Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday Words: The Two Sides of NaNoWriMo

Last week I mentioned my plans to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. We are now nearing the end of day two and I'm glad to say that so far, I'm on pace to "win" or hit 50,000 words by month's end, but there is still a very, very long way to go.

As yesterday's start date drew closer and closer, I started to notice more of the authors I follow on blogs and Twitter start to become more vocal about the event. In some circles, the amount of support for the endeavor is incredibly enthusiastic. Veronica Roth, the 23 year old author of the New York Times bestselling novel Divergent encourages those who have under taken this goal to just keep writing, every day, and not looking back at what's already on the page. Stephanie Perkins' debut novel Anna and the French Kiss started out as a NaNoWriMo draft. Similarly, Maureen Johnson (another NYT bestseller and supreme ruler of the Twitterverse) has been selected as this year's Agony Aunt of the month, a sort of spokesperson and advice columnist to those NaNoers in need. She too sees the process as liberating in some ways because the month isn't necessarily about writing well, it's about taking the time to write anything at all.

As a participant, I find their words encouraging. The task is a daunting one and there have already been occasions where I find myself rolling my eyes at whatever horrendous sentence or turn of phrase has just gone from my head to my laptop screen, but I take a breath and try to just follow their advice to keep moving forward. It's difficult to not edit and tweak, and part of me is extremely uncomfortable with it, but I figure I'll never know if this kind of bootcamp writing really works for me unless I give it a chance.

However, not all novelists are fans, and these words I find just as interesting, if not more so. Maggie Stiefvater, a NYT bestseller and author of the incredibly popular Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy is willing to express her dislike of NaNo, and upon reading her thoughts about why, I respect her even more than I did before (which is difficult because I already thought the world of her). It's never easy to have the less popular opinion, and I think it's fantastic that she is willing to share her thoughts and reasons even though she's had to deal with some pretty ugly backlash as a result. I find myself nodding along as I read her blog: it's an outrageous goal, it's demanding (and not in a good way), and writing so much so quickly doesn't encourage good writing. And I do agree - what's the point of saying you wrote a whole novel in a month if you end up having to throw out so much of it come December?

She's not just being a negative Nancy, though. I give Stiefvater even more props for the fact that she's willing to listen to NaNo suporters and she respects their views. She acknowledges that some people like the forums and community, some people like the fire under their seats, and that a lot of people don't always participate the way the rules to become eligible for "winning" state because they use the time to edit old stories, or just try on a new genre for size with no intention of meeting the one month deadline.

Both sides have very valid arguments, and it's up to each individual to decide what they think for themselves. My strategy is to participate at least this one time in my life, guided by the logic that my mother would try to use on me when I didn't want to eat my vegetables: "You'll never know if you like it if you don't try it."

What are your thoughts? Leave them in Comments and, as always, Happy Reading (and writing!)

Blog Posts on NaNoWriMo by the previously mentioned authors:

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