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Why I Am Not Doing NaNoWriMo

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling sick. I had a stomach bug that hits me every few years, and makes me feel miserable. Usually it lasts only for the day, but this one lasted all through Sunday night and into Monday morning. So I took a sick day in order to recuperate.

Anyway, tomorrow starts the annual tradition of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, during which many aspiring writers set themselves a deadline of one month to complete a 50,000 word novel. If you're one of those writers who has decided to start the journey in just under two hours, I wish you the best of luck and hope you succeed. By all means, keep us apprised of your progress throughout.

But I will not be of your ranks for a simple reason, and it has nothing to do with lack of time or motivation. It is simply this:

I am not naturally a fast writer.

Some writers are naturally quick, able to sit down and generate a few thousand words at a clip. But others spend more time on their writing, taking the same amount of time to complete a few hundred words of prose fiction. Neither speed of writing is better than the other; it's just a question of what sort of writer a person is.

Over the past decade of short fiction writing, I've come to acknowledge that I take more time getting my words onto the page than many others do. It would go against my natural abilities as a writer to force myself into a speed race that I know I would not be able to win.

So for those of us who fall into the "slow writer" category, let me suggest NaNoWriYea (pronounced with a shout of "Yeah!" at the end), or National Novel Writing Year. After all, even if you're not doing NaNoWriMo, you can still write a novel. As Gay Haldeman once told me, "A page a day is a book a year."

Slow and steady can also win the race.


this is too funny...because it's exactly what i'm already planning on doing in (or is that "for?") 2006! a page a day every day, which in the 6x9 fat spiral notebooks i prefer works out to about 275 words per day. the story of which is something i've been noodling with (and have about 12k words of multipe starts/middles with) for two years. i'm sucking in my gut and starting over with the prose, after working out the rest of the outline in pencil-sketch. 365 days of this should yield roughly 100k words, give or take. if by some miracle i finish the story before the year is out, i'll go back and fill in more so i have more "clay" to mold (or more fat to trim, whichever metaphor you prefer) in the next draft.

so, count me in! :)
Y'know, it never would have occurred to me that you might do NoNoWriNo. It doesn't seem your style.

I also find myself wondering how many professional writers -- as opposed to aspiring writers seeking to be professionals -- participate. Speed for the sake of speed seems like something most editors would discourage, at least on that scale.

(I'm not trying to knock NaNoWriNo; I'm just wondering what the pros think of it, both writers and editors.)
Most of the professionals I talk to have the general attitude of, "Whatever works for you." Frederik Pohl had a good piece of advice I've been trying to track down, that the only rule is to write however you can.

I think most editors would probably say that NaNoWriMo isn't going to generate a lot of publishable fiction, but then again, neither does any other method. My guess is that the same percentage of NaNoWriMo participants will go on to publish as the percentage of those who write more slowly.
I actually bought a copy. It's an enjoyable read.
What cellio said: it never occurred to me that anyone would regard NaNoWriMo as a way of producing real novels. I'm a reader, not a writer, so I may have the wrong idea about what novels are for -

NaNoWriMo sounds a great idea as a writing exercise, for someone with a drawerful of first chapters to make themselves just finish something. And I suppose if you were blocked on a great idea that just wouldn't work out, then telling yourself you were going to write that novel this month might be a way to find out whether it could be done (and get on with it) or decide it couldn't, and move on.

But for someone who actually writes novels to take time out for a month - no, why would you? (matociquala had fun with NaDruWriNi, though...
I am sure that the process works for some of the people who choose to use it. I just know that it won't work for me. And from what I understand, NaNoWriMo has resulted in a few published novels over the last few years.

And I do know some professional, published writers who have done or attempted NaNoWriMo. Most of those writers are publishing short stories, and decided that NaNoWriMo would help motivate them to write longer works.
I did NaNoWriMo once, in 2001. I produced 49.5k words of "clay" that I later pillaged from for some short stories (and more is still pillagable) but not a novel by any definition. I think it's because I'd decided on like the 28th or something of October, so I had no plan going in just a single character in a world I'd written before.

I did learn one valuable lesson, tho: I cannot sustain 2500 or even 2000 words a day while holding down a full-time job without seriously jeopardizing my physical health. Before then, I had thought i might be able to "if only." After figuring that out once and for all, I stopped beating myself up about it.
I managed 1500-2000 words a day when that was my full-time job. When I'm working, I can usually manage 500 words a day, which suits me just fine.
I'm starting small. 275-ish words is a reasonable minimum I believe I can accomplish with a smidge of effort on the every day aspect. (I missed very few days in 2004 when I did those writing prompts) Of course I am "allowed" to write more! ;)
Here by way of shewhomost, because I was just posting similar sentiments over in my journal.

I even have an icon for the start of National Novel Writing Year.

As a moderate (neither super fast nor super slow) speed writer, I'm glad NaNoWriMo works for some, and do think everyone should do what works for them, but I get a little bit tired of seeing speed being quite so encouraged, too.
I love the icon!

I'm not as grumpy about NaNoWriMo as other people (such as sleigh as he notes here, but I do agree that it's not for everyone. I also don't want people to loose sight of the fact that there are other ways to accomplish the goal of writing a novel.
I'm also not a fast writer. NaNoWriMo is anathema to me. I've tried "writing fast" -- what it does for me is create terrible frustration and really awful writing. I also note that exactly none of the multi-published novelists that I know well use that technique.
I don't know of any current working novelist who does NaNoWriMo, as you say, but the event isn't really for them. It's for people who aren't professional writers but who want to give novel-writing a shot.

I enjoyed your own post on NaNoWriMo, by the way.
Congratulations on knowing what works for you. I write fast occasionally, and this will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo. I've learned valuable lessons each year. And, yes, I do think it can be a good way to produce a first draft of a "real novel," whatever that may be. At least, I'm planning on revising, looking for an agent, getting on with the next book, and all that.
Good luck!

The cool thing about NaNoWriMo is that you've got a whole community of people urging you on...

And you're right; the community is great.
Although the size of the community is a bit creepy, too, for all that I appreciate very much the support of other writers in my own life, critquing and otherwise.

But I became a writer in part because I didn't want to be doing the exact same thing 50,000 other people were doing, at the exact same time.
I write dammned erratically.

During my unemployment, I sometimes wrote 2,000-3,000 words a day, and usually close to 1,000. But I tended to rewrite an awful lot. Too much, probably.

I started falling into writers' block after Worldcon and never really got over it. Since my writing was going poorly, I looked for a contract job, and have a full time job that will last until the end of the year. Now, I'm too tired to write much at night.

So I have about 120,000 words total. It's either one 90,000 word contemporary novel plus the ending of another one, or a longer novel with about 30,000 words missing from the second half.

I actually thought of a different way to approach my project - what if you take the same set of charcters and have them "star" in different genres? The initial novel is contemporary/chick litty, but the second novel (or second half) is a near-future dystopia. There's even a fantasy component. I suppose I could work in a murder mystery somewhere, and a thriller. About the only part I couldn't squeeze my characters into would be a Western!
I'm not doing NaNo again this year...usually it's because I've already got a lot of stuff on my plate (though I did start a YA novel a year ago this month...wow, it really has been a year...). This month it's because I've got so many other things I have to cram into my days that I figure I'll be lucky to finish a short story this month!

December 2016

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