Saying No to NANO
Over the next few weeks, writing blogs and columns will be populated with the frenzy that is NaNoWriMo.
This week, Jodi provided some great ways to prepare for this year’s NaNoWriMo. There are a myriad of excellent reasons for a writer – regardless to where on their journey they are in their career – to enter and participate.
However, I am dedicating todays post to looking at the flipside and to give some reasons why a writer has permission not to enter the fray.
Ask yourself – what are you hoping to gain? By participating in NaNo, are you hoping to gain a publishing contract? Experience in writing? To build connections with other writers? Gain respect as a writer? To finally get that book onto the screen? Just to prove to yourself – or perhaps your friends or family that you CAN be dedicated and you ARE a ‘REAL’ writer? Whilst it is possible to achieve all of these, unless you have it clear in your head as to what you are pursuing, you will not reach it.
Be at peace with your limits There is a mild hysteria building in the writing world. Many are measuring ‘worthiness’ to participation in NaNoWriMo. Understand your personal limits, time frames and accessibility to the workload and stress involved. Juggling a young family, work, household duties and community involvement does not simply stop for the month of November. Something has to ‘give’. Unless you have plans for outsourcing duties or postponing a great deal of activities, seriously relook your commitment to participation in NaNoWriMo.
Dedication or Delusion? It does not mean that you are any less dedicated to your craft or any less serious about following a career path as a writer; if you choose NOT to participate in NaNoWriMo. 30 days of dedicated writing – 1670 words per day – may not sound a great deal; but miss one or two days, and the pressure begins to mount as your wordcount fails to rise.
Choose instead to write 500 well chosen or crafted words per day. Choose to pull out those first drafts and redraft polish and submit them into competitions or to anthologies or publishers. Choose to support a cause, educate, inform or promote an idea through your writing. Use your powers for good!
Write for the Right reasons. Do you have a character, message or plot line burning holes in your psyche? Participate in NaNo because you have the passion and drive to deliver this message. For every pursuit, there needs to be passionate driving need to continue; which will dispel negativity, tiredness and disparaging comments by family and friends. If the need is not there, by week three you will find a myriad of excuses not to write and end up being disappointed in yourself and your “commitment.”
“Writing is rewriting.” 50 000 words is a great start to a novel – but it isn’t the accepted modern day length. (whereas classics such as Animal Farm are under 30K and many of Asimovs – for example – are 27K; but thats best saved for another argument)
For those of you who have ‘done’ NaNowriMo before, I have a simple question. “Where is that Manuscript now?” for 99% of NaNoWriMo winnners – the answer is – “Gathering dust” or “Not seen the light of day since the 1st Dec.” Seriously, if you were passionate enough to invest 30 days of your time, sweat and for many – tears, then be serious now, and redraft, edit and continue what you have started. Use this NaNoWriMo month to do something with your draft and either finish it, or begin redrafting so it can be submitted.
Starting with a great idea. There is a saying about polishing turds……
A lackluster, predictable or formulaic plot will not get any better with 50K words beneath it. Although there is a school of thought which promotes sitting at a blank page on the 1st of November and simply ‘writing’, for many, the uncertainty and fluidity of this will discourage a muse from fully engaging. Ensure you have at least one original or different idea to explore, interesting character trait or plot to begin with.
Support and Community Although the site promotes the community spirit, my experience has been a lonely one. So caught up with characters and plot, its difficult to hold a ‘normal conversation’ with a non – writer during the month and almost impossible to with one – as they too are wound up with their own intricacies and subplots. On the other side of the scale, spend too much time on the community site and forums and you end up writing no words for your novel, but thousands in witty replies.
Working out what is important in your life. As with everything you do; ensure that what you are about to invest a great deal of time and effort, will support your life choices. Check in with yourself to whether they are inline with your goals and outcomes. Many writers write to entertain themselves, or as a means to unburdening from their lives.
Look at the process and at the end result of NaNo and question whether this is something that you want or experience. Participating in NaNo may not run along the ideals you have set yourself in your writing journey. Don’t get bullied or persuaded to join, simply because everyone else is doing it.
Its with a heavy heart, but resolute mind that I say I will be sitting this years out. I’ve participated in the last two NaNoWriMo, each year “winning” and to the most had the satisfaction that I have achieved something that a small amount of people can say they have.
Join NaNo for the right reasons. Sit it out for the right reasons. But don’t sit on the fence.