Q&A on NaNoWriMo
Are you doing National Novel Writing Month this year, Jim?
I’ve done novel dares before, and twice finished novels of roughly 80K words in a single month, but my schedule these days keeps me firmly on the one book/year routine.
How does NaNoWriMo compare to real writing?
Well, you know, “real” writers sit down and put words on the page. Whereas those wacky NaNoWriMo folks are all about sitting down and putting words on pages. How could you possibly compare the two?
Doesn’t it bother you when hundreds of thousands of people every year turn your career, the dream job you’ve worked at for 16 years, into some kind of game?
Writing a book is an awesome accomplishment. Few of the people who do NaNoWriMo are going to be professional novelists, but why should I care? Do you hear pro football players grumbling that informal, after-school football games take away the specialness of the NFL? Where are you getting these dumbass questions?
Sorry. Do you think it’s possible to write a good novel in 30 days?
Yes. I know very few people who can do it, but it’s certainly possible. I know one author who wrote and sold a novel to a major publisher in less than a week. In most cases though, what you’re going to get after NaNoWriMo is a first draft. And if you’re anything like me, finishing that draft is only the start of the process…
Isn’t the emphasis on quantity over quality a bad thing, teaching participants to write crap?
What’s wrong with writing crap? My first drafts are full of it. That’s what rewrites are for.
Eric Rosenfield says NaNoWriMo’s whole attitude is “repugnant, and pollutes the world with volumes upon volumes of one-off novels by people who don’t really care about novel writing.“
As we know, one-off novel pollution is a serious issue, and I’m hoping the EPA will take steps to protect us all from this growing problem before it’s too late. I remember last December when I came home to find thousands of NaNoWriMoers had broken into my home, flinging the still-warm pages of their manuscripts all over my floors. It was a nightmare. My feet are still scarred from the papercuts, and we never did find one of the cats. Don’t listen to the novel pollution deniers! Read the science and call your legislator today!
Also, if people don’t care about novel writing, they wouldn’t be writing a novel!
Well, what about Keith DeCandido’s post, wherein he says NaNoWriMo has nothing to do with storytelling; it teaches professionalism and deadlines, and the importance of butt in chair?
I think he has a point about the importance of self-discipline, about sitting down and writing, as opposed to just talking about it. Professionalism? I don’t even know what that means…
Fine, what do you think NaNoWriMo is about?
Well, the website says it’s about a bunch of people trying to write 50,000 words in a month, but what NaNoWriMo is really about is giving “professional” writers like me the opportunity to weigh in with Very Important Opinions.
Any last words of advice, Mr. Very Important Author?
Everyone’s process is different. Don’t worry too much about what the rest of us say. Figure out what works for you, and have fun.
And when you finish, take the time to check out sites like Writer Beware to make sure you don’t get scammed. There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who are eager to take your money. Don’t give it to them.
November 3, 2011 @ 10:12 am
^_^ I love NaNoWriMo. I can’t believe people would talk down to it and compare it against “real writing” vs “not real writing” o_O? Writing is writing. NaNoWriMo is set up to get those who normally wouldn’t, a reason to try writing. Not just that but to get people to just think.
It IS real writing. Getting people to sit down and write is the goal – quality comes later. Right now, it’s just getting them to pick up the pencil, to hash out a story and not be stopped by their inner-critic that screams “you idiot, that sounds like Star Wars. Or, fool, you can’t put a purple rabbit, half dog breed there.”
Really, it can all be summed up simply by this quote a teacher handed me in third grade. One that I’ve made my life’s motto: “Writers Write.” Are they writing? Hey, they must be writers! Probably not very good at it, but no one is very good at anything they try for the first time. If they stop writing – well, guess they aren’t writers afterall. *shrugs* Even if for one month they only participate for even just a week, they are writers writing stories.
*sigh* -_- It’s so sad that I’m not participating in it this year. But, I’ve got my single novel I’m concentrating on and I shouldn’t be distracted from that. *sniffle* It’s so sad to hear my buddies ranting about their word counts. GRRR *opens her document back up and gets back to work on her novel* But, I’ve got a better goal than a 50,000 word count achievement.
Anyways: GOOD LUCK TO ALL THE WRIMOS OUT THERE!!!! I’M ROOTING FOR YOU!!!
November 3, 2011 @ 10:13 am
For me as a non-famous writer, I think NaNoWriMo is great for getting people to write. At works, everyone knows that I’m writing in my spare time. Some of them are even beta readers. Most of them usually make the comment, “I wish I could write a novel.” And I suggest they can and point them to NaNoWriMo. Usually it doesn’t go anywhere, but at least they know there is something out there to get that first novel on paper, with a support structure and with people who are excited about it.
I know I can write a novel in a month (seventeen days), but I also know that I write a lot better if I take three months (back in the days when I wrote novels for Christmas gifts).
I love NaNoWriMo for simply that. It shows it can be done no matter how busy you think you are.
Jim C. Hines
November 3, 2011 @ 10:21 am
“It shows it can be done no matter how busy you think you are.”
For the most part, yes. I know I can do a novel in a month or less. But I also know that I’m not willing to sacrifice the things I’d have to give up in order to make that time.
I definitely agree that it can be great for getting people past all of the mental blocks and helping them just sit down and write.
Jim C. Hines
November 3, 2011 @ 10:22 am
“…fool, you can’t put a purple rabbit, half dog breed there.”
Well, crap. One more thing I’ll need to fix in the final draft of Libriomancer, I guess.
November 3, 2011 @ 12:30 pm
One thing I see NaNoWriMo doing is baiting the “how hard can it be?” trap. People hooked in by that basically have two possible outcomes — either, at the end, they know how hard it can be; or, at the end, they have a first draft of a novel (that is an inclusive “or” there). Both seem like good outcomes to me; knowledge is good!
November 3, 2011 @ 1:20 pm
*sigh* People like Eric Rosenfield make me sad. If these books were being published en masse, taking over the noveling industry with first drafts that are utter shit so people can’t find anything worth reading and thus making them not want to read anything at all… then maybe there would be a problem. But these novels that are “polluting” the world aren’t hurting anyone. They just exist, as something for their authors to be proud of accomplishing.
Jim, thank you for being pretty much completely awesome, as always. 🙂 Best NaNo FAQ ever.
Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
November 3, 2011 @ 2:15 pm
Jim, you complete me. 😉
Seriously, though, I wish those other VIAs would take NaNo for what it is rather than what they fear it is. Some people love it. Some people have tried it and decided it wasn’t for them (totally fair). But I don’t understand those who think that just by its existence it’s bad.
Hannah Moskowitz (who writes some of the most brilliant contemporary YA I’ve had the pleasure of reading) once said that any book that took her longer than a week to write the first draft of was most likely crap (paraphrased since I don’t have her tweet in front of me).
Everyone has their process. Just because someone else’s process doesn’t match yours doesn’t make theirs wrong. (Directed at the nay-sayers as opposed to you.)
November 3, 2011 @ 4:37 pm
This just cracked me up. It does kind of sadden me though, that there are people out there who see NaNoWriMo as a threat to published authors. How exactly are 50,000 words on someone’s hard drive “polluting” the world?
I’d actually like to try NaNoWriMo – not because I think I’ll have a brilliant publishable work at the end, but because having a goal and having people to share the tribulations and triumphs along the way just makes it more likely that I would actually complete something. Alas, while I’m still working a full time job and going to graduate school I don’t see it happening. (One more semester!) So I’ll just have to continue plodding along on my novel as best I can. 🙂 Maybe next year.
November 3, 2011 @ 4:46 pm
Too funny, Jim. I’m doing NaNo this year as a newbie, mostly in hopes that it will help me finish a novel in less than my standard 4 years.
November 3, 2011 @ 4:59 pm
Thanks for this! It’s being shared around the NaNosphere, which is where I came across it. I love your answers, and agree completely. How on earth is encouraging hundreds of thousands of people to write a bad thing?
November 3, 2011 @ 5:46 pm
Arrghhh! The paper cuts! They burn! Who the hey are Eric Rosenfield and Keith DeCandido?
(P.S. Why can’t Libromancer come out earlier?)
Jim C. Hines
November 3, 2011 @ 7:35 pm
Keith is a pretty successful author who does a lot of tie-in work, among other things. Not sure who Rosenfield is.
As for Libriomancer, the answer is because I have to finish writing it first! 😛
November 3, 2011 @ 8:03 pm
This is awesome. No really, it is. Thank you.
November 3, 2011 @ 9:51 pm
Well, heck… I cant believe people knock NaNo! I’ve written a completed first draft over a two year period. I like writing. I joined NaNo this month as a way to distract myself from editing and because I like writing! My story might be crap, but its MY crap.
NaNo makes people think, engages their brain (just like a Nintendo DS. The level of the game is dependent on each individual’s ability!).
Thanks for a nice insight, and for defending those who write because they enjoy it.
November 4, 2011 @ 9:21 am
The answer to the last question is probably the only writing advice you need, along with the perennial “read and write.” A lot of people starting out worry about what they’re writing, when they should be more concerned with how they’re writing. What they’re writing is most likely crap, and your average successful author has written tons of it, more than your average unsuccessful writer. Finding out whatever convoluted process keeps your brain going (I transcribe my first draft from notebooks, but not for Nanowrimo) is probably the most important thing a new writer could do.
NaNo Day 3 | Necia Phoenix
November 4, 2011 @ 10:05 am
[…] books, The Stepsister Scheme has a Q&A about NaNo. It is full of beautiful snark and is over here. And check out his books while you are at it. The Stepsister Scheme is a great twist on fairy tales […]
November 4, 2011 @ 7:06 pm
Well said. You know there was a time when the average person participated in all kinds of art. Playing an instrument, writing poetry, painting, and everyone learned to dance. But something happened when we were all finally able to hear or see or read works done by people who had a great deal of talent and had worked very, very hard to become very good at their chosen art form. That somehow translated into a message that the general population was no longer allowed to even try to play music or paint or write a story or dance. Because we weren’t brilliant at it we should never ever do it at all. I feel like this has idea of only professionals can create art deprives us all, as individuals and as a society. I also think it’s pure crapola. My Dad was an engineer and later a lawyer. He was also one heck of a piano player who could teach anyone how to swing dance. That’s the world I’d like to be living in…a world of engineers who write novels and lawyers who play the blues and plumbers who dance. Honestly I think that is the world we live in, I just think a lot of people hide their art or their desire to create art. I feel like NaNo is one of these lovely events that allows anyone to just give it a try. To tell a story…good, bad or otherwise.
Andrew S. Balfour
November 5, 2011 @ 6:51 pm
That Rosenfield fellow doesn’t know his brain from his asshole. People like him, acting like there’s a right way and a wrong way to do writing, are at least part of the reason why we have a growing subculture that believes the publication world is an ivory tower of exclusivity. Fuck him and the blog he wrote in on.
This is my seventh year doing NaNo (Good lord, that’s a long time), and all I have to show for it is a long history of half-finished drafts and a handful of very valuable lessons on the subject of writing. This year, I plan to make this month the first leg of a committed journey to a completed, publishable manuscript.
Did Rosenfield think of that? That some of the people hammering out gibberish in November might be trying to write a real book? That maybe some of those people have succeeded? People like Sara Gruen, author of “Water For Elephants”, which began as a NaNo novel and ended as a major motion picture starring Edward Cullen?
Of course, if someone just wants to write 50,000 words just so they can say “I did it!” at the end of the month and never look at those words again, that’s great too. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment no matter what you do with it. What right does anyone have to talk down on that just because it’s not “real”?
Ann Elise Monte
November 7, 2011 @ 7:48 am
You are right on the money. And pretty damn funny, too.
This is my first NaNo and I LOVE it. I’ve already hit the 50k target and am now hoping to complete the actual book, which will be about 75k. Even though the first draft will make me laugh (and maybe cry a little) when I reread it, I am secure in the knowledge that it couldn’t possibly be worst than the first novel I ever wrote. I’m still trying to remove all the word-vomit from that one, over a year after finishing the draft.
I don’t know about Mr. Rosenfield, but I think anybody who completes a novel cares enough for novel-writing in my eyes. By the way, I think I found your cat. I hope you weren’t too attached to him…