Poking holes in anti-NaNoWriMo arguments

The NaNoWriMo bashing has begun. It usually begins in October when the NaNo season begins, but Ania Ahlborn has just found out about NaNo and is not impressed. Normally I don’t respond to these posts too seriously, but some of the arguments in this post are so laughable that I couldn’t see anyone believing them.

From her post: “I didn’t realize novel writing was such a quick and easy process.”

Novel-writing–no, creating anything–is mind-numbingly difficult. You don’t always get a flash of inspiration and bang out the entire work without stopping to think. I wish it were that easy. Even though I don’t get writer’s block often during NaNo because I’m always open to whatever comes next, I get stuck often during the rest of the year. There are days when I don’t want to write. There are days when it’s 4pm and I still haven’t written a word. There are days when I write only 100 words before goofing around on the Internet and returning to writing. There’s a reason these blog posts usually show up so late at night. I’m usually writing or doing other things during the day, and therefore the daily bit of writing in here is the last thing on my mind. This is especially the case recently, as I’m writing exactly 1667 words a day this month and discovering exactly how hard this is. Of course, the difficulty may lie in the short stories that I’m writing instead of the 1667 itself.

And sure, I may make the novel-writing process look quick, but that’s just the first draft. What isn’t as visible to the rest of the world is the editing process, which takes much more time than writing the first draft. To put this in perspective, I’m editing two novels, and I’ve already spent more time on each of them than I did on either of their first drafts. Yes, I’m a fast writer, but I’m still in the very early stages of editing, and I’m going to be spending a lot more time crafting these works to perfection over the coming months (and maybe years). One of these novels needs a complete makeover, possibly from scratch. I have a long road ahead.

From the post: “The Belief: NaNoWriMo will get me motivated.”

This is probably the most subjective belief I’ve ever heard. NaNoWriMo in itself, as much as I love it, is not necessarily the motivator. Sure, it may motivate you to think about writing that novel when you sign up, but once you get started, the idea of NaNo itself won’t push you to the finish line. The motivators are the individual elements of NaNo, which are different for each person. Some people find the deadline of NaNo a motivator. I know I did when I started, and to an extent I still do, though it’s not so much of a motivator now that I know I can beat the deadline by weeks. Others find the community to be a motivator. If other people know they’re taking on this challenge, then they have to finish. This was and still is a motivator for me. I can’t not finish NaNo now that everyone knows I do it. For someone else it may be the stickers or the promise of NaNo merchandise or anything else.

From the post: “The Belief: NaNoWriMo hands out awards, and those awards are prestigious!”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *pantpantpant* HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, did you just say something? I’ve done NaNo since 2002, and I have yet to meet a single person who has called the NaNo icons and certificates prestigious. Methinks Ania’s pulling arguments out of her ass now.

And yes, you can cheat at NaNo. People have, most notably a certain person who took the words of other Wrimos, scrambled them up, and “created” his own novel. There’s an entire forum on the NaNo site devoted to celebrating your accomplishments, whether it’s 50,000 words or 5,000, and it has one additional rule beyond the rest of the site rules: Never call anyone a cheater, no matter their word count. It makes perfect sense. If they really are cheating, they’re not devaluing your accomplishment. But, isn’t cheating at something where the real prize is something you created completely missing the point?

I should add here that as a NaNo overachiever, I’m grateful for the additional rule. It doesn’t stop the accusations completely, of course, but it does reduce the number.

From the post: “The Belief: Once I complete NaNoWriMo, I’ll have written an entire novel that’s ready to publish! Hurray!”

Okay, I’ve encountered a few people who think their first draft is perfect. I’ve also heard the joke that December is National Query Rejecting Month because so many people send out their half-baked novels, so clearly there must be some truth to this. What Ania doesn’t understand is writing for the sake of writing. If the first draft is the throwaway draft, then having a bunch of crap in it should be perfectly fine. Sometimes you need those scenes where the character discovers the talking plant that jumps over the moon, even if it never makes it past the first draft. Not because it’s important to the plot, but because that scene helped you discover a piece of the character’s personality. It’s not self-sabotage; it’s discovery writing.

Oh, and that part about novel-writing being fun? Novel-writing is hard, but it’s as fun as you let it be. If you sit down at your desk and think, “Great, I have to write” every day, guess what? Noveling will feel like work. If you’re like me and the main thing stopping you from noveling at that moment is procrastination, then congratulations. Once you get your procrastination in stride, you’re well on your way to hammering out that novel.

P.S. Ania, you clearly haven’t heard of the 3-Day Novel Contest. Sure, I wrote a 50k novel when doing it unofficially last year, but most people were writing works about half that length. That’s a freaking novella! What say you?

12 replies on “Poking holes in anti-NaNoWriMo arguments”

She tweeted about this article and she thinks your criticism means she’s successful . You can’t reason with someone like that lol

How does one gauge success? If “person A” wishes for their blog to be read by many people, then having someone else (“person B”) talk about their blog on the internet–exposing person B’s entire readership to the material person A writes–person A achieves that success much faster, regardless of whether or not person B agrees with person A’s viewpoint or not.

Wow, you really don’t get sarcasm do you? And I thought writers were supposed to be linguistically intelligent!

Oh, I realize the original post is aimed at the new-to-NaNo person. But as someone who has done NaNo for a long time and has seen many Wrimos go through the newbie process, I had to address some of the things I’ve seen (or rather, haven’t seen) among new Wrimos and wonder where some of these misconceptions came from.

I can’t help but feel you’ve massively missed the point. Ania’s post is aimed at people who go into NaNoWriMo actually thinking those things – ie., the newbie writers who think this is a foot in the door and will allow them to craft something amazing, not the seasoned authors who know better. You’re beating a dead horse about points not directed at you.

I had to provide my own rebuff to all this here.

Except she has never done NaNo and shows no indication of what NaNoWriMo culture is like. Most of these beliefs aren’t as common as they sound. Yes, there are always a few people who send out their newly finished manuscripts in December, but the vast majority of Wrimos who are considering publishing know better than that. One should know the community first.

Prestigious awards? Hee! I love NaNoWriMo, but I actually just tossed my past three years’ winners certificates today to cut down on paper clutter. (I do still have the files on my computer, though. I’m not that crazy.)

I only skimmed her post, but if she doesn’t think hard work can be fun I can see why we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on much.

And since I’m going back into lurker mode till NaNoWriMo proper: I can search Khan Academy and nothing comes up on your blog. This is WRONG. Sick and WRONG.

I was on the phone with a friend when this comment came in, and I yelled, “OMG Leo Fair’s back!” And then I had to explain who you were, and then I read the rest of your comment and saw that you’re lurking on the Internets until NaNo, and my facial expression changed to :(. Speaking of which, if you don’t already know, Camp NaNoWriMo is happening this summer!

And one Khan Academy post, coming right up!

The question here is: Why are you talking to people who don’t know who I am? We’re sending you back to basic training in the NaNoWriMo cult post for that.

Regarding Camp NaNoWriMo: URGH. I am having the biggest weak day on my till November sabbatical because of that. (And the certificate tossing.) Stupid beautiful care package mocking me. I only let myself comment here and post something to the forum to let off steam over (read:celebrate) that.

But this November I’ll be back and, for no real reason, armed with calculus and trigonometry. (I <3 Khan Academy.)

He doesn’t know who you are because you de-Internetted a few months after he and I met (through Twitter and NaNo, actually). He deserved to be warned enlightened.

And that care package does mock me so. Waaaaant. I haven’t decided whether I’m doing Camp NaNo; Edmo, Script Frenzy, and my Exactly 1667 a Day for May involving a bunch of short stories (cowritten with aforementioned person who didn’t know who you were) will probably send me back to editing the alternate worlds novel now that I can explain the premise with science. It’ll depend on which month(s) Camp NaNo happens in and how many more ideas I have in reserve since I need to keep four in the bank for Three-Day Novel and NaNo proper.

Hooray for math! I can now make calculus jokes around you and you’ll get them. 😀

Pretty useful post if you ask me. Man the 3 day novel challenge is quite something. Never tried it out. Just a noob to this here 30 day thing. I guess it’s mostly a matter of self-fulfillment, since the questions on cheating were nagging at me.

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