Daniel’s Journal #5 – My Like/Dislike Relationship with #NaNoWriMo

It’s not strong enough in either direction to be called “love/hate”. I see the merit to #NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month”, but I also see it as a hindrance.

November is a little over a week away, and my Twitter timeline has been full of #NaNoWriMo hopefuls. They’ve got their outlines ready, and November can’t start soon enough!

If anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the subject matter of this post, #NaNoWriMo is a month-long competition where writers try their damndest to write a fifty-thousand word novel in thirty days. Your only competition is yourself, and the fellow Nano writers are there to support their own in their endeavor.

That being said: I don’t like it.

It’s not for me, simple enough. I tried it, years ago, as a budding writer with stars behind my glasses and aspiration in my bones. I may have gotten to the halfway point before I hung it up and swore off Nano forever.

To me, #NaNoWriMo pushes quantity over quality, promoting the concept that “a bad first draft is still a first draft”. That quote was from some fad advice that was floating around recently, and it’s a myth best left for another post.

I can write quicker than most. I’m a modest guy, but I’m speedy on that keyboard, and I can map out a plot in my head while my fingers are tapping the story out. I also have the active imagination of a nine-year-old. The problem is that writing isn’t my full-time job. I’m not someone who can spend all day making word-magic happen while the rest of the world toils away. I’m toiling right along with them.

So I write on my coffee breaks and lunch at work. I write after hours when I put my family to bed. I write at the park while my daughter plays (until it gets too cold for that). On a good day, I can hit two-thousand words, but I don’t always break fifteen-hundred. On the weekends, I’m usually not that lucky. Even with my typing speed and mental outlines, I’m not churning out fifty-thousand in a month unless I hit a new level of gibberish.

I like to make sure I’m ironing out the story too. My outline changes from time to time, and I have to go back and add, remove, or change something I know will cause a continuity error. I know you’re supposed to plow forward and worry about it in the second draft, but my mind doesn’t work that way. I’m an engineer by trade, and I can’t go on with the solution if the equation isn’t balanced. Sometimes I’ll work on my WIP for an hour and have no measurable resultant. #NaNoWriMo is all about hitting your numbers, not how you got there.

But I said I liked some aspects of Nano too. I do, really. It’s a good outlet for new writers to practice writing and hook up with other writers and find beta-readers or get help drafting and editing. I don’t think it’s the best place for seasoned writers, but if you’re near the beginning of your literary journey, it may be right for you.

A good amount of writers I follow, abs a handful of friends, are taking part in #NaNoWriMo this year. Some are new to the writing game, and some keep coming back for tradition’s sake. Either way, the yearly event works for them, and I support their writing.

The event just isn’t for me.

-Daniel Aegan

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