The Annual NaNo Post.

It’s here! I was going to blog about NaNo last week, but THAT OTHER CHICK already touched on it so I figured I’d wait. We share enough brain real estate without me blogging about the same crap as her on the same day, too. Anyway, I’ve seen a lot of interesting Tweets about NaNo this year. There’s the usual encouragement and word count padding advice things (HAAAAATE – MORE ON THAT LATER.) But . . . there’s also a lot of strangely antagonistic posts out there, too. Not so much from folks shitting on NaNo people, but NaNo people getting really defensive about NaNo because they feel like the world is out to get them for playing along so FUCK YOU, WORLD. The chins are up, the chests are puffed out, and the hands are on the hips.


I’m sure there’s a handful of crapholes out there who sneer at NaNoers as Wannabes or Try Hards. These are probably the same crapholes who think commercial fiction authors have small, reptilian brains and aren’t real writers (FYI the reptiles make more money – BOO YA.) My question is are these NEW crapholes? Or are these the same crapholes with a five year old anti-NaNo post that’s being dredged up over and over again? Most of the writers I know are supportive of the NaNo population. Sure, they mete out advice like “your 50,000 word draft is not novel-length, nor is it going to be publication ready after one month of frantic writing so don’t even try it,” but I don’t see that advice as pissing on NaNo dreams. I see it as, “We’re in this industry and this industry is hard – avoid our foils.” Hearing that your NaNo project is a raw, raw, raw draft and will need extensive work before going on submission should not translate to YOU ARE A FAILURE AND WILL NEVER BE A REAL WRITER. It should translate to, “Have patience, make this the best book it can be so you have a real shot at publication. Rushing will rarely behoove you.” And I think we’d say that to anyone writing something at a brisk pace, NaNo or not. I’ve critted writing for a long time now and I can almost /always/ tell when a draft is rushed. Writers not on a frantic deadline have more time to think, and more time to think translates to better word choice, better characterization, and about half the plot holes. Spewing thoughts onto the page at fifty billion miles an hour means little care for the actual craft of wordsmithing. Little care for the actual craft of wordsmithing means a flawed voice. A flawed voice means a flawed book, which means no agent, which means no deal.

You guys KNOW this stuff, yeah?

So. NaNo. I think it’s a great concept. I like the excitement it generates. I dislike the hostility coming from both sides. A few other thoughtlings:

– Let’s say NaNo equates to an hour a day of writing for the next thirty days with a goal of 2,000 words vomited onto the page per day. Why not consider 500 words of stuff you massaged to perfection in that hour instead of the 2,000? Sure, your document won’t hit 50,000 words, but I always felt the spirit of NaNo was WRITE MONKEY, WRITE. The number of words can be interpreted as arbitrary.

– I do not suggest this because NaNo sucks, but more because I’m lazy and I don’t like doing work twice. My first drafts and final drafts are usually eerily similar because I don’t rush, I take my time with the material in front of me, and that means I’ll do half the editing of someone who’s hopped up on NaNo goofballs and needs to take a chainsaw to their book.

– Erin Morgenstern’s name is bandied around a lot as PROOF THAT NaNo WORKS. And it does work – it gets people in a chair and writing every day and that’s the hardest part of being a writer. But she also says quite plainly right here, “I do have a novel I started during NaNoWriMo (’06) being published in the foreseeable future. I wrote a long, wandering draft of it over the span of two Novembers and then spent a very, very long time turning it into something book-shaped and polishing it before I let it out of its nest.” Think about that – that’s over a year of drafting alone and then “a very long time turning it into something book-shaped.” From the horse’s mouth, folks. A NaNo author CAN do it, but be ready to face the realities of redrafting forever. The dedication can’t stop just because you wrote THE END.

– Most writers aren’t out to get the NaNo participant. Some are. They’re dinks. But the majority of us support you. By association, agents saying they don’t want your NaNo piece aren’t saying it because they think you’re a joke. They’re saying it because even the best writer on his best day is very likely NOT producing content at your pace. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Step away from the project once you /think/ you’re done and give it to people who will rip it apart for you. And, on the off chance that everyone in the world deems it THE BEST BOOK EVER, consider not subbing it right away. You’ll be lumped in with the NaNo authors who did no editing and submitted their vampire-werewolf-unicorn fucker fiction to agents on December 1st. Don’t be pulled down by associative stigma.

– Half of the joy of NaNo (when I participated) was the community. If you need that support group, consider joining a writing circle or a crit partner group so you will always have people with pom poms around you. We all need pats on the head from time to time. Sometimes, we need a kick in the junk, too (metaphorically speaking, unless you’re into that type of thing.) Seek out mini-communities to keep you focused once the NaNo rush is over.

– Word count padding is wasting your time. Seriously. It might get you a number, but if you put it in knowing you’re going to cut it later anyway, why /bother/? It’s essentially cheating. I could write DICK in a Word document 50,000 times and say I’m a winner, too. But it’s a lie. You know it’s a lie. Stop playing games and make what you write count.

2 thoughts on “The Annual NaNo Post.

  1. I don’t do much in the word padding department–I write the way I normally would. nly maybe I actually try to describve things sometimes, as opposed to being allergic to it.

    I find that the wordvomit style of writing…er, is what keeps me writing. If I take too much care WHILE writing it, I catch myself in a write/delete/write/delete/god it’s terrible PERMA DELETE cycle of hell.

    I NEED to toss these words heedlessly on the page. I find the editing process far easier to do than the writing phase.

    I DO want to murder whoever made the “Adopt a Word Other Than Said!” thread though. GAH.

    I also have no idea what the point of this comment was. Hi.

    • I love you, Amber. And I get (to a point) that the word vomit is why it works for some people. I just feel almost . . . sorta bad about it? That if the vomit’s that bad, you wrote 50,000 words to only have 30,000 actual workable ones. All those hacked sentences lying on the floor. Limp. Discarded. Unloved. Sad.

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