Say No Way to NaNoWriMo

Now that it’s December, I can perhaps safely espouse on why I find National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to be whackadoodle. This contest concept of drafting an entire novel in one month, albeit a mere 50,000 words, does a disservice to the craft of writing as it threatens to decimate the very last nerve of writers.

Why? Because it seems blithely blind to the reality that writing a novel or anything else is more about editing as opposed to competing to obtain thousands of words drafted in a day than should be rationally possible if one is at all hoping for coherence or personal sanity. (Reread that last sentence for added emphasis of my point.)

I know, know. Folks insist it’s more about galvanizing writers into coaxing that illusive idea in their heads to materialize as words on a page, encouraging them to find “their voice.” But to how many hordes of literary hopefuls is this giving a skewed impression of false grandeur?

One other glaring issue? The choice of November for this voice-finding endeavor. What in the utter living hell were they thinking?

November? The month that kicks off a crazy-busy holiday season of cooking and shopping and generally dealing with overwhelming interpersonal angst. Perhaps it’s good fodder for novels with a serial murder plot or a maniacal revenge theme. But expecting someone to write an entire novel and prepare a full Thanksgiving feast, or travel and interact with other human beings at the most stressful time of the year, is downright sadistic and twisted.

I posit that whoever came up with this idea, it wasn’t a woman wholly responsible for cooking a massive turkey or maintaining cordial familial relations at the dining table.

Plus, at the end of November one is expected to launch right into that “peace and goodwill towards men” season, and someone who has been doing nothing but obsessing on writing thousands of words a day regardless of what they actually produce is not likely going to feel all warm and fuzzy and Ho! Ho! Ho! toward anyone—and it just might manifest in their annual holiday letter.

As an alternative to this NaNoWriMo madness, there’s a quote from 18th century novelist Goethe that, for me, pertains more succinctly to the drafting of books, both fiction and nonfiction:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

I don’t have a mug or a rubber stamp that says this, but I need one. And so does the protagonist of my Other Worldly novel series, writer Rowan Layne. We both collect mugs with myriad sayings, some snarky, some imparting words of wisdom. A favorite in the latter category is my mug from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Alliance that says, “Be Well. Do Good Work. And Keep in Touch.”

Here’s the thing. I can only be well or do good work if I’m not stressed about an insane pace of writing so many words a day to reach a specified number of words on the last day of a month. I’m not a numbers person, I am a word person, and the actual words matter. Haste might just make a waste of a thrown-together-for-mindless-pursuit-of-a-contest plot. As for that keeping in touch bit, please see earlier comment regarding said annual Christmas letter, as well as this very blog. How am I doing at keeping in touch today?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been known to be speedy, to ignore everything going on in the world for days at a time while I draft an 87,500-word novel in less than three months. But I also take additional months for editing, redrafting, and reworking chapters based upon my own cognitive thought not rushed by a spectator sport of a contest. Throw in beta readers and a professional editor, and the entire gamut is not plausible in 30 days.

I wouldn’t want to read a novel that has not been through rigorous review, and I don’t want to write one either. Talk about not having goodwill towards your fellow target audience. Sheesh.

As for that mug with a favorite snarky message, one of mine is from Shakespeare’s Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

The phrase is actually about anarchy, so I say, let’s revolt! Say no to contests that expect authors to annihilate the written word as they run roughshod over basic tenants of drafting and the reality of what it takes to actually produce a well-crafted novel of any length or subject.

That being said, if the point of this writing contest was to encourage authors to begin a project, that’s more palatable than rushing willy-nilly to reach 50,000 words by the thirtieth of flipping November because, oh yes, this contest also had the gall to choose a month that did not have 31 days.

I suppose it’s not as bad as if they’d picked February, but that would at least have given us good reason to ignore and eschew the torturing of a poor groundhog’s sleep patterns and the hapless, forced-gushy celebration of Valentine’s Day as we draft novels with alternative concepts of romance that don’t involve insipid ways to define love and a stomach-churning selection of desserts slathered with blood-red frosting. (That last sentence was deliberately not edited to further drive home my point.)

Bottom line or bottomless coffee cup, this writer isn’t feeling the love over NaNoWriMo and its speedwriting competition no matter what month they might try to compel bad writing and make an illiterate turkey out of me.

I’m going to go begin the next chapter of my next novel, not entirely written in the month of November.

Coming in a reasonable timeframe in 2022: Alien Sensation, fifth novel of the Other Worldly series.



2 thoughts on “Say No Way to NaNoWriMo”

  1. The author of the book never meant for it to be a contest, and he did say that 30 days you should be able to get a 50k first draft. Then you go about editing. 🙂
    But I only did it once. And Only America has such a heavy shopping/holiday/busy busy time in November and they were the ones to start it of course. With September, April, June… any other could have been chosen. LOL

    1. I just knew it had to be a guy who started this 🙂 But seriously, not only was it turned into a carnival of a contest, but there are agents who actually solicit immediate submissions of these speed-written offerings. Go figure.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *