I’m going to be provocative. That’s just me. So feel free to call me an idiot or that I mischaracterized such and such or that I have no earthly clue what is actually going on. I usually am, do, and don’t.
I know it’s the thing, NaNo WriMo. I know how much good it is to some people, so in no way am I saying they shouldn’t. If it helps, it helps. But I’m not going to do it, nor do I think it’s always a force for good.
The whole point for me to do NaNo WriMo is to write every day, which I already do. More importantly, write a good deal (maybe solid amount?) every day, I’m already up 19k this month from good habits. And 50k words in a month can be met with just over 1.5k words a day (there abouts at least, I’m too lazy to open google and get the precise number), so it’s a good goal to set when plugging away at a novel. Breaking it down like that, hitting that 50k mark sounds easy. With Scrivener’s Project Targets hovering in the corner it’s easy to figure out when to just plow through the last few words and when to let up on the gas. It’s good motivation to set, it’s doable goal setting too.
So why don’t I do it? Why don’t I set the goal?
Outlining, Editing, and Creativity.
I don’t want to put these by the wayside and ignore them in an effort to hit a page limit or feel bad or down on myself for not writing more when I edit or outline, or even muse for that matter. I already ignore them enough, shifting the load to word counts will only make it worse.
I also like spending a day or a week outlining and pecking at a chapter here and there to see how it will work when I fill in the gaps. Daydreaming about characters and thinking of little things they can do and how to mold the entire story. Even when I write organically I write ahead of myself and set up the plot that way.
I also know how much I can write, I feel secure as a writer, so maybe NaNo WriMo is good in that respect. If you’re unsure of how much you can write, it feels good to hit such a substantial target. For me, I wrote all of UpMeDownMe in September. That amounts to about 110k words in a month. But I got there a different way than setting a daily project target. Instead, it came through revisions. I would write, then revise, and from there write a little more. The beginning of the book would improve as I moved forward. Hours were spent editing and rewriting. In that month I couldn’t count the number of times I read that novel till I hated it (by the end of the month I was done with it mentally). If I had inspiration I would write a chapter in a day. But most of that word count came from adding a little on to a sentence here and there to make it richer. I would also delete a lot.
Entire chapters disappeared in September.
I know (really, I do) that this counts in some circles during the month of November, that there is no negative word count, so editing is a good thing. But NaNo seems too focused on moving forward with writing and not enough on self editing. And with it, too much emphasis on inspiration through only writing more can make it easy to say “done for the day”. It can make you forget about having a notepad on hand with a pen in your pocket to write down small phrases (in my case it’s a tablet) while musing about the novel during free time and neglecting writing all together some days. Instead, it’s sorta like Henry James (or maybe William) where they would sit down and write for several hours as soon as they woke up whether the material was useable or not. Creativity can be stimulated through writing, but not solely through it. Editing can be just as inspiring as writing, though more boring at times. And it makes a better book when writing later on. And it saves time later by drilling the previous work into your head so that you’ll never forget what X does on page 35. It’s better to do when writing rather than segmenting it as a different chore by breaking it down into manageable chunks of work and brings you up to speed when writing more.
There is the focus is on production over quality as a result. But I’d rather have a month where 25k words came out that were award winning and formed a solid foundation for future writing than 110k words that amounted to nothing and would need to be drastically rewritten to be worthwhile (a constant fear of mine). And some days I think it’s better to sit down and prune unnecessary sentences from previously written work than add another to make a quota. It’s a good habit. It’s a better habit because it makes things tighter and focuses the story in my mind rather than going off on tangents.
It’s rather strange to think of forcing art to work as well and having that form the foundation. When building you make sure your foundation is set before moving forward. Why is writing different? It isn’t. Granted, I do sprints where I try to write 10k a day in a sitting and I get between 3k and 7k words out of it. But I don’t end it there. The next day I go back, prune, and modify, sometimes spending days on it while it’s fresh in my mind. This is not conducive to hitting 50k words in a month if the end is just a well tuned page or two. But it is conducive to setting the stage for future action.
It also adds far too much pressure through it being public. I encountered someone online who hit a creative roadblock when doing NaNo WriMo this month and fretted about word counts when considering moving forward. Should she scrap the project and start something new? Or should she push through and try to hit limits… Why? Why this extra pressure? Why rush when walking is better? I encourage writing sprints over a day, but not a month. That’s ridiculous. An entire month potentially writing garbage? Of potentially going off on ridiculous tangents without being reigned in? Of being forced to write more without quality control as a constant check on what happens next? There are rough drafts like the one of UpMeDownMe I have posted, and then there would be the rough draft if I just blazed ahead. One I post publicly, the other – no way in hell. Both are doable in a month, but one is worthwhile.
I also think that word counts per day, day after day, inspire bad habits. I still use word counts to motivate myself, and I’m thrilled when I hit 8k or 10k in a day, and I use them to fuel more and feel great about the day. But then again I’m happy if I get to only 1k. Just so long as I put in some effort. NaNo WriMo doesn’t forgive bad days when there should be all the forgiveness in the world for not hitting a word count on a particular day. And it inspires one not to read through the previous day’s work and revise it before moving on with additional material. For my own books, I still did work, even if I just subtracted, even though Scrivener’s word count doesn’t show it. Rereading, revising, and subtracting are all part of the creative process and lead to inspiration in their own right.
And last, but not least. I don’t think that what I’m writing this month constitutes great literature or maybe even deserves to be published. I don’t think NaNo WriMo is aimed at me in that respect. The one I’m currently writing is a romance novel in the end and does the world really need another romance novel no matter how well it’s written? I wouldn’t mind publishing it, but I’ll let a publisher determine what it’s worth. If I’m successful, great, wonderful actually, but I also write for a job. Most of what I write there is awful. Given enough time I rise a modicum above that. So it’s rather strange when when I think about it in those terms. NaNo WriMo is about everyone having a novel, sorta with the idea that every novel deserves to be published. nanowrimo.org even has the tag line “the world needs your novel”. Does it? One of my books is about suicide, death, and relationships that are forever fucked up as a result. It’s not happy. I’m also writing a book with at least 8 sex scenes in it including double penetration and an orgy. Does the world really need that? Or is it just me having a laugh at it and writing a really steamy romance novel for kicks. I’ll write them as an outlet. NaNo WriMo is all ass backward in that respect. People learning how to paint aren’t taught or encouraged to paint to be hung in galleries. They’re told to express themselves. Whether the painting is hung in the bathroom above the toilet (like one of mine in my parent’s house) or in a local gallery, what matters is what I got out of it. The tag line should be “write your dream” or “hacking away at your passion”. The world having my novel can come later, after I grow and expand myself through writing (or just have a laugh doing so). The world really doesn’t need my novel, it just needs me to read more.
My dream right now is to write for myself and share it with others if they care to read it, whether that’s millions or just my friend Bessie and my girlfriend Chali, whether it’s a novel or just a chapter. Of course I fantasize about being the next hot thing, but I’m not sure that the world needs another novel from me. That’s just me being honest about my talent and ideas. I want to improve, I like to share, but right now a blog that some people may pass by is about as much public exposure as I need (and it was my girlfriend’s idea in the first place). And in all likelihood people will just read what I post (or rant about). And that’s good. Why should the world have my novels when it can just listen to me dump on a writing movement?
Maybe NaNo WriMo should be about developing good habits conducive to creative thought in writing and more than writing. Setting a word limit one day and hitting it. Spending the next day revising it. Taking a day off to think and ruminate. Forming a routine of engagement and thinking that will build a novel slowly and deliberately. That, instead of rushing off a copy just to be massively edited or pitched later on. If I rushed off of rough copy of a book in one month, it would just sit on the shelf waiting to be edited for several more months until I said the hell with it and put it away forever. Editing is a tougher routine to get into in the end. Getting into the practice while writing is necessary. Just some thoughts, but writing is more than word counts.
So… the point…
Does writing 50k words this month finish your book like you want? That is – was the only thing you did for the month was aim for a page count every day?Is it to get it over and done with?
But what I do take away from NaNo WriMo is writing every day. More importantly, work every day and not putting it off. For years I didn’t write every day, I would put it off and short stories would build only half written. And then I wrote my first book (the nameless one). Ever since then I’ve had the habit. For some this means militarizing one’s life to write at a certain time every day, or being more fluid with going to a coffee shop at a time in the evening, it’s good to do something. Getting in the habit is half the battle, and once that’s established it’s easy to add things in if done in the process of writing habits. I see that. I just worry that people get far too caught up in writing a certain amount every day and that their work suffers and never comes to fruition because the book is never properly edited.
I did that to my first novel, I focused only on word counts and pushing it ever higher. It’s utter garbage that I won’t ever read again or put my name to. Now I like what I write, sorta.