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Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Nanowrimo?

For any of you who haven't heard, November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Thousands of people sign up for the competition. This is really about competing against anyone else. The goal of NaNo is to write a 50k word novel during November.

A writer posted an article (wish I could find the article and link it, but it's lost in my browser history somewhere) declaring that NaNoWriMo was a terrible waste of everyone's time. All those amateur writers attempting to write absolute drivel should just not bother. Agents and editors cringe in anticipation of the flood of horrible manuscripts about to be submitted. NaNo should be a NoNo.

I say, what's the harm? I'm all for NaNo. Anything that encourages people to reach higher, to try something new, to be creative, is a good thing. So what if 99.99% of what's written is crap? It's the process of creating it that matters. If only "professional authors" were allowed to write novels, we would very quickly run out of stories to read.

What if we told all those people taking painting or drawing classes that only "professional artists" should create pictures or paintings? Where do you think these professionals come from in the first place? Everyone started somewhere. I'm sure Michaelangelo's first drawings were absolute crap. The point is that he tried it, liked it, and stuck with it. The rest of us benefit from encouraging creativity.

I'm not saying that all those aspiring writers participating in NaNo will become creative geniuses. Most of them won't ever be published. And that's just fine. For those who attempt NaNo, it's an eye-opener to how difficult the whole process of writing a book can be. Those who finish have a sense of accomplishment.

This is only my second year doing NaNo. Last year, I was derailed by a book release. Yes, I'm already published. Guess what? It doesn't matter. NaNo this year gave me the push I needed to get writing novels again. I needed something to get my story moving, to give me enough momentum to finish it.

As for all that crap being produced under such a rushed deadline, so what? There is a freedom to the writing that happens when you don't worry about editing and making it perfect. Too many writers stop after a few chapters, realize what they've written is crap, and go back to edit. The story rarely gets beyond chapter three. NaNo pushes you to just keep going. You can go back to fix it later. That's what editing is all about. For November, just get that story written.

Any honest author will also tell you that the first few manuscripts they finished were awful. Writing is learned by doing. You can learn techniques and skills in classes, true, but the only way to really learn to craft a good story is by doing it. So write one for NaNo, shove it in a drawer, write another one next year. Each draft will improve.

As for that novel release of mine, Nexus Point is my first book in print. It was #18 in my draft pile.

I salute all of you that attempted NaNo this year. It's a worthy goal to write 50k in one month, even if no one but you ever reads it. You've reached outside your normal life to try to create something. That is a goal worth applauding, whether you achieved it or not.

For those who did write 50k, WOOT! Now go write more...