Forced Writing and Why I Don’t NaNo

It’s that beautiful time of year again, my favorite of all seasons. Fall. Autumn. The Season of harvests and Halloween. Changing leaves and first frosts. Jack-O-Lanterns and pumpkin pies coming up soon. Who doesn’t love Autumn?! Of course, there are other things that happen at this time of year, strange, even sinister writing rituals, unknown to those outside the bubble of writing groups and author chat rooms. To some it is a rite of passage, to others it’s a much anticipated thirty days to do little else other than write and hobknob with other writerly types. That’s write, er…um RIGHT I’m talking about NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month for you civilians 😉 It actually takes place in November, but since it’s only the 3rd of October and I’ve already been asked no less than 3 times by other writers if I’m ready for it, I thought I’d discuss it today.

I learned about NaNoWriMo some two years ago from a friend. The concept confused the hell out of me at first, and I would be lying if I said I truly understand it today. Before I get rolling here though, I want to stress that this is not me bashing those who choose to participate in NaNoWriMo. Far from it. You go NaNo your little hearts out and more power to you. To each his or her own. This post is my explanation of why I DON’T NaNo, and it’s nothing personal.

Okay, for those non-writerly types reading this, I shall try to explain the unusual ritual that is NaNoWriMo. There is a website complete with chat boards and friends (so I’ve been told) and everyone signs up. The clock starts ticking on November 1st, and they have exactly 30 days to write 50,000 words of a novel. I guess the purpose of the exercise is to get people off, er…on their asses and writing. It’s a support group and incentive to flex the creative muscles. I can understand all of that. Sometimes people just need an excuse to be creative and who couldn’t use a support group? But that’s where my understanding of the process ends. Abruptly.

The only thing you have to do to win NaNoWriMo, is accomplish 50,000 words in the 30 days. I have been told by more than one person that they don’t even have to make sense. No one checks up on you. You could write FART 50,000 times. OOOOOKAY….so what do you win? Well, nothing. You win the ability to truthfully say that you wrote 50K words in one month. Unless of course, you cheated and wrote FART 50,000 times. Then you are just lying. I believe there is a certificate you can print off as well. Call me a greedy, but I only like to enter contests that will pay me if I win, either with cold, hard moola, or with publication.

Like I said, I get that some people need the extra push. I am absolutely on board with those who are looking to network with other writers and offer encouragement to one another. What I don’t get is the forced writing mentality behind a project such as this. I hear it all the time. If you want to be a success, you have to treat writing like any other job! Well, yes and NO. Of course you have to be dedicated and allow the necessary time required to do your writing, but it’s a creative endeavor. You can’t force creativity. It doesn’t work that way. When I write despite the fact that I’m just not feeling creative, I churn out a big pile of shit. It shows. A reader can smell forced from a mile away. Well, at least an editor can.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t place emphasis on your writing every day, but if you aren’t feeling the work in progress, spend some time on other aspects of the business. Blog, advertise, social network-there’s a whole lot more to writing these days than just penning a novel and sitting back to watch it sell.

I don’t NaNo. I have enough deadlines and stress hanging over my head without adding yet another project that grants me nothing more than bragging rights. You like to NaNo? Have at it. Enjoy. I myself will be spending my November in other ways. Preparing for the launch of Ad Nauseam this January and all the work that entails….now that’s scary.

8 Responses to “Forced Writing and Why I Don’t NaNo”

  • Max:

    Yes now tell us how you really feel

  • Wesley Southard:

    Shit, 50k in 30 days…it took me nearly 3 years to write 80k for my novel. But then again, that was before I taught how to self-edit as I write. I’ve always been the type to write my first drafts a bit slower, but I self-edit as I go, so it’s almost like I’m second drafting as well. I know some writers that blast through the first draft, then go back and edit, but I can’t do that. I need to the reassurance that I’m really happy with what I’m doing as I’m doing it…but that’s just me, I guess. But you are right: creativy can’t–and won’t–be pushed.

    • C.W. LaSart:

      I tend to write and edit the next day. I did about 80K in four months once, but it was all by hand and still needs to be polished and put in type. Oh well, I will get to it when the current projects are done. Everyone writes at their own pace. That’s one of the reasons I am against the 50k in one month. It pushes people beyond their comfort level just so they can say they did it. I doubt much of what is produced at NaNoWriMo ends up as a finished and marketable work. But I’m sure there are plenty of supporters out there just dying to argue that.

  • RB:

    One thing that stops many of us writing is fear – especially fear that we’re not doing it right! Take that fear away and who knows what may happen?

    That’s exactly what NaNoWriMo does – it gives you permission to just belt out words and see what happens.

    It’s taking you away from the worry of trying to get the first draft perfect (I bet you revised and revised the above blog post), and encouraging creativity. It doesn’t push people beyond their comfort level, that’s their choice, but it does encourage them to push themselves beyond their comfort level and why is that a bad thing?

    When you go to the gym to do physical exercise you push yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t see any improvement; why should the same not be true of your creative muscle?

    Whilst I agree that creativity can’t be pushed, it can be encouraged. You can’t write creatively if you don’t write at all, but the more you write, the more creative you become.

    I don’t suppose many participants expect to end up with a marketable work – let’s face it, not a great per centage of people ever end up with marketable work – but there will be a lot of people proud of the fact that they have had the self discipline and support to start and finish a major project and who knows where that will lead?

  • I don’t bother with NaNoWriMo either. For me 50k words is a novella. heh. I just started a new novel about 2 months ago and have close to 90k words. *shakes head* No. I don’t need NaNoWriMo…I need more discipline so a novella I have doesn’t turn into part of a series *yet again*!

    #42 Rebecca of the Conffinhop

    • C.W. LaSart:

      I understand some people need a push-I just don’t get the whole “winning” Nano thing. I also don’t get the whole writing just to write thing. Some swear by it, but I don’t force my creativity.

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