Do the work!
November is National Novel Writing Month! (Link)
I love NaNoWriMo! I’ve been participating since 2009…well, that’s a lie. I didn’t last year. I was too busy working 4,000 hours a day in 2012…whew! Glad that year is over.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a fun, casual writing exercise. People from all over the world pledge to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. That’s it. Simple.
Yes yes, I know, November is already Mo’vember (link), but point of fact in the US it’s also National Aviation History/Child Safety Protection/Drum/Adoption Awareness/Epilepsy/Model Railroad/Native American Heritage/Sleep Comfort Month too…so we’ve already overbooked a bit. Why not toss one more in there?
NaNoWriMo meant to be as serious as an individual wants it to be. The site and organization that promotes it is hardly serious. Even the name is goofy. Yet if individuals want their words to count toward a serious piece of literature, or instead have it be a collection of fart jokes—no matter!—so long as you hit the word quotas.
The one thing I try and encourage people to do is NOT EDIT during this month. If you don’t like the flow or arrangement of your paragraphs, or don’t think this day’s work is really that good, who cares?! Keep going. Keep writing. Hell I don’t care if you put in two or three versions of the same paragraph back to back. Hit that quota. Fix and rearrange later.
Writing is the art of addition. Editing is the art of subtraction. If you try to edit while you write, you’ll end up with nothing. You’ll spend 20 minutes on your first 10 words, get frustrated and give up.
Most of my journalism students never listened to me on this point. They’d edit while they wrote because they knew if they just fussed and tweaked this sentence a bit more, it would be…just…well…maybe?…ugh!
Sure enough, they’d end up stuck and missing deadlines because a writer must first write, finish, and stop being a writer. Take the writing hat off. Then he or she can look over the work as an editor.
Now, 50,000 words seems like a lot. It is. It boils down to about 1,667 words a day, which seems like a lot too. Yes, you would be correct, it is. Any way you slice it, it’s a lot of work.
Cranking out 1,700 words a day usually takes me about two hours—a big time commitment for our perpetually consumed lives. Lots of people give me that “I can’t do that” face when I explain it to them.
Here’s the thing, though. For me, I can’t not do this. It’s not that I absolutely love pushing myself to write more than I want. I don’t…I often get to 200 or 300 words and want to stop. But, I view this just like I view physical exercise.
Rational people don’t love going to the gym/waking up early/being sore/etc. It’s true that people love the results of going to the gym, thereby believing they love the gym itself. However, if there was a pill or gene splice to get the fit and sexy results without the gym part, trust me, people would skip the gym.
Writing is no different. People say they would love to be better at putting their thoughts into words. People would love to say, “I wrote a book.”
Well, that’s going to take work. Even in our current age of unaccountability and ease, becoming good at a skill like writing still hasn’t been app-ified. Google won’t write novels or essays on its own just yet. For me, NaNoWriMo is a chance to refine my skills and develop my sense of self expression.
Now there are plenty of people who say “Ugh! Great, NaNoWriMo, the month of terrible amateur fiction!” I’ve been surprised to see some of the backlash on Facebook and other sites as the cause continues to pick up steam and attention. I flip the bird to these people. These are the same nay sayers and critics that have hounded me all my life. They are just louder voices echoing the ones inside of me that tell me I suck and I’ll never be anything because I’m not anything.
Screw that. Most of being extraordinary is first being ordinary. How about that for some trite little quip? You can’t be spectacular at something without being terrible, so why not pump out some bad fiction now? Now, when it’s fun and no body really expects life-changing words from us?
Because maybe—just maybe, the practice now will get us ready for when it really matters. Like when I’ve got to write a review on Amazon or something.