To NaNo or Not to NaNo

NaNoWriMo.  “Thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon!” thus proclaim the powers that be at the Office of Letters and Light.  The goal: write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  The typical outcome for most participants: completed 0 – 50,000 words of rubbish.  The not-so-typical outcome (after many revisions, I would guess):  http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/publishedwrimos

Now, I know what many “real” writers think of NaNoWriMo (see such dislike in bite-sized morsels here), but I have a feeling their displeasure stems more from the gross amount of extraordinarily sub-par material NaNo creates than the spirit of the project itself.  I agree that the ability to create a mess using tangled nouns and verbs does not make a person a (good) writer; rather, a (good) writer has the ability to weave those nouns and verbs into a unique, engrossing story.

I liken NaNoWriMo to the show American Idol.  I’ve only seen it a few times and most of the vocal styling made my ears bleed.  Horrendous.  Sometimes there would be a person who, with some singing lessons and much practice, could pass as a singer.  Every now and then, a person would walk on the stage, begin to sing, and you immediately sensed the potential for greatness.  You heard it cry out through their voice and you felt it in their passion for singing.

Regardless of their vocal abilities, I give kudos to all who put it out there for the world to witness.  I salute those who dare to pursue their dreams.  It’s fucking fantastic.  Period.  My sentiments include everyone who attempts to pound out that  novel during NaNo and live out their childhood dream of becoming a novelist.  NaNo encourages people to step out of their comfort zones for one month and dare to be someone else– dare to be that writer you saw staring back at you in the mirror when you were eight years old.  Ignore the naysayers and embrace your desire to create a story, I say.  

I think NaNo is an amusing way to tinker away those cooler November nights.  Put the kids to bed, brew a pot of coffee or uncork a bottle of Cabernet, and sink into another world instead of staring slack-jawed at television.  Connect with other people on the other side of the world and share your frustration with plot holes.   Do something different with your life.

I’ve (half-heartedly) participated twice before and came far, far short of the 50,000 word goal.  I find I get bogged down in choosing descriptive nouns and verbs and correcting passive sentences and spelling errors.  My desire to get it right the first time (impossible, I know) gets in my way and I don’t end up finishing the story.  I drive myself crazy with it.

Should I decide to participate this year, my ultimate goal will not be the 50,000 word count.  My primary goal will be to cultivate an ability to let go of my desire to constantly edit.  I want my creativity to flow freely.  I want to see what I am truly capable of accomplishing if I don’t get in my own way.

Lately, I’ve been lax in… well, everything.  I need to get back on track.  I need to plant my butt in the chair and tappity tap tap tap on the keyboard.

Maybe a little NaNo is just what I need.

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9 thoughts on “To NaNo or Not to NaNo

    1. Duly noted. However, I believe my idea of fun might be slightly off. If I have two minutes to pee all by myself, away from the intense gaze of a toddler, I have a mental party complete with a disco ball and KC & The Sunshine Band.

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      1. Le Clown

        Michelle,
        Obviously, you haven’t been sleeping. I remember these long nights, when my daughter was just a toddler. I remember last night indeed.
        Le Clown

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  1. Hi Michelle…

    I hope I’m not intruding. We were writing buddies last year for NanoWriMo, and this year as well. Just wanted to wish you luck. Having a goal is great, even if it isn’t reaching the 50K mark. But merely getting BIC without that pesky editor.

    I’ve been reading a few of your posts, and you are a magnificent and talented writer. Keep up the good work!

    Marvin

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    1. Well, hello there, Marvin! Thanks for popping in and paying me such lovely compliments. I’ve been waffling on the NaNo thing this year, but I have a feeling I’ll end up giving it a go. I should probably decide soon, eh?

      Do you have your characters all dressed up and ready to go with a plot in place or are you pantser? I tend to fall on the pantsing side, but by means of procrastination.

      Hmmm… maybe it’s time to pop by NaNoLand and check things out a tad more thoroughly…

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  2. Scott W. Baker

    To write quickly is not to write badly, but you’re definitely right, NaNo is about shutting off the internal editor. It can help to make handwritten notes when you want to edit or even change something so you don’t forget to deal with it later. Sometimes something like “fix chapter 3 so Steve isn’t a jerk” can let you move on.

    If you think you’ve got the time, I’d encourage you to Nano. I’ve only done it once and it was a miserable failure brought on by lack of planning, so planning has been my goal. I’d eventually like to be a career author so 50k a month doesn’t seem an unreasonable expectation (though day jobs do get in the way). If 50k seems like something you’d eventually like to achieve regularly, a little practice can’t hurt.

    And definitely, set your own goals. The prizes for “winning” are all intrinsic anyway.

    -SWB

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    1. I agree. In fact, I think that writing quickly and allowing the words to gush onto the page is probably the best way to write (so long as you know the destination). I just have such a difficult time blocking out my internal editor. Drives me bats. I’ll give your notes idea a try. I think Scrivener has a feature that allows you to make side notes. (Note to self: play around with your writing tools.)

      Thank you!

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  3. I think that’s the question on a lot of people’s minds right now. I’ve decided to do it, after some debate. The good thing about Nano is the deadline, even if it’s just a artificial one. Plus, I really love the stats 🙂

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    1. Yes, I’ll admit I work better under a deadline. I started going through the interactive tutorial for Scrivener last night (hadn’t bothered before) and discovered how much more I could do with it, which in turn made me feel a bit excited for NaNo.

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