Yes I am one of those crazies who is attempting to write 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of my followers unfamiliar with what NaNoWriMo entails, it is a challenge for writers that takes place during the month of November. From November 1st to November 30th, writing work really hard to produce a draft of a 50,000 word novella. There is no prize or anything except the knowledge that you have accomplished something most people fail to do within their lifetime.
What bothers me so much about NaNoWriMo however, is that over the years it has gotten a bad reputation for producing bad prose and fiction. I want to challenge this claim right now by posting some NaNoWriMo author trivia. Sarah Gruen, author of Water for Elephants is among the list of published NaNoWriMo participants. I will not make any claim to how good her writing is since I have never read her book myself, but looking at that list and seeing that people have published novels is somewhat enlightening.
What I think people fail to realize about NaNoWriMo is that you aren’t meant to produce a novel that’s read for publication in 30 days. All good writers know that their best work comes about from drafts and when it comes to long work such as novels sometimes the story can be reworked many times before its even ready for publication. The NaNoWriMo website itself makes it very clear that novel will probably need extensive editing and that the produced manuscript from the month of November should be regarded as a draft.
In poking around the internet I found this article in which three published NaNoWriMo participants speak out. If you ever thought that NaNoWriMo was meant to produce finished and polished material, think again, and then take a look at Simon Hayes photograph from that article:
This photo depicts his drafts for the fourth novel in his Hal Spacejock effort called No Free Lunch. In the article he remarks:
“The red folder at the bottom is my 2007 NaNoWriMo effort, plus another 50,000 words of writing. Each slab of paper on top is another draft. The finished advanced proof copy was the result of 15-20 drafts & rewrites, most of them on the PC.
In other words, don’t take your nanowrimo effort and start submitting to publishers. You’re only one-tenth of the way towards a publishable novel.”
The remark that Hayes makes is not one that most people want to hear. Today people want things done yesterday, but Hayes makes a point that NaNoWriMo is useful for getting the ideas down onto paper and then reworking them later.
So now you’re probably asking why anyone bothers to do NaNoWriMo if its just going to mean more work in the future. Well, haven’t you ever heard the saying that “What keeps people from producing art is the lack of a deadline?” NaNoWriMo works as a self imposed deadline that lets people get their ideas out to be reworked later and submitted down the line. It might look like a waste of time to some, but then they must not want to write for money.
Those that think they should produce a novel perfectly polished straight from the first draft are in for a rude awakening since once the first book is published a writer is immediately expected to produce a new one every few years. So if you plan to feed yourself with your writing career, you better put the peddle to the metal and jot down your thoughts.
As I write this, it is going into Day 5, of the 30 day challenge, and I am 11,000 words into my draft. I am not sure what half of what I’ve written will even end up in the final draft of the novel but at least I have it started and can go back and rework it. Also, if I ever feel like I’m not being productive on that front, the I Wrote a Novel, Now What? page has more challenges I could use to increase my productivity.