Nano nano nano not.

Now it’s (apparently) over for 2015, a few thoughts on NaNoWriMo.

What are the benefits of someone forcing themselves to churn out 50,000 words in one month, and not even one of the longest months?  I mean, they could have made it NaOctWriMo and allowed an extra day.

This is what you get.

This is what you get.

  • Presumably a participant gets better at typing quickly.
  • Learn some lessons the hard way about managing a long narrative. Such as:
    • Structure on the large, medium and small scale.
    • Complexity and multiple viewpoints.
    • The passage of time.
    • Rhythm of a long story — climaxes and longueurs.
    • Plotting.
  • How to set up a desk to avoid OOS.
  • If you have a bad idea that can never be published but you need to get it out of your system.
  • A sense of a community with a shared purpose.  A participant can get to help fund writing workshops by donating, and can get little prizes for meeting targets, and join circles to encourage each other.
  • You can edit a first draft, you can’t edit nothing.

But these will tend to accrue only for someone who goes in with their eyes open and an ability to view their own work relatively dispassionately at the end, and who can therefore actually see the weaknesses in what they have done and reflect effectively on the process.

And what might the problems be?

  • Don’t get finished in time and get discouraged about writing.
  • Stabbing pains in the shoulders.
  • The length is arbitrary, the deadline is arbitrary.
  • A brilliant 45,000 word novel is a ‘fail’.
  • A terrible 50,000 word novel is a ‘pass’.  Because word count is God.
  • Unreasonable expectations about the quality of the outputs (apparently a few publishers have commented on receiving manuscripts in the months after November that clearly were churned out during NaNoWriMo but should never have been submitted).
  • All the things written about here.
  • I wonder: are the very people it is supposed to be useful for — inexperienced writers who are presumed to need some goad to actually write —  are the ones likely to find it a problematic experience because of unreasonable/naive expectations?   The cynic in me says if someone need the NaNo scaffolding to get them to write then maybe they really want to be doing something else. And if they want to write, they can (must?) do it every day (or at least most days) whether it is November or not.  So either way it is redundant — either it has sucked them in under misleading pretences or they don’t need it anyway.
  • Writing ‘Only fifty thousand words to go, now only forty thousand nine hundred and eighty-five words to go, now only‘… is not a novel.

Conclusion: It may have some uses.  But anyone going into it must make a significant effort to ensure their eyes are wide open and they know what to expect (like something like 85% of the works started do not hit the arbitrary 50,000 word mark and are therefore ‘failures’ no matter how good they are as fiction).





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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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