… That is the Question
By Jeff Salter
Okay, I’ll start with two admissions:
1. I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo (and, below, I’ll explain why).
2. If I had ever participated, I’m afraid I would have flunked (and, below, I’ll explain why).
Now, here’s what I have been doing to keep myself busy: In the past 26 months, I’ve completed four novel manuscripts: 92k, 110k, 74k, and 140k words in those bad boys. That’s a total of 416k words! But, alas, that only averages to 16k words per month. FAIL.
Of course, I was also cranking out synopses, blurbs, and queries on three of those stories … and submitting nine contest entries during that same period.
Would I have qualified?
You may be wondering whether any of my four manuscripts (in these past 26 months) would have somehow qualified me for a NaNo certificate. Okay, let’s have a look.
In Ms. # 7, just completed, I added 40k words in June and 40k words in July. NaNo FAIL! [Even though that’s 80k words in two months – both the wrong months, of course – neither of those months generated the requisite 50k.]
In Ms. # 6, completed in Jan. 2011, I cranked out 74,500 words in 31 days of writing, including 28k words in the first three weeks of Dec. 2010. NaNo FAIL! [Wrong month; didn’t reach 50k.]
In Ms. # 4, completed in Oct. 2009, I produced 83,500 words in 35 days of writing, including 43k words during Sep. 2009. NaNo FAIL! [Wrong month; didn’t reach 50k.]
In Ms. # 5, completed in Mar. 2010, I penned nearly 110k words in 49 writing days … including 53k words in Feb. 2010. NaNo FAIL! [Even though I managed to crest that daunting 50k mark, it was still the WRONG dang month!]
Here’s my ‘beef’
Let me get back to why I have not participated in NaNo.
They picked the wrong month! November is a rotten month for me to spew words. In November, I seem to be between projects or just finishing one, or entering contests.
As far as I know, I’ve NEVER begun a new story on the first of a month! [The rules suggest that you begin a new ms. on Nov. 1 (even though they say you’re allowed to ‘resume’ work on one you’ve already started). But that makes it sound like I’d be fudging if I just took my tallies from the story I happen to be working on at that point.
They won’t let you go back and revise! Well, they can’t actually stop you, but they strongly recommend that you don’t. Why? It slows you down. Duh. Of course it slows me down, but that’s the way I write! I can’t change my production M.O. for the architects of NaNo! Well, maybe I could … but I won’t.
Some people thrive on deadlines and quotas … while others freak. Myself — I do okay with deadlines, since several years in journalism. But it IS extra stress … and I don’t need that.
Most of what I know about NaNo (and the folks who have participated) is positive.
I’m especially gratified to learn of writers whose NaNo stories later became published! And I’m very proud of those writers who went back and polished, completed – and submitted – their NaNo stories. I think those are the best features of NaNoWriMo.
Getting a complete ‘first novel’ under one’s belt is a formidable task. And if NaNo is helping many writers accomplish that, then I applaud wholeheartedly.
I’ve also heard a very general buzz that NaNo is also good for loosening Writer’s Block. If that’s true, then I’d say, “Cool.” But the things which have ‘blocked’ me from writing could not be neutralized by NaNo, so I recuse myself from evaluation of this aspect.
What I worry about
Here’s what worries me about NaNo:
1. Can it distract a writer/author from a really good on-going project … just to participate for the NaNo ‘accountability’ and camaraderie?
2. Can it convince a writer to ‘hold back’ some really good creative stuff … until Nov. 1st, just so it will fit under the wire? I shudder at the dangers of LOSING anything creative that you try to ‘remember’ and don’t write down immediately.
3. How many of those 50k partial manuscripts never get any more attention from their creators? And if many writers have to answer “no more attention” — I would ask: what did they gain from that arduous exercise?
Anything (legal) that gets someone enthusiastic about her/his writing, committed to writing goals, and gets their butts in typing chairs … is good (in my book).
So, I say – to all you energized NaNoWriMo registrants – Start Your Engines! Or, perhaps that should be modified to: “Boot your computers!”
Are YOU participating in NaNo this year?
Why or why not?
Do you plan to start a brand new story on Nov. 1? Or will you be working on something you’ve already got in the mill?