A. NaNoWriMo is bad. B. NaNoWriMo is good. Discuss.

It’s nine days until the end of the month, and as I expected, I’m behind.

By the end of today, according to the handy meter on the NaNoWriMo website, I should be at 35,000 words. This is about 6,000 words higher than my current word count of 28,824. Luckily, we’ve rolled into the weekend, when I always manage to get more writing done. (I was 3,000 words in the hole last weekend, and I managed to pull up even, only to fall behind again. Quel surprise.) And then there’s the Thanksgiving holiday ahead, when I will be thankful for two additional uninterrupted days (interrupted only by mashed potatoes and pie, of course) to crank out more words.

I’ve read blog posts and comments about this “contest” (it’s more of a drive, I suppose, since there are no prizes and the race in the end is only with yourself) from people saying, on the one hand, that it helps aspiring writers become actual writers by getting them over the hurdle of their editorial ear which is always stopping them before they even start. Also, for people like me without an agent, an editor, or a contract (not that I’m complaining, it’ll come in time), it provides a handy deadline to keep you from dithering.

And boy, do I dither, but more on that later.

Anyway, the other camp (and I’ve heard these comments in my writing group as well) says that it encourages writers to just throw any old thing on the page or the screen, whether it’s crap or not, and it’s most likely crap.

I guess in response to that criticism, I could only say, have you ever read a first draft that wasn’t crap?

I prefer to consider it a teaching moment. (I have taken a shine to that phrase recently, “teaching moment,” and I don’t know why. It sounds a bit condescending, doesn’t it? Oh well, I still like it.) Writing is hard work. Cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days is not impossible, but it requires momentum, dedication, and persistence. To anyone who thought it would be easy, let that be a lesson to you.

(And to anyone who finds that it IS easy, please, just keep it to yourself for now so that I won’t seethe with envy.)

By the end of the month I don’t expect to have a completed, polished novel. Good heavens, I don’t even expect to have a completed, crappy first draft done. I hope (fingers crossed here) that I will have dumped from my brain onto the screen 50,000 words of scenes, dialogue, ideas, and outlines that I’ll be able to set aside and let percolate while I go back to the third draft of the first novel—which has taken me five years of work to get to its current stage. Let that be a lesson to anyone who thinks it can be done in a month.

4 thoughts on “A. NaNoWriMo is bad. B. NaNoWriMo is good. Discuss.

  1. I like that NaNoWriMo gets people writing, but I think the objection you cited comes from a belief that NaNo makes people think that getting 50,000 words down on a page makes them an author, without teaching them all the things writers do after they’ve got the first draft done. I think these people miss the point of NaNo. It isn’t to turn someone into a professional writer, but to help everyone discover that they have the potential to write something, even if they don’t want to explore that ability more fully.
    And yes, first drafts are crap. Hence the other name for them is rough draft. I’ve often thought of it like roughage…the stuff you eat to clean out your intestines. Get it all out in the rough draft, polish later.

  2. Do I get a pat on the head for staying out of your way this weekend so that you catch up? Last I heard, you were beating the target as of Sunday evening … and it’s got to feel to good to be able to breath for a day … well … okay … maybe half of a day.

  3. The single year I did NaNoWriMo, I learned it wasn’t for me, though I did end up with one heck of a crappy first draft.

    I’ve been plunking away at a 100 word a day project, and that’s been good, but when I got my cold, I felt I had permission to stop. I drove myself nuts on NaNoWriMo, to the point where I was really disliking what I was writing, and starting to miss the point.

    I dunno – I think I come down on the “what you make of it” side, which isn’t good or bad by itself.

  4. Though I’ve seen you and others post about it, I have avoided asking or trying to find out what it is for fear that I will “go there”. It scares me to put myself out there like that. For me, it’s another way to set myself up for failure. God knows, I’m already too hard on myself AND, I am NOT a writer.

    For you, however, I cheer you on everytime I see you write about it because I know great things are happening. Soon, the world will be graced with yet another brilliant work by my friend, the author.

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