You Win By Starting: A National Novel Writing Month Wrap Up

Last year, blogger Nimue Brown wrote the following about National Novel Writing Month:

If you need NaNoWriMo to give you permission to try and write a book, please ask why that is so. If this is something you want to do, then do it because you want to do it. If you need the driving force of a big national campaign to get you writing, maybe you aren’t as driven by the desire to write a book as you think you are.

Needless to say the post, featured on Freshly Pressed a year ago, caused a firestorm of comments. I even commented on it, and Ms. Brown politely commented back. (Yes, you can disagree and not be disagreeable.) For some people they do write a very short book, and leave it. Others write part of their first draft during November, finish by December, and revise in the new year. Others try, and try, and try, only to finally finish more than 50,000 words in a month not named November. People cringe at the hype, the NaNo sprints, the virtual and in person write ins, wondering why put themselves through something if they want to write. Just do it, they say, why wait for permission?

NaNoWriMo participants do not look for permission. They always felt the burning need to create, but do not have the armour to defend themselves against those saying:

  • It’s silly
  • It’s too late
  • You don’t have any original ideas
  • You write fantasy
  • You write Young Adult Literature
  • You don’t write literature
  • You read all the wrong stuff to write
  • It will not make you any money
  • You have not taken a class, the ‘right’ class, or gotten a Master in Fine Arts majoring in Creative Writing
  • *Insert your own nay-saying quote here*

Let’s begin busting the number one myth about NaNoWriMo. No, National Novel Writing Month does not need to give permission for a person to write. It does give a person an army behind them, and I count myself as a soldier, to support an endeavour. This year I didn’t attend an official write in. I tweeted to people  through the @NaNoWriMo feed, concerned about not doing it ‘right’. Obligations, or just bad luck, bogged them down with worries about word count. It’s not about the count. It’s about the start. It’s about answering the burning desire to create, and helping people realize if they can do this, they can really do anything. It’s the same thing I learned from running. It comes down to two things:

  1. Start something
  2. Follow it through to the finish line

In fact, what did I truly win? I have won the next part of a hard process-revision. 50,000 is a start and more words will come, but I need to fix the plot holes. I have characters created then dropped. I have other character needing a little more shading. My settings suck. I need to visualize, right down to taking pictures of the places inspiring the setting. In this case a school with a library modelled by the sunken-space concept popular in the 1970’s. (My high school library had this concept.)

NaNoWriMo does not dismiss craft, not by a long shot. The 30 days of madness gives people a safe place to begin. Slowly the armour comes together thanks to people providing encouragement. Those same encouraging people will also say ‘I don’t get what this means’; ‘Indent for a new speaker’; ‘Add here’; ‘Delete here’. All will help with the polishing needed before publication no matter the publishing route.

It has to start somewhere. Let it start in November.

4 thoughts on “You Win By Starting: A National Novel Writing Month Wrap Up

  1. I haven’t ever done it. What I read about it from things others say makes me suggest that for people who follow its dictates, the pressure of the word count means that you can’t ever stop to rethink or edit, which is something that kills even a lot of very eager beginning writers — thinking, oh, i need to change that and then letting the internal censor take a disproportional role in the creation stage of the writing. If you finish you have a long chunk of writing that you can work with, and hopefully starting never seems that bad again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly it! It’s a start, and I do see some obsession over count. I also had to be careful if I surface and say something to not contribute it to the problem.

      By the way, Serv, looks like the Hobbit cast just saw the final cut today according to Amanda Abbington’s tweet. Thought you might like to know.


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