National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo, for short — has been around for 13 years, and each year writerly types are subject to endless commentary on whether it’s good or bad to try and write 50,000 words in one month. I’m conflicted myself: I don’t think quantity has much to do with good writing, and the idea of writing a novel in a month seems ridiculous. On the other hand, deadlines can be a great tool for getting work done.
Social media, of course, is the perfect venue for mocking people who want to be writers. On Tumblr, Best of NaNoWriMo singles out bad writing advice from the NaNoWriMo message boards and makes snarky comments about the authors, many of whom are teenagers. On Twitter, #NaNoWriMoOpeners is a forum for ridiculously bad potential first lines (see above). Indeed, when I went to NaNoWriMo’s site to sign up, I immediately encountered cringe-worthy advice: message board topics like Dirty Tricks to [sic] Reaching 50K, which includes the winning advice “don’t use contractions” and “have your character stutter.” There’s also an entire section of sentences you can “adopt,” including the subtopics Adopt a romantic line and Adopt a way to say “said."
Yes, these amateur antics are all highly mockable. And pretty funny. But the thing about all those amateurs is, they’re
actually sitting their butts down and writing. A lot.
This year, I’m with the amateurs. Two weeks in, here are my super-duper pro-am lessons learned while NaNo-ing.
My #1 distraction from writing a novel in a month: work. I’m a writer. That’s what it says on my business card. I write every day for a living, and, as a result, I don’t usually work on my book every day. There’s always another contact I might be making or another person I should email, and that leads to...
Close second: This here Internet! Since I’m a human with an internet connection, I tend to waste too much time online talking and reading about writing instead of actually writing. Not that that’s, like, common at all.
Things I need in order to push past 750 good words a
day: quiet, space, Freedom software,
Instapaper (for saving distractions so I can read them later), and more
than three absolutely uninterrupted
Things I’ve done that might be construed as “cheating”: I’m
using some material that has already been drafted, including old journal
entries (shut up) and essays. In my defense, I took the first week just to outline instead of
getting ahead on my word count.
“Best NaNoWriMo Practices” I have not done: Told everyone I know I’m doing this; thrown out my
inner editor; reached out to other NaNoWriMos “IRL” at café meet-ups; come up
with cute abbreviations for my particular way of participating (NaNonWriMo?); read the pep talks; or ever, ever
uttered the phrase, “No plot? No problem!”
Snark-factors and slush piles aside — if this oddly perky nonprofit event can help me write, I’m all for it. After two weeks, I’ve got 10,000 words that say it works pretty darn good. Who’s with me?