Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’

Go, NaNoWriMo

Monday, October 19th, 2009

trees2It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning, wool sweaters are appealing again, and writers everywhere wonder whether to do NaNoWriMo. Each November, the NaNoWriMo organization encourages aspiring writers to celebrate its National Novel Writing Month and pen a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and 30. Word count (or its equivalent page length) is the only goal of NaNoWriMo; the quality of the resulting novel is immaterial.

In the decade of its existence, NaNoWriMo has become both remarkably popular and intriguingly controversial. The NaNoWriMo website indicates that almost 120,000 writers participated in NaNoWriMo 2008. Among them were 12,683 NaNoWriMo winners–those who successfully reached the 50,000-word goal by the November 30 deadline. NaNoWriMo’s detractors take issue with the organization’s definition of “winning.” They criticize NaNoWriMo for encouraging people to write merely for the sake of putting 50,000 words to paper and accuse the project of contributing both to the proliferation of bad writing and to the underappreciation of the novel as a true art form. NaNoWriMo, critics say, encourages to write those who otherwise have no interest in writing. NaNoWriMo’s emphasis on sheer word quantity leaves no room for genius.

I support the NaNoWriMo project, not for its success in generating enormous quantities of “finished” text, but for its success in generating sizable rough drafts, ready for editing. At Beaumont Hardy, I have long encouraged the writing of what I call the “terrible rough draft“–a piece of writing that exists solely for the purpose of productive subsequent editing. In the case of NaNoWriMo, I argue that the 50,000 words are merely one triumphant stop on a longer continuum that will involve a massive edit, another draft and, perhaps, several later edits. These edits and drafts, time-consuming though they may be, tend to become more and more engrossing, as authors refine their ideas, familiarize themselves with their characters, and feel the fullness of their own plots.

NaNoWriMo, I think, should not be an end in itself. Instead, it should be the first stage of a writer’s long and productive relationship with a rough draft. I salute those who choose to do NaNoWriMo this year and wish them happy editing of the 50,000 words they write.