My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Do I Hate NaNoWriMo? (FAQ)

Short answer:

I don't. My opinion is much more complicated. Read more than that one article!

Long answer:

I know the Internet is where nuance goes to die, and people become super stabby fucknoodles when it's their sacred cows receiving anything but adulation, and that NaNo is basically a cult that you can besmirch at your own peril, but sometimes the feedback on this issue really makes me wonder if people have done their due diligence before returning fire. I mean, people will read the one viral article I've written about NaNo, which might as well be titled "my problems with NaNo," and literally write me to ask: "what's your problem with NaNo?"

And I'm all like: "Bro, do you even bullet-point?"

I get that sometimes single articles go viral without necessarily the context of a broader body of a writer's works, and that people will respond to that article without knowing that I write from the persona of an evil version of myself that lives in the basement and loves NaNo (by the way if that metaphor is too much for you, I'm not sure what to say). But I often give advice about how to survive the month.

Like 15 bits of advice if you're doing the event.
Or like what to do in the week or two right before.
Or how to handle it when you're in week two and the bloom is off the rose.
Or some advice to finish that last week of slog and cross the finish line.
Or some writing exercises to help you decide what your pace is going to be.
And some last words of wisdom right before you start.

And even though I have answered this question, or questions quite a bit like it, a couple of different times before it literally became "frequently asked."

And even though I have a "NaNoWriMo" tag that goes to all these articles, and a search bar where one could punch in "NaNoWriMo," and the "recommended articles" at the bottom are other NaNo articles I've written.

I mean it's not like I sit around and expect people to do research on me before sending a nasty-gram, but it's sort of weird that a self-identified writer (who, by definition must be a reader) doesn't even actually read the one article in toto either.

If you really want to make me cry by sticking it to me so very, very good. Try the following before you reach for that reply button –– get such basic facts correct as:
  • I've done NaNoWriMo several times before
  • What I think is good about NaNo (Literally "the good")
  • That I have conflicted feelings. CON. FLIC. TED.
  • That people who know what they're doing and how NaNo fits into the bigger process of writing should do whatever works
  • What my "problem" is 
  • Exactly why I don't think that it is something that a new writer or a writer inexperienced at a daily word count should dive into
So I can appreciate that your sphincter tightened in rage as soon as you read that the title of the article wasn't "NaNoWriMo is the best thing since threesomes WITH sliced bread! (And that's why it's called a sandwich. NAAAARF!)" If you read more than the title of the sections (and maybe some picture captions). And if you are capable of handling the fact of professional writers (not just me) glancing sideways at your precious, let me try to answer this 




I like NaNo. I often do NaNo. I have "won" NaNo multiple times. I enjoy the pressure. I like the discipline. I have even done it since I started blogging. But being aware of nuance is important with an event that 4/5+ fail to finish year after year.

To be clear, if you want to do NaNo, do NaNo. Knock your fucking self out. If it works for you, do whatever works. That's the only rule that really matters in art anyway. If you understand how lightning drafts fit into the writing process, rock rock on. If you really "grok" that your NaNo manuscript isn't going to get published, kick ass and chew gum. Don't let anyone tell you what to do. Least of all me.

However, I wrote that article because my opinion was specifically solicited, and I know too many damned good writers who NaNo has broken. I'm not just trying to pinch out a fat deuce in people's sandcastle. I actually don't think NaNo is neutral in a zero sum game and everyone should just do it or not depending on their whim. ESPECIALLY inexperienced writers who are putting all their eggs in its basket.

Look, trust me. I'm the biggest fan of people just writing for writing's sake that I know. I tell people every day not to worry about getting published, getting paid, getting famous, getting threesomes, getting anything, but to just WRITE because writing is fulfilling. And I'm also the guy telling you to write every day, even when it isn't easy. The circumstances in which I suggest anyone not write are few and far between and highly context dependent. 

If I did not know HUNDREDS of writers who tried and failed NaNo's breakneck ├╝berpace and then became despondent, burnt out puddles of self-doubt because they were convinced a "real writer" would have been able to pump out 1667 words a day and clearly they weren't such a real writer*, I might have more of a laissez-faire attitude. If I didn't know publishers and agents who got thousands of manuscripts in December, I might think that the writers weren't ignoring the revision process of writing. If I didn't see literally thousands and thousands of "writers" who do absolutely no writing outside of November, frustrated beyond reason that they can't seem to launch a tidy career as a novelist. If I didn't see the harm the event did, you bet your ass I would suggest that everyone at least give it a try because why not?

But there is a why not. And if you directly solicit my opinion about it, I'm going to tell you what it is. 

Some parts of NaNo are good, and some writers can handle it quite well. But most new writers need to learn to tackle a more reasonable pace, and need to learn to do it more than one month a year. 

*Days in the last year I have pumped out 1667 words: zero. (And I make real money at this and am read by thousands, so this is not the mark of a "real" writer.) 


  1. I think I've done NaNo 15 tonnes and "won" 3. Like you, I feel people it's a break-neck pace I usually can't keep up with. I also tell them I love the challenge, but for a new writer I always reckoned something like CampNaNoWriMo (summer) and set yourself a more reasonable goal. A CHALLENGE would still be 500-1,000 words per day. And if you don't make it the first try, well sounds like you need to keep practicing so you can work your way up... And consider what were your obstacles. Learn. This can be a super tough task, and we learn more when we fail - so take those lessons as your personal win.

  2. I won this year, first year trying, but at a deep cost to my sanity, as for some reason I am afraid now, after leaving the draft alone for a month, to change even one word of my precious baby I birthed in November. I am as stuck as stuck can be. So I get what you are saying.

  3. Much like you, I've done NaNo events a lot, winning some and falling behind on others. The most memorable time of "finishing" was to get a 40% discount on writing software I was interested in! XD (Nothing motivates my creativity like a realistic goal, apparently!)

    That being said, I agree that it didn't help me develop a daily writing habit (at least not for fiction. :/ ) And I now have several first drafts of things I really have no idea what to do with. I'm tempted to just burn it all (figuratively and literally) and start over. lol Save all the digital stuff to a separate hard drive, then stash that bad by somewhere, and just start again...at a more workable pace.