"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

04 November 2010


Now that it's November, and the interwebs make communication amongst the (typically) hermitic world of writers, an explosion of thoughts, articles, pep-talks and put-downs flit about the nets regarding National Novel Writing Month.
I've already expressed how valuable I've found NaNo and why I think it can benefit anyone even remotely interested in the idea of it. So this little rant comes about due to several of the nay-saying articles which, so far, have one glaring issue in common: people dissing on the NaNo have not participated in the project -- or at least haven't admitted to it. And really, this is NOT one of those instances where you'd say, "Well, I've never leaped from a tall building to the ground without any safety measures in place, but I know it's a bad idea on principle." Everyone has their own unique method of writing, and a lot of writers nowadays are more flexible in their method because we have to be. It's pretty much a requirement of the digital age to have a basic grasp of most major social media platforms, typing and design programs, and online resources (including marketing tools). With that in mind, I find it in poor taste to degrade a program that not only exposes people to all these tools in one place, but does so much more. Yes, the word count goal can result in a lot of crap writing. Yes, people who start out on this crash diet form of writing frenzy can't all be expected to succeed. Yes, the likelihood that anyone's first draft from a NaNoWriMo project will ever be published is next to zero. However, here's a few items NaNoWriMo provides, in a central place, that NO OTHER WRITING PROGRAM DOES:

A central site where those undertaking this endeavor can not only find resources, advice and fin distractions, they can find SUPPORT.
Those of us nuts enough to participate, especially more than once, understand we're crazy, and so is anyone who attempts this -- but we're crazy and stressed and freaked out and crazy TOGETHER. NaNoWriMo participants are incredibly understanding and supportive, which can go a long way to inspiring you to keep going when you're ready to give up.

Giving up your life for a month to write is not as bad as giving it up to watch TV or movies or torture small animals. You may not be writing the Best Novel Ever, and you may leave things like dishes and laundry and your social life by the wayside for a few weeks, but for people who constantly do those (and so many more) activities to the extent they never have time to write, NaNo gives them the time, and the freedom, to turn on their writing brains. And at the end, win or lose, whatever you've written is more than you had at the start of the month and THAT is something worthwhile.

The idea of NaNo is not to have a COMPLETE novel, but a workable draft.
And you know what? Some people take decades to finish their first workable draft. That's great for those people, but not all of us have that kind of time. NaNoWriMo give you permission to go to town with all your wacky ideas, to vomit all over the page (or keyboard), to create and destroy as many characters as you choose -- and then fix it all LATER. Yes, a lot of crap gets written, but anyone serious about writing knows every draft of any important writing gets revised multiple times. In turning off that little editing voice in your head, you are free to think up the wildest scenarios possible, get them down, and then go back at a different time to make the wildness sensible.

If not now - when?
The most common argument I get from people about not participating in NaNo is, "I don't have the time." (Close second: I'm afraid. See advice next.) Last year I was stage managing a show through all of November. Tech week was the first week of NaNo. I worked 16 hour days for that week, and generally working seven days a week all month. I caught a plague cold which I probably should have gone to the ER for, and even now I don't really remember any of opening weekend for the show. My brain was full of crap about the show and my theatre company and my sucky job. I didn't think I'd ever be able to complete NaNo. Guess what? I did. I almost did not, but I made a push in the 27th hour and made it through. Even had I not 'won' last year, I would still be proud that I took the time and effort to dedicate myself to writing during such an insane time -- because if I hadn't have done it then, I may not ever have done it. The time excuse never flies with me; you have it in you to put as much or as little time as you're able into this project and giving yourself permission to write now will only help you do the same later.

I'm afraid!
Of what? Of not being able to hit 50,000 words in 30 days? So what? Write. Just write. And write. As much as you can, even if you think it sucks, even when you know your plot is not connecting and your characters are running away from you. Keep going. That fear and panic you're experiencing is normal and natural. Embrace it. Work with it. The only person who will ever really suffer if you give into your fear and don't write is you. The words you write today may not be there next month or next year, so stop worrying about if they're the best words and just write them down. You can always change them later. December later. Or much later. Point is, there is nothing to be afraid of except not writing.

Otherwise, you might as well just stop writing all together -- because brilliant writers, editors and publishers know, "There are already more than enough novels out there -- more than those of us who still read novels could ever get around to poking our noses into, even when it's our job to do so."
Thus, as the astute LA Times columnist Carolyn Kelloggpoints out:Well let's just call it quits on culture then, if there's enough. Also, people. There are more than enough people on the planet. Everyone, please stop making them.

Yeah... I'm going to go back to my 'useless' writing now, as I've spent too many words on this Very Important Blog which advises people to be productive rather than tears them down for trying to be so.

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