Category Archives: Writing

On NaNoWriMo and Quality of Writing.

I’ve been reading some blogs that have said, in various ways, that NaNoWriMo encourages bad writing. And they’d be right. However, it’s perfectly fine. And I’m going to tell you why.

National Novel Writing Month does not encourage the writing of a publishable novel in a month. It never has. That would be insane.

  1. It would be insane. This deserves to be repeated. I’m pretty sure that even the most seasoned writer would have trouble coming up with anything more than a first draft in a month. There are exceptions to any rule, but the majority of authors have lives outside of writing just like any other human being who has a job.
  2. No one in their right mind thinks that a first draft is publishable. Well, maybe some fan fiction authors. Anyway, see number one. If someone does actually try to submit what they wrote during NaNo to a publisher without editing, they’re in for a rude awakening. I’m pretty sure no one has any illusions as to the quality of their work coming directly out of the month.
  3. 50,000 words is rarely enough for anything but young adult fiction. Adult fiction tends to be longer if it isn’t in the romance or mystery genres, and young adult fiction is breaking the short book mold more and more. I mean sometimes it’s to excellent effect and sometimes the result is mediocre, but that’s true with everything.
  4. People are encouraged to write however they damn well please, whether that be working on one project or a number of projects, and as long as they meet the word goal they win. Just completely ignore the word ‘novel’ in the title. It’s really only meant to give an idea of the scope of the writing, not that an actual novel has to be completed. You’re writing enough words that it could, if it was good enough and not complete dreck, be a novel. That’s the accomplishment.
  5. It’s meant to give people a concrete, but not insane, goal. 50,000 words in a month isn’t really that insane. Seeing the goal and watching themselves meeting it is exciting and makes people want to write. Sometimes I wish that it was all about setting your own word goal, but I think that 50,000 words is a challenge that most people can do if they put their minds to it.
  6. NaNoWriMo allows people to do this at the same time, building relationships between writers and an encouraging community. Sure, the community could do with a lot more constructive criticism and a lot less meaningless back-patting, but it’s not that hard to find the type of community you need. There are plenty of people who do it for fun, but there are also plenty of people who do it very seriously every year. Ignore the people who aren’t doing your particular flavor of NaNo and just fucking write already.
  7. People being ridiculous hurts no one. It’s funny. Taking yourself too seriously as a writer is likely to stifle your creativity. Live a little. Write badly. It’s really the only way to learn to write well.
  8. There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with failing. Don’t make word count? Who the hell cares, you wrote ALL MONTH LONG. Good job. You get a gold star anyway. It’s not the winning that’s important, really, it’s the doing it.

So here’s the bottom line: NaNoWriMo does more good for writers than bad. Quit focusing on the ‘novel’ part of the title and, instead, focus on the ‘writing’ part. Once you’ve done so, feel free to go be negative somewhere else. Lots of young people do NaNoWriMo. Let’s not discourage our young people from writing, even if they do it badly.

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NaNoWriMo will probably eat my soul.

In an attempt to make myself do something worthwhile, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year.  To be honest, I’m kind of scared of this.

I’ve had a novel idea in my head for about five years. A couple of years ago I started writing out the idea. That became a very basic outline for a world. Over the course of November, I hope to take that world and flesh it out into something rough and only somewhat resembling a finished novel. I need to create characters that are more thought out than the  vague notions in my head right now, and I think that’s what scares me the most.

I know, somewhere deep in my subconscious, that I can write really awesome, really inspiring characters. The surface of my brain is flailing, however. “What if my character is too perfect?” “What if my character is too flawed?” “What if this guy seems fake?” “What if I do this wrong?” To combat this part of my brain, I’m taking a little bit out of my world building to make a post in which to tell myself a few things.

  • Your characters do not have to be perfect in a rough draft. It’s rough for a reason, and they can be fleshed out more in editing.
  • By the end of the rough, you will know your characters well. You will have gone through some great trials together.  Don’t worry about not knowing them so completely when you start. You don’t just *know* about someone the minute you meet them. Getting to know your characters as you write them is like getting to know someone in real life: it happens gradually and naturally.
  • If you find something out about your character as you’re writing that you should remember for later, make note of it on a document for that character. By the end of the rough, you should have a good list of traits, interests, and feelings that makes the character unique and three dimensional.
  • When editing, keep these lists of things in mind. Use the tidbits of information in appropriate spots to flesh out characters and/or advance your plot.
  • You do not have to publish your NaNoWriMo novel as it is written during NaNoWriMo. Don’t write as though you do.

So this is my advice for myself. Hopefully I’ll actually take it.