Well, you know what? They kind of annoy me.
Pretentious sites like NaNoWriMo No Mo
pretend to tout strict formulaic rules to getting published or assume that getting published is your only goal in writing, and that NaNoWriMo is a hindrance to such things—when, in fact, there are a) many ways to publish your work and b) many reasons to want to write outside of getting published. But to keep this rant brief and focused, I’m going to focus specifically on the arguments that “NaNoWriMo No Mo” makes, starting with the statement that “NaNoWriMo is a good, one-time goal to get you used to putting down words on a regular basis. Writing regularly is a tough habit to develop, and NaNo can help you get into that groove. Unfortunately, that’s all it can do and people expect more
NaNoWriMo helped me discover
myself as a writer. Yes, that’s primarily because it forced me to get down more words in one solitary month of 2008 than I’d possibly ever written (creatively) in my life, but also because it really opened my eyes to the process of writing a novel. It inspired me, pushed me to succeed, and really put enough pressure on me to bring out some great writing that I never thought myself capable of. Maybe 90% of my first NaNo novel is crap, but guess what? It got a lot of bad writing out of my system, taught me some serious lessons in novel writing, and helped me produce that other 10%--the sentences, ideas, characters that will always stick with me and will someday be published, either in their original form or in other works. Yeah, I’d say it’s done a lot more for me than teach me to get off my ass and write (although that was a valuable lesson as well).
Next up: “Don’t do NaNoWriMo more than once because ‘people use NaNo as their yearly motivational pat on the back, and don’t really use it to change their behavior
.’” I beg to differ. I’ve experienced growing dedication to my writing since my first NaNoWriMo (and second, and third) and although I’ve had some pretty stagnant months in-between NaNos, I’ve progressively become more and more strict with myself about writing. And, in many cases, I don’t have to be strict with myself because NaNoWriMo taught me how to enjoy writing.
It also introduced me to a pretty huge community of writers that are fantastic motivators and inspirational figures. And the more often I participate in NaNo, the more likely I am to keep myself writing and editing in the months in-between.
I think I get frustrated with this kind of criticism because I really don’t understand what the critics think
WriMos are doing. Do they believe that writers (serious ones—there are a few that take on NaNo just for fun and write ridiculous stuff, and that’s okay too) are just slapping a bunch of crap onto a page to meet the 50k goal? If we were just trying to get a little badge next to our username, we could just type 50k of jibberish—or wait for NaNo to be over and check off that year on our profile. Maybe we word pad a bit, and maybe we are less inhibited during the challenge, but that’s the point—we’re allowing our experimental sides to poke through for once, for our self-aggrandizing walls to drop, and for our ultimately creative selves to take the reign.
We know what we want our stories to be, and if we choose, we can refine them at the end to reflect that finished product. But long-term sprints like NaNo help us break out of that mold a little for just a month, to see what our work could possibly be if we didn’t confine it to such stringent outlines and rules and publishing ideals. And, in my experience, my stories have only flourished when I’ve allowed them this room, and suffered when I try to impose some “vision” on them that they’re just not meant to adapt to.
I’m not going to pretend that NaNoWriMo is a great way to write a publishable work, but no first draft is publishable
. NaNo IS a great way to get that first draft down, to get all those ideas fleshed out, before going back and polishing it all back up. If you rely on NaNo every year to pump out a publishable novel in one month and then have an 11-month break, you’re doing it wrong. But guess what, critics? We’re not that dense.
Rawr. Rant over. Can't wait to get started on my fourth (!!!!) NaNoWriMo tonight!