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Saying No to NANO

October 6, 2010

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.

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Annie Evett The most compelling reason I have surrounds the failing health of my partner. I’d rather be spending the time with him, than locked away with my computer .Life is too short.  Follow Annie’s shameless self promotions here on Twitter  or here on Audio Boo and start your escape into her world here
  1. October 6, 2010 8:09 am

    Excellent post!

    The past several years I have started going all out for NaNo and I end up just fizzling… then the guilt slides over me, and the questioning–Am I good enough?

    I am going to sit this one out, work on my writing, but not so forced…

  2. October 6, 2010 8:20 am

    Excellent post.
    I, for one, will be giving it a miss this year.
    It was an experience but so much of what you said in your post is valid.

    Stay Alive

  3. October 6, 2010 7:57 pm

    Cool article Annie. As someone staring down the barrel of my first NaNo I would be lying if I said I didn’t have The Fear! My motivation is pure though … I need to kick my internal editor into line and I hope a month of stream of consciousness will show him whose boss.

  4. October 7, 2010 7:31 am

    dont get me wrong.. NaNoWriMo can be a fantastic experience.. but you need to do it for the right reasons and have clear outcomes..
    and best of luck to all those who do participate.. You have my support and I will be cheering loudly for you successful completion.

  5. October 7, 2010 9:27 pm

    I’ve been on the fence about it this year. I’ve never participated, but my family life is a busy life. And in our home, family is first. I know without a doubt I would slip behind, quickly. I also know it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. So, I figure, why join, when there’s pressures, when I can go at my own pace, and write the right words. Granted, the community of it would great, but I can find that in other places.

    I think this post should be read by everyone considering though.

  6. Agatha82 permalink
    October 8, 2010 1:41 pm

    I had a burning desire to write this one story last year, and since NanoWrimo coincided with me taking a break from editing my other novel, I did it. 30 days, 55,000 words and I was surprised to end up with something worthwhile that I want to look at again. This year, I was tempted, it was fun to have this goal in 30 days but I have no burning story in my head. Instead I have my first novel which is almost finish, to me, that is much more worthy of my time but I wish everyone who participates in Nano the best of luck.

  7. October 8, 2010 5:04 pm

    Thanks Annie. I’ve spent this year building up to it and constantly asking myself “why not?”. Your post just made me realize I’ve yet to answer – “why?”.

    I’ll be giving it some thought; I don’t want it to be a month of my life, or 50,000 words, that I’ll never get back.

  8. Xyzzy permalink
    October 9, 2010 12:44 am

    I’m glad that you posted this… I’m sitting it out, mostly because I haven’t had any real urge to participate since the first year or two. That’s partly because of the same “this isn’t how I want to use my hours” feeling… It’s also, perhaps sadly, because the acquaintances I knew that were into it were fairly clique-ish, prone to smugly using things like NaNo to show (even if only to themselves) they were a bit superior to other people.

    My thought is: a good reason to do NaNo is because that’s how you truly want to spend your time. Period. No excuses needed.

    Annie, I’m horribly sorry about your partner… I hope that your time together is much longer & more pleasant for both of you than anybody anticipates.

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