(Intentionally mildly pretentious image of me writing? Check!)
I wasn’t going to do it. You couldn’t have made me. There was no way in hell you were going to get me to throw in my hat into the “Hey guys it’s time for NaNoWriMo!” ring if you held me at gunpoint. But suddenly, here I am. Of course, it’s one of the biggest events for beginning and amateur authors of the year. Confused about what I’m talking about? No worries, it confused me at first. It’s November! Which means that NaNoWriMo is starting up (hey peeps, it already started by the time you’re reading this!). NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month — go here: http://nanowrimo.org/ — The idea behind this event is to give you, the budding author, or the lazy one, a deadline and timeline to force you into writing a 50,000-word ‘novel’. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be trash, it just has to be 50,000-words or greater. What do you get for completing this Herculean task you ask? Why absolutely nothing, aside from the soul-affirming knowledge that you finished a 50,000-word novel in THIRTY DAYS. Oh and you have a 50,000-word novel now, of course. Why wasn’t I going to talk about this great idea some genius put together way back in 1999? Because, I don’t like it.
Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is anything wrong with the program. I’ve ‘tried’ for the last three years. I have a bunch of writer friends who love it, it’s a fun sort of marathon for all us writer nerds, but it’s not for everyone.
I don’t know about any of you, dear readers, but November might be the most hectic and chaotic month of the year for me. It’s midterm season for many of the students in the US, you have Thanksgiving (American) and the whole month always seems to get really damned full. That’s the first reason I don’t like NaNoWriMo (hence forth Nanowrimo because capitals suck). November is an awfully busy month by dint of not being December, when everyone is home with their families and being far enough from September that school tends to be really crunching down.
My second reason for not liking it? I don’t write in a way that’s conducive to Nanowrimo. I’m a procrastinator by nature –- yes, I’m sorry Sennie but this is not quite late! –- so I need deadlines and Nanowrimo’s fantastic for that, true. Yet while I have proven I can write novel length books at a George RR Martin speed (Seven years from inception to my first ever –- read: crap –- novel is pretty good in my defense) and I know I want to write novel length books, I just don’t like to focus on them. I created a rich and complex world while working on my first book and I love it dearly but it’s big enough, and I was stupid enough, that I have to create languages. Not one, multiple. The number of which will only go up as I explore this wonderful world. World-building is one of my favorite parts of writing, but the words and time I put in to world-building don’t count toward Nanowrimo. The fifteen short stories I run off to record as inspiration hits me don’t count either, sorry me. Part of this is a discipline problem, I should be able to write down the idea for those short stories and move on; I shouldn’t feel the burning desire to write a small essay about the caliber system used by the primary species in my story (because their guns don’t use bullets), or a 100-word history/bio about the pistol my main character loves… or the eight other weapons that manufacturer makes and their fire rates, ranges, accuracy, general methods of use and history. But for me, for a long time, that was fun and sometimes that’s all you need.
I wanted to –- read: want to and am still working on –- write novel length piece because it’ll show off all the wonderful world-building I love to do but Nanowrimo has proved to be an actively discouraging experience. Just because I can’t write 1600-words a day for an entire month because my life is busy or I’d rather spend that hour or two crafting a half-dozen civilian corporations that may matter later, but I’m inspired to do them now; I was starting to feel like I was less of a writer than my dear friends who were doing it with me. Which was ridiculous because if you’re not careful I have a forty-five-minute lecture on caliber (I call it TEOIS, which stands for Total Energy Output and Impact Strength) that comes all off the top of my head.
So this is me talking to all those other writers who struggle with Nanowrimo incredibly but know they can stick to a proper writing schedule. That when they sit down and focus, they can punch out a prodigious amount of words in a very short time and have already finished a writing project of some length before. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, Nanowrimo is to help light a fire under people’s asses; it’s not a contest or a measuring stick for writers to beat themselves up with, so don’t. Cheer on your friends who really do try it, help them out and all the while keep chipping away at your own. Do what you love, and do what you’re comfortable with. And HAVE FUN (or at least enjoy emotionally torturing your readers) because that’s why we started writing. We wanted to tell stories bubbling inside of us and we found the written word as our medium.
So keep writing 300-word break downs of every star nation’s ship classes and their traditional and non-tradition tactical and strategic roles… oh. That’s just me isn’t it? Very well then. How about we end with, keep writing.
In case you were wondering, my big writing project a 200,000-word, seven-years in the making novel that is very much not for sale and a pair of short stories on Amazon that I self-published because I could.
Check them out: