Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I did NaNo in 2003. I finished with 52K. Yay, me! And I wish that everyone who's typing away, trying to get that 1667 minimum daily word count, reaches the finish line. For information about National Novel Writing Month, go here: NaNoWriMo.org. It's not too late to join the madness and the fun.

But in the past few years, I've seen way too much seriousness attached to NaNo. It was originally almost a prank. It was a silly game. It was a fun challenge some college kids thought up. Now it's become a way for solitary writers to get together with a community of other solitary writers and do a story at the same time. A bad story. A good story. A mediocre story. It doesn't matter what kind of story. Most of the fun is in writing with other people and in the satisfaction of seeing the words pile up. It's much easier to get those words if the story itself isn't the most important thing.

That's why I don't think doing NaNo is the best way for serious authors to write a novel they intend to sell, unless writing fast is your natural writing style. I admit that I get frustrated, though, when people who do write fast naturally promote it as "the best way for everyone to write". I've read lots of interviews with authors, books about how various authors write, author's blogs, etc. and have talked with many writers, both published and unpublished. They have shown me that there are as many ways to write a book as there are people writing one. I have friends who start at the beginning and write straight through to the end. I have other friends who write a chunk, then go back and edit that chunk. I have friends who work back and forth, adding setups to earlier sections of the book or revising as the experience of creating sends them off in unexpected directions.

In my case, fast writing doesn't work. And so, I don't do NaNo every year, as many of my friends do. OTOH, my friend Jean's completed books all began as NaNo novels. The year I hit the finish line with 52K, I learned two things from the experience. One--I can write regularly and get a lot of words. The flip side of that is that when I write fast, I tend to leave out important stuff and then get stuck. When I get stuck, I have to go back and add the stuff I left out before I can move on. I've discovered that I make more steady progress if I do the "adding stuff" as I go along, which precludes the NaNo approach of starting at the beginning and write to the end without looking back.

Two--I was reminded that writing is fun. It's way too easy to get hung up on how writing is hard work. It is. But without the fun to balance out the work, it becomes just one more chore to do, one that becomes an easy target for procrastination. So, I might do NaNo again, when I'm not living with my mother and have more control over how I spend my days. But if I do, I will be writing just a fun thing. No pressure to write something for publication. A busman's holiday. A time for my muse to play.

Good luck to those of you NaNoing this month. And for those who aren't, good luck with completing whatever your plan is. Oh, and in case you're actually paying attention to such things--my progress bar made some progress. I finally added more words to this chapter than I cut.