I have seen a LOT of NaNo excitement and a lot of NaNo invective being tossed around on Twitter the last week or so. I think a lot of anti-NaNo folks feel about NaNo the way I feel about election years–SHADDUP ABOUT IT ALREADY. Because, yes, for the month of November social channels are COVERED with talk of NaNo. Word count updates. #amwriting updates. Excitement. Bitching.
I have a love/hate relationship with National Novel Writing Month. I love the idea of something to motivate lots of people to sit their butts in their chairs, hands on keyboard, and write, no holds barred, no excuses. I’m a fan of almost all challenges that do this, because I think having some form of accountability and enthusiasm makes this prospect easier in an otherwise lonely and sometimes difficult profession. Though I really miss the 70 Days of Sweat challenge because that was a far more manageable and personalizeable challenge.
For NaNo you’re supposed to spew, turn off your inner editor and just write. The focus is on word count, with the assumption being that you can’t edit a blank page and that anything written can be fixed. I happen to disagree with that, actually. There’s a tendency to cling to bad prose because it’s something rather than nothing, but often only a wholesale rewrite is the only thing that will fix it. And when you’re hearing advice like “don’t use contractions and describe everything in the room…it gives you more words!” that’s missing the entire point of writing a story.
But NaNo helps you figure out the story! Yeah, so does plotting and thinking about all that stuff ahead of time. But I’m not here to start a pantser/plotter argument.
I hate it because it’s November. This is not a good month for me. Classes are coming to an end. I’ve got extra grading to do. Thanksgiving holidays to manage. Christmas shopping to do.
I hate it because it’s a month and with all my assorted duties and responsibilities, 1667 words a day simply is not feasible. It really discriminates against people who can’t just shove life, family, and work away to write. I know that the point is to help you make the time, but really NaNo is like a crash diet for writing. It’s this extreme challenge, like getting rid of a food group–hello, Atkins anyone? The first week you’re all excited and het up and you stick with it. And then you start to realize that this is not a sustainable thing. And then people are dropping like flies, so that by the third week pep talk, the majority of folks have already dropped out, if they ever even updated their word counts to begin with.
This is why crash diets should give way to lifestyle changes. It’s all about sustainable change. And the thing that I hope folks walk away from NaNo with is the notion that you should sit down and write something every day. Whatever that amount is. Make writing a priority. Make a lifestyle change.