Why NaNoWriMo?

Constructing a framework for NaNoWriting Plan

Constructing a framework for NaNoWriting Plan

My good writing friend Andrew Bailey (check out his website here http://ajbailey.wordpress.com/ and his stunning poetry here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zeal-Andrew-Bailey/dp/1907587209) just asked me, via twitter, what I would say to encourage writers who were contemplating NaNaWriMo but who were not yet convinced. This made me reflect on why I am signed up for it again this year and what I think the benefits are.

You can certainly see why NaNoWriMo might not attract writers. The schedule of writing 50k words in a month is quite punishing but also there is the risk that writing so quickly might jeopardise the quality of the writing. I would say, straight out, that NaNoWriMo won’t suit everybody’s creative process. Nor will it deliver either a complete draft (50k words is unlikely to be the final length) or a publishable novel. Most writers respect their readers too much not to want to spend subsequent months (maybe years) working on their NaNoWriMo draft to bring it to a point of completion. So why do it?

For many writers, it is the sense of encouragement, community and structure that the NaNoWriMo challenge brings. There are suddenly cheerleaders urging you on and the allure of silly prizes and fun rewards. It really helps to alleviate the drudgery and it breaks the task down into manageable, daily steps.

These are some of the reasons why I am signed up to it. But, for me, the most important reason is that the emphasis on pace and keeping up the daily word count helps me to overcome the endless carping and sniping of my inner critic. My first clumsy attempts to capture an imagined world on paper can provoke such a strong sense of despair ( and even shame) that it can stop me in my tracks. I have started and given up a number of potential novels because I can’t get over my own disappointment in myself – forgetting, of course, that for many of us, it takes a process of exploring messily and clumsily to get to the good stuff! Ira Glass is good on this: http://vimeo.com/24715531

The great thing about NaNoWriMo, for me, is that it helps me to push on past the disappointment. You just have to keep going in order to meet your wordcount. I find this liberated me from the savagery of my inner critic. For those of you who know what I mean, here is a video (don’t know if it’s staged or genuine, but still very funny) of that vicious, inner assailant. NaNoWriMo helps me get past all those private voices in my head that are shouting at me.”You don’t have any talent. You suck!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha7smLPz2GY

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Why NaNoWriMo?

  1. I once had a boyfriend who had studied English at Oxford and had a stack of orange-backed penguin books on his shelf. Studying the greats, he said, had stopped him from trying to write as he knew he could never do anything as good as that.
    I, on the other hand, unemcumbered by such a high-brow education, have published three books. Are they great literature? No. But the point is, people have bought, read and frequently even liked them.
    Not everyone wants to read great literature and NaNoWriMo can give people the motivation to stop thinking about doing it and just do it. Editing is part of the job, but you can’t edit until you have words on the page. Lots of them. 50,000 is a good start. Good luck!

  2. Reblogged this on Zealotry and commented:
    I like this post, and not just for the overly flattering reference to me in it. It’s not quite enough to make me actually sign up for NaNoWriMo this year, but the discussion of community and encouragement means that it came closer than I thought it would. The monkey-mind critic that my good writing friend admits to I share, I know the Ira Glass quote well, and the twitter friends I was asking for are also taking part. But still no.

    • Thank you for the the reblog, Andrew, although of course I think that the reference to you was just flattering enough! I do understand your no – all the more because you have already done your bit for poetry – but glad I managed to tempt you to think again!

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