Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My take on NaNoWriMo. Jeopardy and all.

I can tell you now that most of the material on this blog will be stuff that happens to be right in front of my face the day I sit down to post. Right in front of my face currently:NaNoWriMo. Oh no. Oh, yes.

As a backdrop, I’ll share my first acquaintance with the NaNoWriMo.

I was watching Jeopardy.

One of the special kid contest ones with middle schoolers or high schoolers, I don’t remember, I was just a middle schooler or high schooler myself. One of the contestants in her little “get to know you” segment in between rounds said that she’d “won” NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words in a month.

I was astounded that anyone could write a novel in a month. I’d been messing around with writing a book and I had no clue how anyone my age could ever get passed the chemical spill that was teenagery to write five good pages in a month let alone a whole book. I was inspired. I thought I’d found a magical writing key and unlocked some serious business. It was about accuracy AND speed. I rethought my writing process and made some real improvements. It was great. And I decided that one day, maybe I’d enter, and out of all the books, mine might come close to winning the contest. That would be pretty sweet.

Years later I find out that “winning” is anyone who meets the word requirement, even if it means having a character recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star seventeen times to make the word count. (Which is honestly totally fine by me; I have come to despise competition poetry slams, so I can respect a contest that doesn’t have one set winner. It’s a goal. A big goal and it’s really groovy if you can meet said goal.) I was just really confused as to what all the hype would be about typing 50,000 words in a month. After all, a lot goes into writing a book besides sheer word count. How would you quantify editing if it meant you had -324 word count for the day?

So, I carried on and never really gave it much thought, until recently when nearly everyone in my writer’s circle (all four of us!) asked if I was going to do NaNoWriMo. And with the importance the internet plays in writing books nowadays (especially the self-publishers like I’m aiming at) I can’t get very far researching book trends and writing philosophies without getting barraged by OMGNANOWRIMOISNEXTMONTH!

That being said, this is my blog and this is my take on NaNoWriMo. It’s a list.
First, something like NaNoWriMo can be awesome if you need a community support. I’ve been pretty fortunate that a lot of people who are close to me support my writing and I can get great feedback from fellow writers and stretch my own editing muscles on their work. Not everyone has such an environment, so that aspect can be crucial for many participants.

Second, I’m not going to bash the balls to the wall approach of pumping out 50,000 words in 30 days. Everyone has different writing processes and this may very well be a great method for a lot of writers. Not to mention that I personally want to try to do it because it’s a method I’ve never tried before and I’d be limiting myself if I just tossed the idea away without attempting. I might get two weeks in and find the method useless for me. Or it might end up being like crack and I’ll have another 50,000 words by January. Never know.

Third, I’m not going to go all epic self-righteous or insecure about NaNoWriMo encouraging already bad writers to make even worse books and flood the reading pool with a few thousand more terrible examples of what not to do in a matter of 30 days. It’s a whole other blog post, but really, writing a book is an opportunity for me, you, and everyone else in the world. Bad books don’t ruin good ones. The end.

Fourth, there are, however, things I don’t like about the idea. Mainly, that there are all these forums, and status updates, and sign-ins, and a bunch of blog posts (like this one) philosophosizing over NaNoWriMo. Who has time to write if you’re so involved in the superfluous aspect of the competition? I mean, I’m almost halfway done with the daily word count for NaNoWriMo with this blog post alone. People that use the internet, especially social networking sites and blogs type a ridiculous amount every day, and on top of that they work on their books. A lot of writers already have set word counts they try to meet in a day. If they don’t, they try to catch up later. To me, if you set your own limits, meeting your own goals should be much more rewarding and productive then following one set by NaNoWriMo.

Summary: Honestly, I just feel like NaNoWriMo is hardcore writing with some light bulbs stuck on it. A novel is a lot of words. Putting all those words together is a lot of work. It’s no different if you do it in July or November.

When it comes down to it, the attention you give your book when no one else gives a goat is where the real success is. What you do with your work before the book launch, the spine-tingling sensation of seeing the final cover design, the potential good and bad reviews, the publicity, the promotion, the giving away of business cards, or the climactic moment when a reader asks you to sign their book – before all of that – is what will make all those aspects fly or flunk.

There’s nothing wrong with participating in NaNoWriMo, if it’s a fun challenge or a kick in the ass for you to get some typing done. After all, you can’t edit a book if there’s nothing there. But just like writing in general, don’t take yourself too seriously. Take what you’re doing seriously, but know that 50,000 words in a row can be brilliance or bullshit. Don’t get the two confused.

Further reading: A pro-NaNoWriMo article and an anti-NaNoWriMo blog post. Cheers!

No comments:

Post a Comment