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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So here I am. I have pencils. I have paper. I have Post-Its. I have time set aside each day. I have a basic plot. And this is all I have.
I’m so flying by the seat of my pants here. I’m not even going to pretend anymore. This shit is scary. Due to the scary, I figured that I should post a few more things to make myself feel better before I go about plotting my ass off for the remainder of the night.
Do not worry about not making the daily word goal. There will be days that you’ll write more and days that you’ll write less because that is how you write. The goal is the overall 50,000, not what you do each day.
It does not have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Rough drafts are rough for a reason and you’re just getting the ideas down so that you can further smooth them out in editing. The general outline of the novel should be there, but odds are that it will change drastically from this draft anyway. Don’t sweat it.
Don’t forget to eat and drink. You always do that. You can’t write if your brain can’t do the work. Have plenty of water, eat regularly, snack as needed.
And for the Eld’s sake, make some of the snacking healthy. Bite sized fruit (grapes and tomatoes) and baked crackers (CHEEZ-ITS) are good in addition to the ice cream and chocolate and hard candy, okay?
Reward yourself. This week’s reward is a bit of Ben & Jerry’s. Next week? Maybe some homemade cheesecake bites.
Look at your word count only once per day, at the very end of the 24 hours. 11:59 PM is Word Count Update Time.
You will get woefully behind on your shows. Deal with it. Either stay off of Tumblr for a month or heed the spoilers warnings.
Turn off the internal editor. Right now. Editor off. NOW. Write with abandon. Free yourself from constant thoughts of ‘could I do this better?’ Yes, probably, but no one cares right now because it’s a first fucking draft and it’s supposed to be awful.
Have fun. Plot, scheme, save the day, the world, or just yourself. Live a little, write a lot. Do it for yourself. You know you need to do this. Winning would be awesome, but not necessary. Just do it for the lulz.
Work hard. Do. While it should be fun, it will be hard work. It will be stressful and trying and you will probably cry at least once. You will think that it is too hard. Keep going. Don’t let your brain stop you this time.
Don’t let anyone stop you. You deserve one month of indulgence in this. Take it. Use it. Make yourself proud for the first time in years.
And it is now just over an hour before things start. Can I do this? Hell yes. The hell you think I am, a wuss? I can knock this shit out better than Dean Winchester can hunt supernatural baddies.
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.