NaNoWriMo: Not Just for Amateurs

It’s that time of year again! When we find ourselves inundated with a bunch of non-writers deciding they can write! And will turn the publishing world upside-down with how awful everything is! Or something. I’ve never been particularly clear over the hand-wringing that surrounds NaNoWriMo, where it appears to be open season on any amateur writer who decides to bang out a rough draft in a month. (Special reprieve given to the agents and publishers who receive a flood of queries in December for these unedited projects — y’all deserve to gripe about that.)

For those unaware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, wherein participants take on the challenge to produce 50,000 words of new content over the month of November. It’s described as “a month of literary abandon” and it pretty well is. 50K in four weeks is fairly impressive, but in order to make it happen many people typically wind up writing garbage. That’s all right. That’s sort of the point. Just let go and write words.

But there are a lot of haters. Every year, a flood of criticism citing NaNoWriMo as the end of literature, as some sort of ploy to convince anyone they can be a professional writer so long as they can bang out 50K in 30 days. And surely these collected works of hastily-written thinly-veiled fanfic will flood the market, drowning out all the “real” writers who dedicate their life to the craft. Or something.

Personally? I support it. If people are having fun with writing for thirty days, who am I to hate all over that? I know that there exists those people who believe that what they’ve written during NaNoWriMo deserves to be shared with the world, without taking even a moment to pass a critical eye over what has been written — but I’ve never met those people. Most everybody I’ve spoken to sees NaNoWriMo as a way to bang out an idea and see what happens. Nothing serious, but with the potential for something serious to come out of it.

I support it. In fact, I’m going to participate this year.

Every writer has their own method of getting their work done. Some people outline extensively, attacking every problem before it can possibly arise while writing, until the only work remaining is prose. Some people feel burdened by an outline, and need the freedom of the blank page to get their work done. Some are slow and meticulous, writing 100 words a day and editing them into submission. Some are fast and sloppy, leaving the editing for a later date. And some people write differently for every project, having no set method to how they get their work done.

In this vein, I see NaNoWriMo as another tool in our writing arsenal. There’s a hopeful energy surrounding it, a bit of cheerleading internal to the community that can be helpful, depending on what kind of writer you are. I’m giving it a whirl because it’s another potential tool and I like to experiment and try new things. I’ll use it as long as it’s working for me, and discard it when it’s not serving my craft. Just like anything else I might try in order to write a good book.

So November is going to be National Novel Writing Month. And then December is likely to be National Oh God What Have I Gotten Myself Into Month. Happy writing!