You guys, it’s finally here! I’ve plotted, I’ve outlined, I’ve sketched out characters and I’ve filled up my pinboard and I’m ready to go. 50k is going to be a challenge this month, especially with our Thanksgiving trek to Ohio, but after winning last year I’m determined to win again.
Are any of you doing NaNoWrimo? I can’t wait to hear all about your projects and to go crazy over the next 30 days with you! (And make sure you add me as a writing buddy!!)
Before I dash headlong into a plot filled with witches and curses and LOTS OF KISSING, I wanted to address something that’s been bugging me – mainly because I won’t have time to do it tomorrow or the day after that or the day after that and before I know it, November will be over and I’ll have missed my chance to say anything.
Over the past few days I’ve seen a lot, and I mean a lot, of NaNo-bashing going on around the internet, and I don’t get it. If NaNo doesn’t work for you? Don’t do it. I don’t think anyone (okay, maybe there are some deluded nutjobs out there) but seriously, I don’t think anyone goes into this thinking that what they produce will be a perfect, beautiful, readable thing. For me, NaNo has been and always will be a time where I can pound out most of a first draft. All I have to focus on is getting words on paper. Getting the story out of my head. I don’t have to worry about making it pretty. That’s what revisions are for. But some people out there have so much animosity towards the entire idea of NaNoWriMo, and I can’t help but wonder why. Do they feel threatened? Do they honestly think that the thousands of people who sign up every year to write, or the fraction of people who actually finish, are somehow lessening what other writers–REAL AND SERIOUS WRITERS, GUYS–do every day?
I don’t think so.
Anyone, and I mean anyone, is capable of putting pen to paper. I am, you are, my twelve year old sister is. Some people choose to use November to write the story that’s been nagging at them for years. Others just want to see if they can actually write 50k. Still more just want to be able to say, “Look, guys, I’m writing a book.” So these people go and put on their writer hats from November 1 – 30. They fire up their laptops and put fresh ribbons into their typewriters and scribble in notebooks until their fingers cramp. At first, some of them may think, “Hey, 50,000? Piece of cake.”
Then they hit that first 1667 word day, and the one after that. And the one after that. And they start to realize that writing is hard. That making yourself sit down and work relentlessly at a story is hard. And not just kind of hard. Really, really hard. I think I saw somewhere that only 14% of NaNo-ers reach 50k. Of those 14%, how many put their laptops away, shove the typewriters into the back of the closet, or put the notebook on the bookshelf and call it quits? I’d imagine quite a few of them won’t touch their NaNo project ever again. There will always be idiots who think they’ve written a masterpiece and want to query it RIGHT NOW. But it is fair to judge everyone because of that? I don’t think so.
But what about those other people? Those ones who look at their 50,000 words and say: okay, I did this. But what comes next? And then they go ahead and try to find out what this writing thing is actually all about. They learn how to rewrite. They learn how to revise. They learn that maybe they can do this, after all. They learn that maybe, just maybe, they have stories inside of them that deserve to be told.
I think NaNoWriMo is about those people. The people who just need a little push to realize that writing is something that’s important to them.
Because, guys? That was me. That IS me.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone has to sit down and write crap – write lots and lots and lots of crap – before they write something worth hanging onto.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t produce masterpieces. But it’s a start, and it gives some people the push they need to get their butt in the chair and their hands on the keyboard and realize that they can do this. They can write a book. It probably isn’t a very good book (yet), but maybe it will be. Maybe the entire thing needs to be re-written from scratch (ahem, Flightless). Maybe the entire thing needs to be locked in a drawer, never to see the light of day (Steamspell). But with every day someone spends writing, the more they start to learn about their story, about the craft of writing, about themselves.
NaNoWriMo is not just about the writing. It’s about the community. The wordsprints, the dares, the gentle support and the cheerleading that goes on all over the world is incredibly inspiring. I’ve met people while NaNo-ing who have inspired me all year long. When I think of NaNoWriMo, I don’t think of a bunch of amateurs, a bunch of wanna-bes, a bunch of talentless hacks. I think of my friends.
I get that it doesn’t appeal to everyone. I get that writing 50k in 30 days doesn’t work for everyone. And that’s okay. I respect that. Everyone has a different process. Everyone works differently. But please, don’t look down on those of us who embrace it for the messy, wild, caffeine-fueled ride it is. Don’t say we’re not really writers. Don’t take on the attitude that somehow, my sleepless, crazy November takes anything away from your creative genius. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. But don’t judge those of us who do.
I’ve been writing seriously for over a year now and as a hobby for practically my entire life. I know how difficult writing is. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It takes guts to rip a manuscript that you’ve worked on for months to shreds. It takes a lot of heart to weave together a plot from the shreds of that shitty first draft. It takes talent to write something that people actually want to read. Do I have that talent? I can’t answer that. But I can say this: I have guts. And I have heart. And guess what? I’m a writer. I’m a real writer. It’s taken me a long time to think that, and an even longer time to say it out loud.
And I love the hell out of NaNoWriMo because it’s FUN. Because it reminds me of the pure joy I get from exploring every possibility a story holds. Because for thirty days, I get to put everything else aside and do what I love more than almost anything else and you know what? THAT’S OKAY. That’s what NaNoWriMo is all about.
So, excuse me. I have a shitty first draft to write.