Monday, December 10, 2007

Pointless: NaNoWriMo

In case you didn't know, National Novel Writing Month (more commonly known awkwardly as NaNoWriMo) was in November. The month is dedicated to writing an entire novel, and the goal of everyone who participates is to write 50,000 words in one month. I've heard of it for years and never participated. Well, this year I had a novel idea that I really wanted to do, and it was October anyway, so I signed up. And I did it. It was a close call for a while there, considering on Nov 15, I had only written 17,000 words, but I made a burst of speed in the end by writing at work.

In the end, I found myself disappointed by the whole experience. I'm happy I finished the novel, but I realized that the whole exercise is kind of pointless. First of all, technically 50,000 words is not a novel. That's a novella. Second, the FAQ discourages focusing on things like character, plot, and revision, just brute force. Well, I could write 50,000 words of garbage, but that doesn't do me any good. I also discovered that a few of the "winners" cheated by starting the month with more than zero words to begin with. I also discovered that while many people who participate do publish their works, most never actually go back and polish up their NaNoWriMo works. It's a good writing exercise to get past writer's block, but I can't take it too seriously. Still...I won. And I have a first draft. Which is a good start.

5 comments:

cube said...

I wonder just how good a rushed piece can be when it's finished in only one month.

Words For Hire said...

Congrats on getting the first phase of your novel done. I thought of entering the contest this year too but I have to crank out endless content for a living and just didn't want to apply that pressure to my own writing. Although I do think there is merit in getting it all on paper without procrastination. The hard part is then taking time to go back and truly edit and polish to your satisfaction.

Monkey Migraine said...

I admit, since I wrote that post I did soften my tone. I do think there is value to the speed-writing approach. I have so many novels plotted out that I think would be great, but never get around to writing. Other novels I started, and then let taper off after my enthusiasm waned. For me, the hardest part is getting something down on paper (er, in my case, down on the hard drive). Once the first draft is complete and I have something to work with, it takes some pressure off.

My last completed novel took me three months to write, and then I spent another two months revising and editing. I have to admit that most of the best parts of the novel came in the revision, not the first draft.

The novel I wrote in November is extremely rough, but how many writers do nail it on the first draft, anyway? I don't. I was surprised at how much of it came out well. In fact, some of it may be my best writing ever. My biggest concern is how to add another 50,000 words to make it a saleable length. I don't think writing 10,000 words of the main character eating breakfast is going to cut it.

Mauricem said...

Cool. So how do I read it?

Tracy Brouillette said...

So can i find it at Barnes and Nobles? i love word challenges like these - even though i buckle under the pressure. i'd rather just write my own books, one little carefully calculated phrase at a time, every once in a blue moon, when the notion happens to hit me. Which is why i have no novel to brag about, and most likely never will. But i would really like to read yours.