November brings with it the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which sees writers all over the world attempt the crazed feat of writing a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.
I’ve participated several years, but haven’t managed to complete the challenge since 2011. But, I’m feeling positive this year. My life is very different, and I have more time to write than I have for a long time.
Everyone comes to NaNoWriMo for different reasons. In fact, every year I do it, I approach it with a different goal in mind, a different attitude.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that NaNoWriMo is a game for ‘pretend writers’, or ‘people who wish they were writers’. That it floods the self-publishing market with drivel, that it promotes bad writing. That’s fine, and they’re entitled to their opinion. What they’re not entitled to, is to tell someone else they’re wrong for doing it.
Everyone writes in different ways, uses different methods, strategies, routines, and rituals. The important thing is finding out what works for you, and running with it. Not telling other writers they’re doing it wrong simply because they do it differently.
For me, NaNoWriMo promotes some good writing habits:
- Writing every day. Real life always gets in the way of writing. There are emergencies, unexpected events, and the basic need to spend time with the people around you. The real people that is. And writing daily is a habit that can easily fall by the wayside. But it is a good habit, and it’s easy to get rusty and out of practice.
- Turning off the inner editor. So many writers simply have trouble allowing themselves to simply write. And to write badly. All first drafts need work, that’s why they’re first drafts, rather than final drafts. And the sheer speed required by NaNo, means that there is no time to listen to that inner editor, to keep going over and over the same parts to get them perfect.
- Getting something finished. I’m not good at finishing things I start. I’m a giver-upper, and I always have been. When things get tough, I’m always tempted to throw in the towel. But the sense of competition (against both my fellow NaNoers and that little word count graph) keeps me going. I can finish things by myself, I’ve proved that, but I find using NaNo helps. So, why not?
I know that a lot of what I produce during NaNo will end up as a sacrifice to the big red editing pen, but then, a lot of any first draft does.
And, why should I worry about what anyone else is doing? Whether they’re writing terrible fiction, whether they’re planning on sending that terrible fiction to agents, or publishers, or planning on publishing it themselves. There was bad fiction before NaNo, and there’ll be bad fiction after it too. We’ve all written it at some point.
So, that’s why I participate in NaNo. Be a naysayer if you will, but live and let live. If it works for someone, don’t criticize them for it.