Monday, October 31, 2011

No, No NaNoWriMo

I'm a writer and a writing teacher, and I have confession. I don't do NaNoWriMo. (That's National Novel Writing Month). Every November, lovers of writing take to their computers en masse to try to pump out an entire novel in 30 days.  That is, to try to pump out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

And I don't do NaNoWriMo.


Well, I have six kids. But that's just an excuse. Even with the kids, on a good day I can pump out 10,000 words. I don't have those days very often, but I could do 5 in a month if I made a point to do it. My record is 11,000 words in one day, three days in a row, while still caring for the kids. I can put out 1,000 words on the most heinous day. In fact, I write at least a 1000 words a day in my journal.

And it's not that I have no ideas. I have the first chapter written for six novels, outlines for at least a dozen more, and ideas for hundreds more. You can give me an object--any bizarre or mundane object--and it's likely I could come up with a plot, characters, and a setting for a novel based on that. Ideas are candy to me. (Not to say they are good ideas, but I have enough that I can afford to pick through them).

In other words, I have no trouble producing words or stories.

But I have a serious problem with someone interfering with the process. Sometimes I spend a day writing 11,000 words in my spare time. Other days, I spend all my free time pouring over a single sentence, trying to figure out how to get it to have the impact I want. Other days, I don't put my fingers to my keyboard at all, but spend the whole day wondering about a character, thinking through what would they do if ____ happened, or what it is about them that makes them a Bella (cardboard cutout placeholder in a story instead of a compelling, loveable/hateable person). Some days I spend time reading the first line (or middle aha moment, or climax, or introduction to a setting or character, or whatever) from every book I can get my hands on. Some days I sit and read influential novels, or great novels, just to take notes on how the great authors do it. Other times I spend a lot of time reading agents and publisher's blogs, getting tips on the business side of writing. Sometimes I edit (but never for friends--I'm a nitpicky, somewhat harsh editor, and I value my friendships too much. The question is always "Do you want to be my friend still, or do you want a good manuscript instead?").

The point is, all of these are important parts of writing, and I can't afford to have the process messed with so I can say I wrote a manuscript in 30 days. I already know I can do that, if I wanted, but why would I want to? What benefit would it have other than messing with the rhythm of my writing style?

Bottom line: I'm too busy writing novels to take time off to write a novel in 30 days.

The other reason I don't do NaNoWriMo is so petty that it's almost not worth mentioning, but it's a big deal to me. They define a novel as 50,000 words.

The problem is that's too long to be published as a novella by 20,000 words (and novellas are hard to get published anyway--nobody's reading those). And  it's 25,000 words too short to be published as a novel. So unless you write middle grade fiction, you are completely wasting your time writing something unpublishable. And it's not just the publishability of it. People don't sell 50,000 word novels (except in genre romance, actually) because 50,000 words is not enough to truly develop the "comic throughline" of the characters or the problem/solution or the mystery/quest or the conflict/resolution or any other aspect of a well-developed plot.

The 50,000 words makes the "novel" seem do-able to most people. If I did it, it would also make the final product half-baked.

So I don't do NaNoWriMo.

But for you who are doing it, have a fun time and good luck!

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