Hey guys. I’ve been kind of quiet recently. Oh, you didn’t notice? Bastards. Anyways. I have lots of excuses, and I feel that those excuses are pretty good ones: I just moved back to the US and have been looking for a job and a place to live. Having recently found both of those most desirable of objects, I have also foolishly decided to write a novel this month.
Write a novel in one month, you (theoretically, bear with me) say, whyever would you do that?
Because it’s November and everyone with a keyboard writes a shitty novel in November! I might reply, were we speaking together in real life and not via the medium of the INTERWEBZZ. N00Bs.
..Or I did just reply that on the internet, so there, whatever, let’s move on.
Let’s talk about NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month.) We have Pancake Day, and Asexual Awareness Week (hi friends!) and lots of other special days, weeks, and months to remind us of important things and to make the calendar a leeetle less boring. But there is only one month of the year when a bunch of starry-eyed, Cheeto dust-covered internet denizens get together in one raging, frothing mass in order to write. a. goddamn. novel. Let’s be clear that everyone’s writing their own novel. It’s not one million people writing just one combined novel.
Although that could be interesting.
The basic premise is that you write 50,000 words in one month – which is roughly 1,667 words per day, seven days a week, every single day of the month of November, and then at the end you have…a lotta words. A Compendium of Les Mots. There’s no guarantee that hose words will be good (in fact, they probably won’t be.) At best, you have an extremely rough, very short first draft of a novel that you probably sweated out while you were writing in your lonely basement all alone, and the chances of a publisher ever accepting that monstrosity is slim to none.
Oh, there have been a few success stories – Water for Elephants probably one of the most notable – but when you tally up the sheer number of participants and divide it by the number of successful novels actually produced from the tear-stained paper outpourings of humanity, you start to realize that creating a commercially viable novel from a month-long crazed word-writing binge is akin to the chances of winning the lottery, only with longer odds.
And because of this, there are a fair few people – writers and bloggers and the like – who put this project down, and who say it’s worthless and roll their eyes every time November comes around and they go, “Ah shit, not these monkeys again.” And then the publishers start mass-printing rejection slips and then everyone goes home in tears. Or something like that.
So why do NaNoWriMo? Why does anyone still go for it? Why even bother?
I’ll tell you why. Because I would argue that it’s not necessarily about creating a commercially viable novel, or of even creating a readable novel. This isn’t a productive challenge, but an inward one.
Because let’s face it. If you can actually sit down every single day after work, after walking the dog and cleaning the house and cooking dinner, after studying or attending massive raves or changing diapers, if you can do all that and then EVERY SINGLE DAY for an entire month focus the tired grey matter in your skull on writing a story or hell, even typing the word “fornication” a total of 50,000 times, then my friend, you have done something impressive. And that has nothing to do with other people and what they think of the things you wrote. That has everything to do with you. You did it, man. You had the self-control, the drive, and the need to succeed. And that’s pretty fucking cool.
I’ve successfully completed NaNo twice in the past. The first time was 2008. I was finishing high school, going to university, and working nearly full time, and man I did not have any time to myself. My manuscript was shit. Beyond shit. So awful. Let’s not talk about it. But you know what? It made me feel awesome that I could do something like that. It made me feel confident that if I could do this one thing, then I could do lots of other things. So I did it again in 2012, because I was working a lot and stressed and consuming myself in my writing helped. Again, the finished result was not excellent, but it was better than the first one and it also helped me develop better writing habits and better habits in real life. It was also the first thing I wrote that made me think that maybe someday I could Do This Thing for real. Turns out, life skills are transferable and if you can train yourself to write every day, you can train yourself to do other things every day.
So if you’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo and have been put off by the negative hype surrounding it, screw those guys. Just do it. It doesn’t matter if you create an awesome draft that you edit and rewrite into an awesome book after November is over, because that’s not what it’s really about.
If you disagree with me for some reason, let me know why…ooh dangerous proposition on the internet, but I’m going to risk it. And if you’re doing NaNo, why have you chosen to do it? How do you stay motivated? If you’ve successfully done it in previous years, what happened with your manuscript, and how did you feel when it was over? Let’s talk!