So I keep seeing the little comments and articles about NaNoWrMo everywhere. It is like this every year. Being a writer, I follow a number of writing blogs, writing groups and writing tip sites. Every year from October to the end of November, the writing world is a buzz with talk about it.
For those of you who don’t have a clue what I am talking about, it means National Novel Writing Month. From the start of November to the end of the same, you are supposed to write a 50,000 word novel. It isn’t just the amateur crowd who get into this, but even some professionals seem to really get into it. If that’s you, more power to you.
That isn’t me. I actually kind of hate it. Sure, that probably doesn’t mean much from someone with minimal writing credit outside of ghost writing, but hear me out. Firstly, a great many genre of fiction run higher than that on total length. Shooting for such a low number means you are going to have to pad out the finished work rather than thin it down. My experience has been that you almost never need to add words to make a story better. Nine times out of every ten, you are cutting away the fat from your prose and compressing it down. End result, you don’t have a novel that can be sold without some major overhauls and additions.
So then there is the problem of quality. Flying by the seat of your pants can work to create good fiction, but on novel-length manuscripts it is trickier. You say something in one chapter and completely contradict it in a later chapter. The reason is that you aren’t working from notes, but just making it all up as you go and when you need information, you may not remember that you already created it earlier. Sure, you can easily change something simple like the wrong eye color, but what happens if a few vital plot points get lost along the way? What happens if your ending hinged on one specific fact that is wrong earlier in the book. Worse, what if that fact can’t be changed without entirely altering a number of other aspects. It is a domino effect that can make a novel useless.
So then let’s examine what happens if you create a serviceable novel. You managed to keep all of your facts strait and added a few plot threads in December to expand it out to the average for your genre. Great. Odds are you are going to send it out right away. Woo Hoo. Except there are now thousands more people all doing the same thing than would be the case any other month of the year. I suspect the holiday slush pile is the single largest a stack of paper gets in the year. I’d even lay odds that once in a while it gets tall enough to do the winter skiing off of!
No, I don’t care for NaNoWrMo at all. I don’t need some special month to write. I have gotten to a point where I write every day. Some days it is as little as 300 words. On average, it is 2200. One day last month, I made it up to 7000 words in a single day. Sure, it gets spread out among my blog, my ghost writing and my novel, but the point is I am writing. Don’t wait for one month out of the year to do your work.
So, having said all this, here is where NaNoWrMo can be useful. Doing a first draft in an outline style. One book I have read and think offers some good insights into such a process is First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner. It is pretty clear and seems almost ideal for NaNoWrMo. Read it and adjust it to work with your own style of writing. Adapted to November, it can offer you a very solid first draft to build a longer novel out of. Just ignore that 50,000 word count. Another option is that if you already have your outline or plot notes worked out, use those to create a novel. This way if you send it out when all the flood is hitting the slush pile, yours will stand out. You’ll be offering a more refined product to the agent or editor.
These are just my opinions. You are free to love NaNoWrMo and get enthusiastic about it. If that’s what it takes to get writing done, do it. I just thought I would talk about it and perhaps explain why you don’t see NaNoWrMo tweets or articles about it on my Wednesday postings.