Before starting National Novel Writing Month I believed I would learn a lot about my writing process from 30 days of speed writing. I was right. I did learn quite a bit. Whether you buy into the concept of writing an entire novel in a month or not, the volume of writing is good practice. I do want to remind everyone that this process will result in a rough draft, not a FINISHED novel. At the end of NaNoWriMo, you still have plenty of work to do. So please, edit that thing before making it available on Kindle.
NaNoWriMo teaches writers:
How to focus on a topic – For the month of November, it’s all about your novel.
How to meet deadlines – In this case, 50,000 words in 30 days. No excuses accepted and no extensions given.
How to procrastinate – There are many categories in the discussion threads just for this purpose
How to support other writers – Those discussion threads again! They have a number of topics for you to shout out things like reaching a word count milestone or when you’re stuck. It’s nice to be able to connect with other writers to receive a pat on the back or a kick in the butt as needed.
There are plenty of things I don’t like about NaNoWriMo as well. Among those:
It encourages people to wait for November to start writing. We all know the rules. Writers write. All the time. We don’t start writing like we start a diet – after the holidays. We start whenever we damn well want to.
It causes an obsession with word counts, which leads to flabby, bloated drafts that need extensive editing because of the temptation to add extra words to pad your word count. Chris Baty actually gives instructions on how to do this in his book, No Plot? No Problem. Stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do when the goal is quality writing. (Just like using the word “stupid” three times was a stupid way to illustrate my point.)
Many people drop out because of the one-size-fits-all goal of 50,000 words. I believe it’s more important to write, preferably daily, whether it’s 100 words or 10,000 per day. Writers are all different. The goals that work for me may not work for you. I think some people get behind and figure they won’t be able to reach the goal, so why bother to continue?
I hated the pep talks. Most were rambling and unfocused and the worst of those were a way for the writer to brag about having such and such book published. I actually stopped reading the pep talks in the second week.
Two things I am not going to do in the future relating to NaNoWriMo:
I’m not going to spend hours of my valuable writing time persuading others that it’s absolutely necessary to participate.
And I’m not going to spend hours of my valuable writing time persuading others that NaNoWriMo is wrong and should be avoided at all costs.
Will I participate again? Right now I say probably not, though I may change my mind between now and next year. It was fun, I finished the novel I started, and I made a couple of good writer friends. I just have to wait and see how I feel about it next fall.