Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWri: Just Let Me Say This About That (and Tip #3)

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you may have noticed some people on the Internets writing against NaNoWriMo yesterday. Not on this blog, but elsewhere. A few blog posts by some prominent writers decrying the concept of sitting your ass in a chair until you got your requisite number of words written, every day for thirty days in a row. (Which is, you know, pretty much what you are taught in writing class: set a goal of so many words, try to write to that amount every day. For the rest of your life.)

This is your typical backlash, which happens whenever something becomes popular. I’m not a sociologist but I’m sure there’s a name for this phenomena in human behavior. It doesn’t matter what you take—motherhood, apple pie—someone is going to object to it. Being an analyst, I’d like to track and plot the see-sawing, pendulum-like cycles associated with this phenomena (and hence the poor graphic accompanying the post today): if n is the event, then n+ 2 shows the peak of the backlash cycle, while n + 4 shows with peak of the counter-backlash…

Nevermind. You get the idea.

That’s not to say these people aren’t entitled to their opinion. But opinions change. Like mine. When I first heard of NaNoWriMo years ago, I wasn’t into it. Because I was raised a Yankee and kind of self-righteous and a strict self-disciplinarian, I thought that people should just do this without the structure of a formal mechanism. (I suspect a lot of the critics are of a similar mindset or were raised by parents of a similar ilk.) Because I was “serious” about my writing and I was going to work at it every day and if I didn’t need a website to keep track of my daily totals to reinforce my behavior then gosh darn, you don’t need it either. (I sound like somebody's father, don't I?)

Then I learned, one day, that not everyone was like me. Just as I am an introvert and not social and would just as soon not go to parties, I learned that they are some people who are social and will do better if they get to engage with other people. Just as some people like to learn a new skill by themselves whiles other opt to take a class right away, and not everyone likes bran muffins or the feel of wool against their skin…for God’s sake, can we all just unclench our backsides?!? Live and let live.

Okay, since I don’t want to embarrass any of my friends by forcing their really wonderful tips to be seen in public alongside my little rant, I’ll only run one of my own. We’ll get back on track tomorrow. And here's the tip:

“Exercise your imagination. When you find need to make a choice in your story—the gender of the “sidekick,” the location of the mysterious hideaway, your protagonist’s age—consider going with the opposite of your initial inclination. Push yourself: that’s what makes writing an exciting experience. Don’t stop for research—I have my characters using a hydrofoil to get to the oil platform, but can a hydrofoil travel that distance…?—just write in your best guess and keep going. You can always change it in the revision stage (and oh yes, there will be a revision stage.) Avoid the trite and see what doors open in your imagined world.”


  1. What I don't get is why anyone against NaNo would bother taking the time to write against it. Like most things in life, if you don't want to participate, it is very easy to simply not participate. No one is forcing them to sit down and follow NaNo's rules. I enjoy the challenge of NaNo, and while I'm not really a people person, I enjoy going to various locations different days of the week and sitting in silence for hours on end with a group of people also sitting in silence, each of us working on our own individual world. I find it fun. At the point I no longer find it fun, I will stop participating. But until the organizers of NaNoWriMo start doing something other than providing a forum for people to have fun, I won't be complaining about the institution.

  2. This is my 4th year doing nanowrimo and it has helped me so much with my writing. It forces you to sit in the chair and write. But so many think after nanowrimo is over that they can just send what they have written without editing and revising to an agent or publisher. That's something you're not supposed to do.

    I know many writers and authors who write everyday and write more than 50k words in a month.

    It all comes down to having fun and letting your creativity out into the world.