Saturday, November 6, 2010

Six days of the NaNoWriMo

Well, it's only six days into NaNoWriMo and already I'm pretty sure this will be the only time I participate. While I support the event and its participants, I don't feel that this marathon is for me.

I love to write. Hell, I've already written two novels this year as well as several short stories. I was planning on taking the rest of the year to edit said novels so I could start querying publishers or agents. Then, a writing friend mentioned that he was thinking of entering NaNoWriMo this year. In the past, we'd both sat on the sidelines. I thought to myself, yeah, this will be a fun competition to see if we can both do it.

Well, I registered to participate and tried making an outline and some character notes for a story that came to mind. This was five days before the start of the event. I'm happy to report that I am actually ahead of schedule. My stats say that I am scheduled to finish on the 28th if I can keep the same pace. Yay!

However, let me tell you how it really is. I think I'm doing as well as I am only because I know I've got the stamina to actually finish a novel. I've done it several times already. Those novels were not done at marathon speeds though. I had ideas for those stories, fleshed them out in my head, outlined several chapters, and wrote some character notes before beginning those stories. I then committed myself to a thousand words a day with the exception of the weekend, which I deemed my time away from writing. Occasionally, I might write on the weekend if I was feeling especially creative. I could finish a first draft in about two and a half or three months using that method.

With NaNoWriMo, I have to writer EVERY day. Not only that, as it's not a very big deal, but one must maintain at least 1,667 words a day in order to reach the fifty-thousand word goal by the end of November. That may not seem like a lot, but for anyone who writes and holds a full time job knows that it is quite a lot of writing. With the aforementioned technique that has been successful for me, I may not get a thousand words on certain days. I would try to make them up on subsequent days. God knows that there are those days when the words come hard.

This leads me to a problem with NaNoWriMo. I think the main focus of this competition is the word count, and not the story. I've heard advice that says if you are staring at a blank page, you should write nonsensical stuff until you break through the block. Okay, I can accept that. I assume they mean open a scratch pad and do that nonsensical writing there. But, I've heard people say no, just write it into the draft to get the word count. Are you kidding me?

Also, I've heard a literary agent say that following NaNoWriMo, their inboxes become inundated with queries for NaNo drafts. Are you kidding me? While I can see a writer outlining their entire novels ahead of time and writing everyday during November to get out the target word count, I think the finished novel should be longer than a flat fifty-thousand words. (Unless, of course, you're Steinbeck, Hemingway, or Faulkner). Also, when that first draft is finished, there is a lot of editing that must be done. I actually know of a writer who thinks his first drafts are publishable--and this guy has been writing for a while, albeit he's not very good.

So, here is my opinion of NaNoWriMo: I think it is good to help a writer get into the habit of writing daily. That is invaluable. Also, I think that it unlocks the mind at certain times during the writing process to release creative energy. These times usually come when the writer is below his target daily word count and near the beginning or end of a scene. He/she is forced to think of description, dialogue, etc to fill in the gaps. Also, I think that having a writing buddy to compete with is a nice friendly form of motivation and competition. It's a way to help urge each other on to write and cross that finish line.

Those were the positive aspects I can see in all this. The negative? Well, said writing buddies don't help motivate when they've thrown in the towel on day one and / or won't post their daily word counts. I have several writing buddies that have zero word counts. That's not much of a writing buddy, if you ask me. Also, with day jobs and other personal responsibilities, striving to make that word count becomes paramount while the other aspects of the novel tend to fall by the wayside (this hasn't personally happened to me yet, but I know others have experienced it). That stringent daily word count gives writers tunnel vision, focusing only on reaching a number. Their story may have come off the rails a long time ago, but the writer won't know it until they go back for a re-read.

Like I said, it's only day six and I'm already feeling the pinch. I'm not one to easily quit something when I put my mind to accomplishing a goal, so I know I won't throw in the towel. Also, I don't feel like doing something half-assed, so I am striving to turn out a reasonable first draft, something that I can edit into a fine story. But, I'm finding it very difficult to go to work and then sit down at night to get my words on paper, and then find time to chart a course in my outline for where I want to go the next day. It's hard fucking work, harder than going at your own pace.

Anyway, that's my opinion six days in. If you're involved in NaNoWriMo this year and want to become my buddy to check my progress or motivate one another, my username is mxlemore. Look me up. But, don't count on finding me next year. Also, stay tuned for more of my rants while I'm slogging through the NaNo trenches.

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