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NaNoWrimo > Saying no to NaNoWriMo...

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message 1: by Iscah (new)

Iscah Iscah | 6 comments Before you throw rocks, I think NaNoWriMo can be a great challenge that encourages people to focus and push themselves to achieve something they've always wanted to do, and I love the community that's grown up from the Nano website.

At the same time, I find myself a little concerned by certain habits and attitudes that I've observed in participants.

So in the spirit of remembering the initial point of NanoWriMo, to write that novel you've always wanted to. I wanted to discuss them a bit.

1. Weighing success by word count:

who's further along in writing a published novel? The one with 10,000 usable words or the one with
50,000 words that need to be chucked and rewritten?


2. One size fits all method:

The NaNo approach is basically stream of consciousness, to pound out words with as little filter as possible and then sift for the gems that come out. This does work very well for some writers but not everyone. No one but you can determine if you're a plotter or a pantser.

If you're a plotter, you may get more out of Nano if you prep a little before hand or take the first few days to brainstorm and outline.


3. No Plot is a Problem...

Lack of plot is not a problem during the brain storming phase, but if a coherent plot doesn't surface at some point in the writing process, you likely won't end up with a novel worth reading.

My concern here is less with Nano itself, but there seems to be a rush to publish at the end of November. And I understand the impulse to share, but think it might be more appropriate to do this after NaNoEdMo or at least a few rounds of editing.


4. Waiting til November to write

I listened to several people in October say they were eager to start on a project but were waiting for Nano. They're choice, but to me that seems to undermine the whole point of Nano, to finish a novel.


But that's just me. What do you think?


message 2: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments I think it's more about the processes of writing than the actual publishability of the novel you write this time.

Many people seem to need an extra push to get started writing. It might be the competition aspect, the support structure, the deadline, the knowlegde that its only one month long, knowing you're not alone...whatever. And in the end you might finally know whether you actually DO want to write instead of just thinking about it for years.

And hopefully you may have created a discipline of writing daily or at least regularly, and found a time/place/method that works for you - which is what most successful authors always emphasize when asked for writing tips.

It's only the first step in getting published, but none of the rest matters if you can't get any words written.


message 3: by Dustin (last edited Nov 15, 2013 12:46PM) (new)

Dustin (tillos) | 365 comments Don't mind me, I'm just here to throw rocks.

Iscah wrote: 4. Waiting til November to write

I listened to several people in October say they were eager to start on a project but were waiting for Nano. They're choice, but to me that seems to undermine the whole point of Nano, to finish a novel.
"


I'll admit I cheated and had an outline and a small head start (which I tossed later on) on the last day of October.

Honestly if December is Editing month, then October should be Worldbuilding month.


message 4: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8503 comments Iscah wrote: "But that's just me. What do you think? "

1. Almost no one is a prodigy. One person in a million is going to sit down and create something that's worth reading the first time out. So churning through 50,000 words of total crap and just getting them out of your system is a good thing.

2. I don't see anyone stating anywhere that you must just start without plotting anything out. In fact, I've seen just the opposite, where established authors tell you to try plotting things out first so you at least have a framework to use. If you find that too constricting, perhaps you are a discovery writer who likes to wander around and see where the words take you.

3. Some people don't care for plots. There have been many great books written which either don't have a plot at all or have the barest minimum of plots. Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Rendezvous with Rama, Auntie Mame, many others. Someone once wrote that movies killed books, because we all want plots now, and there's a lot of truth there.

4. As you said, it's a choice. But consider: having a deadline focuses people. Working within a limitation like that can get you to really concentrate and give it your all. Some people don't need such outside influences; most people do.


message 5: by Serendi (last edited Nov 15, 2013 02:06PM) (new)

Serendi | 833 comments My memory of NaNoWriMo at the start was that it was to get people past the internal editor, pure and simple. If you wrote 50,000 words of chaotic crap, that was still a win, because you WROTE. If it held together and could then be shaped into something that might eventually be publishable (NaNoWriMo is the FIRST step, by no means the only, which is why NaNoEdMo was born), that was a terrific bonus.

It seems to have evolved into something with a lot more expectation put on the writer, to come up with something that holds together. (Seriously, writing 50,000 words of ANYTHING AT ALL was considered okay originally, including writing the same 10-word sentence 5,000 times - although it was assumed you'd get tired of that and move on to something better.)

Planning in October has always been allowed - do whatever it takes to get you to the point that in November you're just pouring words onto paper (ETA: or keystrokes into keyboard) and subverting the internal editor.

I tried it once, very quickly decided it didn't work for me. There are other initiatives, like Novel in 90 (about writing more slowly, steadily, for a longer time, and if you want a still slower pace that's okay too).

I think the biggest part of this at this stage is the fact that it's a group effort, that thousands (tens of thousands?) of other people are right there with you.

It's a great idea, has helped a ton of people get writing out, some who eventually published what was begun during NaNoWriMo. (Including at publishing houses.)

And yeah, it also lets people know *from having done it* what writing is to them, which is great.

Still not for me, but I have to admit every October, as people start to talk about it, I debate with myself...


message 6: by Iscah (new)

Iscah Iscah | 6 comments Dustin, I think you've hit directly on my concern. Why should preparing be thought of as cheating?

As Trike points out, it's something a lot of established writers recommend.

The challenge is great if it inspires and motivates you, but it shouldn't restrict you.


Plot doesn't need to be an intricate plot, nothing wrong with simple, but Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies most definitely have plots and strong and deliberate themes. Haven't read the other two, so can't comment on those. There were plots in books long before there were movies. The development of film actually coincides with literary movements that embraced stream of consciousness and minimalist works that focused on character study and slice of life work rather than plot.

So you could say movies birthed the plotless novel rather than killed it.


message 7: by Iscah (new)

Iscah Iscah | 6 comments Serendi, if that's a change, I think it stems from two places.

One, you have people now who are multi-year winners, so writing 50,000 words of any quality isn't as much of a challenge as it was the first time.

Two, the flood of unedited or under-edited novels hitting the market now.

It's less impressive to have finished or even published a novel than it was ten years ago. There are other benchmarks that have to be hit to be taken seriously.

But the impression I've gotten from the NaNo groups I've hung with is that they expect a low quality result from their NaNo efforts. They seem amused by it.


Again, I do agree NaNoWriMo was a brilliant idea. Just wanted to encourage some consideration of how closely to stick to the challenge. It's purely voluntary, and thus easily customizable.

One of the things that prompted this topic was someone in my area cancelling a monthly writing craft meeting because NaNo was going on. I volunteered to step in for the month, and so we saved the meeting and several people were relieved/happy about that. But I've seen a few small things like this where NaNo seems to interfere with writing efforts rather than encourage them...


message 8: by Michal (new)

Michal (michaltheassistantpigkeeper) | 294 comments If people want to amuse themselves with NaNoWriMo, I don't see how it's any concern of mine. I was contemplating giving it a go because an idea came to me in October, except I'm busy editing something else this month. (And writing 50,000 words of crap can happen any time of the year, don't see why doing it in November is any *worse*)

If anything, at least the flood of terrible query letters for unedited NaNoWriMo projects in December will mean mine will stick out from the crowd.


message 9: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) I think it is definitely a force for good as it gets people writing where they otherwise wouldn't and many people who do it find the peer element gives them a lot of support and motivation.

I simply am not well enough to be able to write 50,000 in a month, even of very bad writing so it would not work for me but it is good that it works for others.

That said I do share some of the concerns in this thread and it seems to me to be a good way of writing a bad novel. I do not buy into the million words of **** before you can write well. There are lots of different ways of becoming a good writer. To me a certain amount of editing or checking as you are going on can lead to considerations that can save the extent of rewrites you need to do. Lets say you write a character and within a little bit of editing you see they just do not work - then you have saved a lot of writing that would not form part of the end novel.


message 10: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8503 comments Iscah wrote: "But the impression I've gotten from the NaNo groups I've hung with is that they expect a low quality result from their NaNo efforts. They seem amused by it."

Sturgeon's Law applies to everything.

But as Serendi said, there is immense value in simply getting past the internal editor. If you are any good at all -- and let's face it, most people are NOT -- then even 50k worth of unedited stuff will have some form to it.

Some people are natural storytellers. We all know people who can tell a story or a joke and we also know even more people who can't. NaNoWriMo is a good way to find out which group you belong in. Maybe you have the instincts but not the practice. This is a good way to get stuff out there to see.


message 11: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8503 comments Ben wrote: "That said I do share some of the concerns in this thread and it seems to me to be a good way of writing a bad novel. I do not buy into the million words of **** before you can write well. There are lots of different ways of becoming a good writer. To me a certain amount of editing or checking as you are going on can lead to considerations that can save the extent of rewrites you need to do. Lets say you write a character and within a little bit of editing you see they just do not work - then you have saved a lot of writing that would not form part of the end novel. "

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!

We all know (or should know by now) that the notion you have to spend 10,000 hours doing something before you become expert at it is nonsense. But at the same time, "practice makes perfect" is a truism for a reason.

Just the idea of writing every day for an event like this can get you into the routine of writing every day. There's no such thing as a professional writer who only writes one day a week or when he feels like it. You have to put in the work.

By putting in the effort you come to understand what makes a character work on the page and what doesn't. Maybe you were born with that inherent understanding, most people weren't, so they need to see it before they really get it.

That's why I don't see NaNoWriMo as a total waste of time the way you guys seem to.


message 12: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) If you take an analogy from chess. Writing 50,000 at once without editing is a little like only trying to get better at chess by playing games, sure that is a big part of it but what about studying openings, endgames, tactical combinations, strategic elements etc. I am not saying anything against people using NaNoRiMo to get something written just that i am not convinced inexperienced writers will find edit free writing binges the most effective way of developing their craft.

Yes it can get people starting writing and I do feel it is definitely a positive force in that regard...I am just saying that it is not the only way to go and it is not without its drawbacks.


message 13: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8503 comments I don't see writing and chess as direct equivalents.

Writing is more like singing. You can be an untrained natural talent who can get better simply by singing a lot (NaSoSingMo) or you can discover you really aren't any good at it.

One of the things you'll hear professional singers say time and again is that if you don't use it, you'll lose it. Same goes with playing an instrument. Very few of us are Mozart or Stevie Wonder, who can pick up an instrument and start playing a pretty good song right off the bat, but even they got better by practicing. (Have you ever heard the symphony Mozart wrote when he was 7? Of course not. It wasn't any good. But he had talent, which he improved by practicing.)

NaNoWriMo can either shine a light on the fact that you are the writing equivalent of one of those horrible American Idol singers who are delusional about their abilities or it can show you that you have enough talent to stick with it.

Either way, it's not a complete waste of time.

It's better than watching yet another football game or playing yet another deathmatch in Modern Soldier 19.


message 14: by Iscah (new)

Iscah Iscah | 6 comments Trike, I don't think anyone was saying that NaNoWriMo was a waste of time. That's certainly not the point I was trying to make.

Just talking over some concerns and drawbacks. I think NaNo is a brilliant challenge, but it's important for each writer to step back, remember what their long term goals are, and assess whether the NaNo challenge will get them further from or closer to those goals.

I've ended up doing a sort of custom NaNo each year. Last year it was about revision. I took 3 days out of writing/editing to draw ship schematics, and while that didn't help me with word count, it did help me work out logistics and finish my novel.

This year, I've just released a new novel, so my personal challenge is a mix of promotion and finishing up a related serial.

Janine K. Spendlove (author) gave the advice at a con early this month of Yes, do NaNo, but don't worry about word count, worry about getting in the habit of writing each day.

But I know other full time authors who set daily word count goals for themselves.

So it's not a matter of whether or not NaNo is any good, so much as how to use it best for yourself if you attempt it at all. And don't assume every writer needs to approach writing in the same manner to get a good product.


message 15: by Rick (last edited Nov 16, 2013 04:55PM) (new)

Rick | 2795 comments The issue with NaNo is twofold from what I see:

1) People who write a ton during NaNo, but rarely outside of it.

2) People who think that with 50k words they have a novel.

For the writer, #1 is a big issue. To Trike's point of using it or losing it you can't just use it once a year for a month. NaNo is a good way to kick off a project, but if you don't write the other 11 months it's kind of wasted.

PS: All that said, I really like Scalzi's take on this: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/11/11...


message 16: by Darren (new)

Darren I failed miserably at both my day to day word count and then nanowrimo as a whole last year. I think I made it about halfway (25k). Wound up keeping up with the book, though, and finished the first draft in the summer (180,000 words, so it needs a whole lot of trimming, and typing, since I wrote it longhand... I think I only made more than the 1600 words/day a handful of times the whole year, 500~1000 was way more common). So for me, I can't really consider it a failure. I have a newborn, so I just couldn't try nanowrimo again this year. At least not without my wife murdering me.


message 17: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2795 comments But, Darren, I think you got the point. To write and write consistently. People focus on wordcount way too much and while it's the point of NaNo, in the end it doesn't matter. If you want to write a 100k word novel write just 300 words a day and in roughly a year you're there.


message 18: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Eavenson (dannyeaves) | 127 comments Iscah:…the initial point of NanoWriMo, to write that novel you've always wanted to.
Ok it seems like you have some misconceptions about NaNoWriMo and they start right from the beginning. The initial point of NaNoWriMo was to prove to yourself that you can write every day. That you can start something and reach a milestone you set for yourself. Eventually a bunch of people decided 50K words was a good milestone and all started writing together. Whether you get an actual book out of the thing at the end is up to your hard work after NaNoWriMo.

1. Weighing success by word count:
You are defining success as having something publishable. Again, a finished book is not the point. Did you have the resolve to write every day and reach your goal. What you have written at the end is not relevant to the goal, only relevant to how much work you have to do before you should let someone read it.

2. One size fits all method:
As much as people talk about rules I assure the only one that is real is the 50K words in 30 days. There’s no real against preparation beforehand. My writing group devoted the whole of October to preparation for NaNoWriMo. Some of us needed help developing plot, others locations, others characters. Honestly I wish I’d spent more time preparing this year.

3. No Plot is a Problem...
If there are people out there publishing without some kind of editing process then god bless ‘em but I don’t see what that has to do with NaNoWriMo. My NaNo from last year is still cooking. Hope it sees the light of day before January, but it’s gotta get through beta readers and maybe a professional editor first. November 30, 2012 wasn’t the end of my book it was the beginning.

4. Waiting til November to write
It’s about community. Writing for NaNo is one of the few times that I stretch my legs into the community of writers that exists in my area around Chicago. I am thinking about and working on stuff all year but I always work on something specific to NaNo. Also it seems like you’re thinking that NaNoWriMo is for people who write all the time. I think that NaNoWriMo is really for people who want to try writing or start getting into writing. Can you do this on the regular? NaNo is a great time to find out because there’s all this support and community alive and connecting and all of them doing what you’re doing.

Hope you find my perspective helpful.



message 19: by Iscah (new)

Iscah Iscah | 6 comments From the NaNoWriMo.org site: "Part of the reason we organize NaNoWriMo is just to get a book written."

(Rest here: https://nanowrimo.uservoice.com/knowl...- )

Creating a daily writing habit is the means to an end, not the end itself. Kind of like the point of a daily exercise routine is to get/stay healthy. Doesn't mean you don't enjoy the process, but it's wise to reflect on the result you're trying to achieve.

I used the words "published novel" to show an example of a goal, not to define success. Success is reaching your intended goal, whatever it may be. Seeing now that may be causing some of the disconnect.


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