Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNoWriMo... What is it good for?

I happened to finish the first draft of Artificial Absolutes in the fall of 2011, and when I began bugging friends of mine to beta read it around December, one of the first questions I got was, "Did you write this for NaNoWriMo?" My answer: "Huh?"

As just about everyone engaged in the writing community knows, National Novel Writing Month takes place in November and is basically a story-writing marathon. The goal: to write 50,000 words in one month. Which is a bit short for a novel, of course, but not too far off (the average length of a novel is approximately 65,000 words). And of course, no one expects your hastily banged out draft to be publisher-worthy... I hope.

I've never participated in NaNo myself. I signed up for an account last year with the intention of writing Artificial Absolutes' sequel, Synthetic Illusions, which I had started a year before but been stuck on ever since. But at the time, Artificial was still in edits with Red Adept Publishing, and I ended up doing zero, zip, zilch on Synthetic because I was too busy whipping Artificial into shape. Even though I knew I had a perfectly valid excuse for not participating, it wasn't easy seeing all the triumphant word counts being posted on everyone's Facebook feeds. "I wrote 6,245 words today!" "23,623 word so far!" "2,623 words in one hour!" Meanwhile, poor Synthetic was sitting on my desktop as a half-formed outline, and guilt over neglecting it kept gnawing at me. Even though I had some time between editing rounds to work on Synthetic -- a few days here or there -- and could have met my goal if I really wanted to, I was just so fried that the very thought of creating anything new made me weary.

So then, the resentments began to pile up. What's the point of NaNoWriMo, anyway? Who writes a novel in a month, especially when you have a day job? Why must everyone brag about their word counts and make those of us who can't keep up feel bad? Is NaNoWriMo the cause of so much of the unedited self-published gunk floating in the sewer of Amazon's Kindle Store -- people banging out books in a rush and throwing them out to the world without stopping to think about whether their works are actually reader-worthy? Etc., etc., grumble, grumble.

I still have my suspicions about that last bit when I wade through the online slush pile that is Amazon, but I also eventually came to realize why NaNoWriMo is so popular. People like communities, and it must be nice knowing that you're not the only one slogging through the torturous birth of a first draft. People who have a book idea in them but never settled down to put it into words finally have encouragement and motivation to do so.

Okay, so I can see the point. But of course, when NaNo came around this year, I found myself in the middle of edits again, this time for Synthetic (which I cranked out in a six-week frenzy of sleepless nights). No resentments, though. People all have their own preferences and measures of success. If word count's what counts, good for you. I think NaNo's just not for me... although the competitive brat in me wishes she could boast of 10,000 word writing days.

Ah well. I will just have to content myself by looking back at all I've done this year -- wrote, rewrote, submitted, got contracted for, and edited Synthetic Illusions (103,000 words), knocked out a first draft of Butterfly Dome (101,000 words), then revised, rewrote, and expanded Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil from the little 67,000 word skeleton I submitted to Glass House Press into a 181,000 word monstrosity (that will likely need trimming in the next round of edits).

All right. Now, the brat is satisfied...

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