Sunday, 2 November 2014

Going Through The NaNoWriMo-tions

Yep, it's That Time of The Year again. Writers and would-be writers across the world are sharpening their pencils and clearing some space on their hard drives for the literary stress-fest challenge that is NaNoWriMo. Flippin' heck, a year goes fast!

Some writers look forward to it all year. For them, it's like the Writers' Olympics - a chance to flex their muscles and show off their already-well-honed skills of speed, dexterity and stamina in all their glory. Others view it as the Kick Up The Bum They Need, so they can finally stop dreaming about becoming a writer, put their money where their mouth is and actually write that novel they've always dreamed of writing, dammit. Some don't care if they don't meet the 50,000 word target by the deadline - the point is just to write and have fun doing it. Others take it deadly seriously - for them, failure is not an option.

And then there's the folks like me. At least, I'm assuming I'm not the only writer on Planet Earth who feels this way.

The minute the word NaNoWriMo starts popping up everywhere, I'm that person who dips her head down and tries to disappear into the wallpaper. Don't get me wrong - I love the idea of it. If it gets people writing who would otherwise not have the courage or motivation to write I'm all for waving my pom-poms at that ball game. Just so long as I can do it quietly and discreetly, without anyone asking "So, are you doing it too then?"

Because that's where it gets awkward. 50,000 words, in one month? I already know I'd fail at that, thanks. I get two hours a day at the most for writing and I'm - well, just not that fast at transferring my brain contents from their squishy home to the digital page. And that's been my reasoning for not doing NaNoWriMo for... probably since forever. Is there any point in setting yourself a challenge you are almost 100% certain to fail, other than for the purpose of kicking yourself when you're already, if not down, at least not that far up?

Besides, for the past two years I've had another excuse reason for not NaNoWri-Mo-ing; I'm concentrating on Redemption, and trying (and probably failing) to write 50,000 words of another, completely different novel will set my progress back - and maybe even cause me to lose focus on Redemption completely. I've come this far with it, and I intend to see it through, no matter what.

But something weird's happened to me this year. I've found myself thinking things like "Maybe I could give it a go..." "It wouldn't matter that much if I didn't make the 50,000 word target..." and even "Maybe a bit of freewheeling-down-the-hill-with-no-brakes-style writing is just what I need to get my mojo back while I'm thrashing my way through The Difficult Middle Phase of Redemption..." In other words, I think I may be, kind of... warming to the idea.

Of course, the longer I leave it to make my mind up, the more failing to meet the 50,000 word target becomes a given; it's November 2nd now, so I've lost two days of potential writing time before I even start. But since I've made peace with that already, perhaps I can tweak this whole NaNoWriMo thing a little more. I've got lots of story ideas tumbling around in my head right now, and I'm going to have to write them down at some point anyway...

So, for those of you like me, who find the official NaNoWriMo goals a tad too intimidating, here is my proposed 'lite' version:

To write 10,000 words a week of anything creative during the month of November.

- This includes (but is not limited to); novels, novellas and short stories - and ideas, character profiles and outlines for any of the former, scripts, poems, lyrics, comic strips, blog posts, free-writing exercises and (non-work-related) journal entries.

- This does not include; letters and emails, comments left on forum messageboards, the blog posts of others or social media sites, forms and questionnaires (both in paper form and online) shopping lists, to-do lists and post-it note messages to friends and family.

Personally, I may well fail at this too. But no matter - what's important is the process of freeing up those brain cogs and grinding the rust offa them. And if it goes well, I might continue the regime for the next month - and the next, and the next. 10,000 words a month every month - of anything creative. Let's see if that helps me get through the Difficult Middle Phase!

What are you doing for NaNoWriMo-vember? Are you embracing it - or avoiding it? How does it normally go for you? I'd love to know.


  1. I've only done NaNoWriMo once before, in 2012, and then I rewrote >50K of my then-WIP from scratch. BUT I knew what those 50K would be about, I was re-writing. This year I started drafting a whole new novel, and unfortunately, it seems I've simply started the draft too early. I haven't really thought it through, so obviously I fell behind. But I couldn't care less!

    This is one aspect about NaNo which I don't appreciate at all -- it creates an unhealthy pressure to "finish" and "win", regardless of the quality of your output, simply so you don't lose self-respect and feel like a failure compared to others. But 50K of absolute crap are NOT better than 5K of high quality fiction. Slavering through an entire month to get those 50Ks of forced words is no teaching experience, and it won't improve anyone's skills at shaping their ideas into fiction. It will warm them with feelings of success that are based on nothing of value. That's the real danger of NaNoWriMo.

    Don't ever feel bad if you don't "finish" / "win" at NaNo -- it's much more important that you educate yourself and train your skills to improve the quality of your writing, not train yourself to write more with less filters. ;)

    Good luck!

    1. Aaah, these are the words I needed to hear! Like an oasis in the desert, a gentle breeze on a hot day, or - or... some very nice person patting your shoulder and saying, "It's alright dear, we all do that sometimes" after you've just dumped some cringe-y metaphors. Mmm yeah, probably going with the last one, actually. ;)

      You are absolutely right, and probably hit the nail bang on the head when it comes to the REAL reason I tend to avoid NaNoWriMo. I know in the deep dark bottom of my heart that if I knuckled on down to produce 50k in just 30 days, it would be 50k of the crappiest crap from the Kingdom of Crap. My brain just don't work that fast - or at least, if it tries to my Crap Filter has to spectacularly break in response.

      I kind of wish NaNoWriMo had been invented by the Irish, 'cause then the rules would've been more like "So, ye'll be writing a novel in November then? Well that's just grand! How many words?... Ah, just give it a go, see how much ye come up with... it's just for the craic, don't'cha know?"

      Thank you for making me feel better - much appreciated.