Monday, October 28, 2013

NaNoWriMo . . . Not!

Friday is November first and that means it's the start of NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month).  The object is to write 50,000 words of a novel (can be a complete novel or part of a novel) in the 30 days of November.  You're not supposed to start the novel, however, until November 1st.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo in 2011.  I did it unofficially on my own because at the time I was not part of any organized writing group.  The result: I wrote about 30,000 words in November, hit a research wall (i.e, I needed more research to go on), and it ended up taking me about five months to write the approximately 81,000-word novel which became Book of Death.

But, in the spring of this year, I wrote an 77,000-word first draft in 35 days ending March 23rd (the final draft was 88,000 words).  That's about 66,000 words in 30 days which obviously exceeds the NaNoWriMo goal.  I just did it in February and March instead of November.  That novel, Gods of Strife (sequel to Book of Death and part of the Adept Series) is at my publisher.  So, I can write 50,000 words in 30 days if I want to.

Last Friday I went to my local writers' group's NaNoWriMo kickoff gathering.  I learned more about NaNoWriMo than I knew before (I first joined the writers' group in December of last year).  And I know, now, what the goal and philosophy of NaNoWriMo is.  And, to be honest, I have some problems with it, now.

They have you sign an "Agreement and Statement of Understanding" which states, in part:
During the month ahead I realize I will produce clunky dialogue, clichéd characters, and deeply flawed plots.  I agree that all of these things will be left in my rough draft, to be corrected and/or excised at a later point.
In other words, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to just get words down on paper (or hard drive).  I realize some people need this.  They even talked about "locking up" your inner editor that tells you that what you're writing is crap.  Just keep writing!  They say don't go back and edit/re-write.  Just keep writing!  Don't worry if what you are writing is actually crap.  Just keep writing!

I see some validity in this.  Some people just need the push to write without their self-doubt stopping them.  But some people need their self-doubts because they aren't very good.  Combine that with the ease of publishing these days, and a lot of crappy NaNoWriMo books are being published because people are forgetting the next stage: edit and polish your work.

For example, the Gods of Strife first draft was written in 35 days.  But there was over three months of editing, proofreading, beta reading, and just plain re-writing before I thought it was ready to be submitted.  Yes, you may write 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, but you have probably 3 months of work to do polishing it into something decent.  Don't forget that step.

There is some validity to the NaNoWriMo philosophy.  I keep seeing a quote attributed to Hemingway: "Write drunk, edit sober."  Pounding out 1,666 words per day is pretty much writing drunk.  Also a quote attributed to Hemingway: "Everything is shit in first draft."

But a lot of NaNoWriMo participants forget that, and go ahead and publish their crappy first draft, which reflects badly on all authors, especially those independent authors who actually strive to put out a quality product. (Seems I've discussed this before.)  NaNoWriMo, to me, encourages bad writing in the name of JUST KEEP WRITING.  It does not teach new writers the skills they need to make their work good.  It's quantity over quality.  And that's never a good combination.

So this year I'm in the middle of a work in progress (WIP).  It's tentatively titled The Black Hole Treasure.  My goal is for it to be at least 60,000 words long.  As of this moment it is 37,855 words long.  For NaNoWriMo I promised to produce 30,000 words on this WIP (which is not what you're supposed to do).

For the new writer who needs a push to actually write, I see NaNoWriMo can have some usefulness.  For me, I write anyway and I don't need prodded to write.  My inner editor is alive and well and tells me when I need to fix problems.  But I have not given it the power to stop me from writing. 

Sure, sometimes months go by when I haven't been writing.  But NaNoWriMo is not going to make me write more.  So while I'm sort of doing NaNoWriMo, I'm not doing it, really.

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