For the past month, you’ve been reading blog posts on this site covering a variety of topics: from characters to conventions, from short stories to writing exercises. Well, I’m here to tell you… Not a single one of these pieces was written in the month of November. Not one. I started writing them all at the end of September and by mid October I had thirty pre-written posts scheduled for the coming month. In fact, even this post, the one you’re reading right now, was written on October 11th.
Because this year, I took part in National Novel Writing Month.
(I’ll wait patiently here for a few of you to get the giggles out of your systems.)
You see, for those of you who know me, you’ve most likely heard a rant or two on my dislike of NaNoWriMo (I still think the acronym is lame). Knowing that, I’m pretty sure you’re sitting there chuckling in your chairs, saying to yourselves, “I told her!”
Now, don’t get too cocky! Like I said, this post was actually written in October, so I still don’t know whether or not my mind will have changed on NaNo by the time you’re reading this. Check in tomorrow to get a better understanding of my experience these last thirty days. For all I know, all my worries were absolutely affirmed and I’ll have even more grounds to think NaNo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Or I’ll be dead wrong–and I’ll admit it if I am.
To clear a few things up first and foremost, for those of you who haven’t heard my reasons for being skeptical of the whole “National Novel Writing Month” thing, let me quickly cover what I believed, at the very least, before this November.
One, writing a novel in a month is almost impossible.
In one of the articles posted a while back, I talked about average book length. It’s 100,000 words, for those of you who didn’t read it. 100,000. If you wanted to get that done in a month, you’d have to write 3,333.3333~ words a day. Maybe that’s possible, if you don’t have another job or a social life. Most of us, however, aren’t making a living off of our novels so it’s reasonable to say we’ll spend eight hours a day working on top of writing.
Now, NaNo technically only requires you to finish 50,000 words to technically “beat” it, and that doesn’t even mean you actually have to finish your novel, which feels like a cop out to me.
Two, I feel like speed writing doesn’t prompt good writing.
It’s not that I expect anyone going through NaNo to have a perfect product. Hell, I don’t expect anyone writing their first draft of any book to be perfect. However, in my post about how “perfect practice makes perfect,” I go a bit into what I mean. If you aren’t practicing GOOD writing, and you’re just doing the same old stuff you always do without improving, is it really practice? Part of me doubts that most writers who do NaNo actually focus on their craft and instead focus on just getting the words down.
In fact, I know a few of these writers make decisions not because they’re better for the book itself, but because it ups the word count (not using contractions, using awkward language, etc). They intentionally practice bad writing just because they need to meet a word goal. To me, this defeats the purpose of writing.
Of course, this second point does not reflect all NaNo participators, but the fact of the matter is that writing a novel is not easy. There’s more to it than simply counting the words until you’re done. If that’s all this thing focuses on, how are we going to teach young writers to really be writers?
Now, I know a lot of good does come out of NaNo. My cousin/critique partner participated last year, and the first draft she came up with essentially became an extended outline, which she rewrote into an awesome piece I’m reading for her now. I’m sure many other writers truly do take the time to make NaNo something worthwhile, instead of just jamming whatever words down on the page without caring about the whole craft.
I just wonder–is it actually possible to write a “good” book during NaNo?
That’s one of the reasons I decided to challenge myself with it this year. I decided to put NaNo (and myself) to the test to see if it is possible to write a complete (read: between 80,000 and 100,000 words) and well-written (read: good, solid prose and proper character and plot development) in a month.
To prepare, I wrote out an outline before hand (which is something NaNo suggests you do anyway; whether or not most writers actually do it is beyond me), and I wrote all my blog posts for November early so the only thing, other than work, I had to focus on was my story. I got together with two other friends of mine who were also planning on participating this year, and I stocked up on caffeine.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about my experience, and whether or not it really IS possible to write a well-formed, 100,000 word book in only thirty days.
(That is, assuming, I survived it).