Friday, October 21, 2011

Look Ma, No NaNoWriMo!

When a post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) appeared on Rachelle Gardner's blog, I kind of decided this post would be a must.

Ms. Gardner isn't the only one. Posts and countdowns are popping up all over the blogs I read and all over the OYAN forum as well.

Now, I like NaNoWriMo. I like how it encourages people to turn those "would-be" novels into realities. I like how it draws writers together from across the country and the globe. I like how it forces you to devote time to writing daily or pay the consequences!

However, my two brushes with this global phenomenon have showed that participating in NaNoWriMo doesn't really help me all that much, and may even be a bit counterproductive.

I've actually known about NaNoWriMo for quite a long time. It was one of the first "cures" for my novel troubles suggested to me before the OYAN discovery (2007). I didn't like the idea of it then, though I can't remember exactly why.

My main NaNoWriMo year would actually come three years after the OYAN discovery. It was a tough problem, after Forest of Lies. Though I probably didn't realize it at the time, I was still kind of in my pouting/self-doubt stage that would be a big part of my Forest of Lies story. I was having trouble getting writing in, and my AP English Literature instructor challenged the class to do it. So I did. I wrote 50,060 words that I have basically not looked at since December 2009 (I did one read-through, I think). Mostly what I learned in this draft was: 1) my characters and 2) I had the wrong main character.

I stopped the next year half-way in because I decided I was having something of the same problem.

Now, some of this can be attributed to the novel issues I was having in general. If I had had a story more like Forest of Lies or Quintessence, there's a good chance that I would have had something a bit more useful by the end of the month than I did.

Even that said, though, my main squabble with NaNoWriMo is this: first drafts are always rough, but they don't have to be unusable.

Now, it might just be me (and I seem to be a writer phenomenon on many fronts already, so it really MIGHT just be me), but every draft I've tried with NaNoWriMo has ended up being unusable. I like the: "don't worry about quality!!" aspect on one side, because my major roadblock was my perfectionism in my early years (thanks to Mr.S., I finally knocked *that* down!), but on the other side the speed exhilaration just doesn't make up for the fact that I've had a far more lopsided product by the end. I think I would've discovered that I was going the wrong direction with The Bow (my 50,060 manuscript) a lot sooner if I hadn't been pumping for those 50,000/30.

Also, if I look at Quintessence, my writing style has been a lot of spurts and rests, and the story just won't sustain 50,000 words. I'm glad I'm not trying to make it do so!

Am I writing this to bash NaNoWriMo?

Heck no. I love the inspiration and the challenge it provides for so many people, and the way it draws writers together (seriously, we need this). And just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for anybody (I mean, obviously, just look at some of their stats).

Just letting you all know why I have no countdown and no exuberantly excited post on this admittedly awesome non-profit and slightly crazy program.

I'll be cheering all you Wrimos on, though! (See, I even know the lingo.)



Yorrick said...

Well, my Tolkien friend, I don't blame you--and I'm not surprised. You're already in the habit of writing on a regular schedule, you've "knocked down" the perfectionism habit, and you're not unfamiliar with deadlines.

I would, however, disagree about your NaNoWriMo draft being "unusable;" surely there's loads to be salvaged from it. Those drafts aren't completely worthless, despite misleading titles. I know that they ended up being a bit of a disappointment, and I agree that it's obviously not your style, but don't let the dust collect too long.


NarnianWarHorse said...

I know it's been a long time since you wrote this post -- but I just found your blog today, & seem to have a ton of similar interests. :)

Just wanted to say you're not the only one! :P I feel the same about NaNo; I cheer on the people who can do it, but personally my creativity is crushed by NaNo, & it wants to make the story attempt feel unfixable. XP

So, yeah, you're not the only one!

~Bree NarnianWarHorse

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