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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Problem with NaNoWriMo ...

... is that it leads to some crazy coverage in the press and social media. Yes, of course, writing a novel in a month sounds absurd, but the spirit of nano isn't to produce the finished product in a month. It's all about getting the words out (well, 50,000 words anyway) and for many people it's extremely helpful to concentrate on word count and to give yourself permission to press on regardless. Anything can be fixed later - and perhaps there's the key. I suspect that most nano naysayers don't see this month of manic writing as the start of a long process, but rather as the whole process. Or perhaps more importantly, that's what they imagine the NaNoWriMo writers (or wrimos) themselves see it as. Or maybe less charitably, they simply don't want others messing around in their pool.

The Guardian's 'how to write a novel in 30 days' piece has hardly helped this year, encouraging many novelists on Twitter to snipe about what they presumably see as the misrepresentation of their craft. But if you actually read the Guardian piece, it's about producing a detailed outline in 30 days and not at all about a finished product ready to go to press.

If you want to know more about NaNoWriMo, your first stop should be the official website. I particularly like the list of published NaNo novels. If that's not evidence that NaNoWriMo can be a way to write a 'real' novel, I don't know what is. And OK, there will be many times more unpublished NaNo novels, but I would be surprised if the published/unpublished ratios weren't similar for NaNo novels and those produced under different circumstances. People write novels that don't get published, you know - and often they've still benefitted from the process.

I've seen two particularly good blogs about this NaNo snobbery over the last couple of days. Check out Catherine Ryan Howard's great piece about what NaNo is good for, and Keris Stainton's excellent stand against the 'that's not how you do it' brigade.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent post! NaNoWriMo rocks as far as I'm concerned, I certainly wouldn't have got my story out in such a short space of time, any other way.

    Okay, its a rough cut first draft, but its on the page. After doing two years on the trot, I have learnt the only way is to keep going.

    Forget the critics, and I'll tell you straight, the biggest one will be the one inside your own head! Switch him/her off!

    And another thing, don't look back, even when you know you're writing rubbish, because you'll write through it. The creativeness will pull through...yo will find out amazing things about yourself too.

    I'd urge anyone thinking about NaNoWriMo to just do it! You never know, you just might finish up with a published NaNo novel one day, and you'll feel amazing when you hit that 50k!

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  2. Excellent post. To the people protesting that "that's not how you write a novel," - well, novels don't happen if you don't even start for fear of doing it all wrong! I've done NaNoWriMo before, and it's been a tremendous help just getting the words out, to tweak and research and rewrite later.

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