NaNoWriMo: I’m Only Going To Say This Once, Okay?

22 Oct

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts on November 1st.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the idea is that you pull out all the stops to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days, or around 1,670 words every day during the month of November.

Every year around this time, something else starts too: NaNoWriMo Snobbery. Professional writers, who the other eleven months of the year seem like the nicest, most generous and friendliest people, suddenly start tipping their noses in the air and saying or even writing things about how NaNoWriMo and the people who partake in it are belittling their profession, ridiculing their craft and making a mockery of the 1,670 words they write every single day of the year in order to make a living.

Now, usually I just grit my teeth and try to ignore it, but this year I’m finding it impossible—and we’re not even T-minus 1 week to go yet. (Also, I can’t think of anything else to blog about today.) So I’m only going to say this once, okay?

***RANT BEGINS***

The NaNoWriMo Novel = Messy First Draft

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write a messy first draft, the one that “rough” would be a strong word for, the one that’s for you and you only, the one in which you work out the answers to the questions Would this even work? and What comes between the beginning and the end? No one in their right mind thinks you can go from a blank page to a finished novel ready for readers and their shelves in 30 days, but National Write a Messy First Draft That Might One Day, With Countless Rewrites, Become a Novel Month, just isn’t very catchy.

Also, keep in mind that most commercial novels these days are around the 100,000 word mark. If you thought that the idea of NaNoWriMo was to write a finished novel in 30 days, then the goal—50,000 words—should’ve been your first clue that honey, that just ain’t the case.

NaNoWriMoers = Writers

A couple of years ago I read a heartfelt blog post by a professional, published writer who truly felt slighted by NaNoWriMo. She said that this was her profession, her vocation in life, and the fact that “some people” thought they could come along and do it in the month—do the thing she had spent her adult life perfecting the craft of—made a mockery of it and her. She asked if there would be similar support for National Become a Doctor Month or the like, and ended her post by saying that she dreaded Novembers because of NaNoWriMo.

Now, first of all, get the lady 10 ccs of chill pill. STAT. (See? I could totally do National Become a Doctor Month…) The world really doesn’t need to take arbitrary challenges so seriously. But secondly, who does she think does NaNoWriMo? Sure, there’s a probably a few people in there who have never as much as read a book who suddenly decide to drop everything and attempt to write one during the month of November. But all the people I know who do it are writers.

They are already writing, have always been and for whatever reason, find it difficult to fit writing into their lives every single day. I hate that thing about there’s no such thing as no time to write, because who are we to say what people can or can’t fit into their lives? We know nothing about them. We don’t know what responsibilities they have, or what they’re struggling with. I know someone who works two full-time jobs, survives on less sleep than the average insomniac and has children to take care of. Would you tell him to “just find” the time to write?

Some people, myself included, write more when a deadline is sending us daggers from the edge of our computer screen. Some people write more when they are spurred on by being part of a group whose members are also trying to write more at the same time. And some people have so much going on that they feel they can’t set aside time to write all the year around, but that NaNoWriMo gives them some kind of official permission to do it, just for thirty days.

NaNoWriMoers are, for the most part, writers. Not “some people.”

What Are You Worried About, Mate?

Oh, you write 2,000 words every day of the year, do you? When I say “NaNoWriMo” you say “Welcome to my life”? In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, is your wallet also too small for your fifties and your diamond shoes too tight?

SO THE FUDGE WHAT if you already do NaNoWriMo every month of the year? What has that got to do with other people trying to do it for one month? I just don’t see the connection. That’s like me saying I’m going to join a gym… [Sorry, burst into a fit of giggles there; let me try that again.] That’s like me saying I’m going to join a gym and work out every day for the next thirty days, and being belittled and mocked and generally held in contempt by people who already do it, just because they already do. There is something missing there, and it’s ALL LOGIC AND SENSE.

On September 11th, Ricky Gervais tweeted about taking a moment to remember all those who had perished during the terrorist attacks. A tweeter from the UK asked him why the world makes an effort to pause and mourn on 9/11, when they don’t necessarily on 7/7, the anniversary of the London terrorists attacks. And Gervais’ response was “What are you worried about, mate?”

Now obviously we’re talking about two entirely different points on the Things That Matter Scale, but Gervais’ response to that has really stuck with me, because I’m sure that tweeter couldn’t answer it. (Because what was he worried about? Non-reciprocated  sadness?!) And so, if you are a professional writer and you don’t like the idea of people doing NaNoWriMo, what are you worried about?

(Side note: agents and editors can probably answer that question because they do have something to worry about: the influx of newborn manuscripts that start arriving in their mailrooms come December 1st from the small minority of people who think you can conceive, draft, rewrite, edit and polish a novel in just 30 days. But for the rest of us, what does it matter?)

NaNoWriMo + Time = Bestselling Books

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Cuckoo by Julia Crouch and Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes (which, by the way, was one of the most unsettling, nerves-on-a-knife-edge thrillers I’ve ever read) all started their literary lives as NaNoWriMo projects. You can see the full selection of published NaNoWriMo projects here.

Fun: Have You Heard Of It?

The whole point of NaNoWriMo—more so than writing 50k, I’d say—is FUN, as in, the having of it. During NaNoWriMo, you can sign up for groups, even meet those groups in your town or city, and create a buddy list that will help spur each other on for the month. It’s great craic, as us Irish would say.

And sometimes, having fun is reason enough to do something, all by itself. This is one of those times.

So NaNoWriMo Snobsters, stop taking a dump all over it, would you please? And bring your nose back down until it’s parallel to the horizon while you’re at it. Thanks ever so much.

***RANT ENDS***

What do YOU think?

(P.S. What do you think about NaNoWriMo, NOT what you think about 9/11, 7/7 or Ricky Gervais. I know how this internet thing works and I’m telling you right now, that’s NOT what this post is about, okay?)

117 Responses to “NaNoWriMo: I’m Only Going To Say This Once, Okay?”

  1. Maija Haavisto October 22, 2012 at 08:12 #

    The official list of published NaNo novels is far from a “full selection” though. I know so many titles missing from it, including my own debut novel and my second one which is out in a few weeks. :-P

    And depending on which language you write, 50k words may well be a finished novel in length, if not in quality. I’ve done NaNo four times and I’ve always got to type “the end” at very close the 50k mark, which in Finnish corresponds to about 70-80k in English. My debut novel was about 47k words when published, though usually my NaNo novels grow a bit in the editing phase.

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 09:01 #

      Maija I think if you want to add your book to that list you just have to let them know through the NaNoWriMo.org website.

      Fascinating that 50k in Finnish equals 70-80k in English!

  2. MarinaSofia October 22, 2012 at 08:12 #

    I agree with you, well done for saying it out loud, Catherine!
    I’ve done NaNoWriMo (successfully once, unsuccessfully once) and it’s an excellent opportunity to focus. For those of us who are not fortunate enough to have the time, ability, childcare arrangements, money or whatever it takes to focus on writing throughout the year. It got me in the right frame of mind, it got me serious about writing again, it made me realise just how important writing is for me and that I need to put it first. I did find the Guardian’s ‘Write a Novel in 30 Days’ a bit misguided (rather like those other books overselling expectations: Become a Leader in 7 Days, Improve Your Communication Skills in Five Hours, 2 Days to a Better Family Life etc. etc.). It’s not a novel you are going to have in 30 days, but, as you said, a first draft. Or even a start of a novel. Got to be better than just wishful thinking, right?

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 09:04 #

      Thank you!

      I only skimmed the Guardian article (must go find it and read it properly) but it seemed to me like that too, however misguided, was in fact about writing a first draft…? But of course that wouldn’t make a good headline.

      I think the point is made excellently in Keris’ post here:

      http://dellasays.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/how-to-write-a-book/

      The big picture in this is that there’s no right way to write a novel and whatever you need to do to get it done is the right way for you.

      • MarinaSofia October 22, 2012 at 11:13 #

        You’re right, now that I look at the Guardian section more closely, it is a collection of extracts from a book about writing the first draft in 30 days. So mea culpa! If it helps aspiring writers to organise their thoughts and be a bit more systematic about things, what’s wrong with it?

  3. Cameron Lawton October 22, 2012 at 08:18 #

    THANK YOU Catherine. I’ve already tweeted/blogged/posted about it being a great way to do a 1st draft several times. I hope people are listening to both of us.

    Secondly – I went in for NaNo last year having never had ANYTHING (missuse of capitals, exclamation marks everything OK here!!) published and the novel that came from it, after much work, is going to be published by Crooked Cat Books in January (I have the contract)

    And thirdly – so what if people DO get carried away and self-publish the 50K words they produce with CreateSpace? If it is dross, it won’t sell. BUT (note extreme use of capitals again) if it makes them truly happy to have five copies of a book, a real one, with their name on the cover, who the hell is going to deny them that? Not me…… and, having had other stuff published since last year as well, I’m a published writer too … so here I am, standing right behind you like a peasant in a Frankenstein movie going “Yes, yes” and brandishing my blazing torch;

    My rant over.

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 09:06 #

      You know I love some SUPERFLUOUS CAPITAL LETTERS, Cameron! Where would my blog be without them…? ;-D

      With regards to your third point, exactly! So what if they do self-publish it? They’ll learn pretty quickly that it was a mistake.

      What’s funny is that according to NaNoWriMo, around 300k people registered on their website each year. There is EASILY way more people than that already planning on self-publishing the book tomorrow that they’ll finish today…

  4. bfreeman0 October 22, 2012 at 08:35 #

    Never heard of this before now, may actually try it. Sounds like FUN.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • stephaniegerow October 24, 2012 at 21:17 #

      I’ve never heard of it either but it sounds like something I’d like to try as well!

  5. elskenewman October 22, 2012 at 08:45 #

    I think NaNoWriMo is awesome! I struggle to find the time to write but I am going to be a NaNoWriMo participant this year. And I love your post!

  6. Rhoda Baxter October 22, 2012 at 08:52 #

    I didn’t realise that people felt that way about NaNoWriMo. It seems an odd point of view. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. Not because I don’t want to (I’d love to), but because I can’t wring an extra 20minutes of out my day without something going wrong somewhere else.
    If people can find the time to do a massive push and write 50K in a month, more power to them.
    Why on earth would it devalue my own writing, which I do over 12 months? My first drafts are crap anyway, regardless of how fast they were written. Surely, that’s the point of a first draft. The polish is in the editing.

  7. bfreeman0 October 22, 2012 at 09:05 #

    Reblogged this on Unwise Words and commented:
    Didn’t know anything about this annual event. Will be trying it this month and will keep you all updated.

  8. bridget whelan October 22, 2012 at 09:10 #

    I’ve been inspired by two authors local to me Julia Crouch (Cuckoo) and Elizabeth Haynes to plunge in (You’re absolutely right by the way – Elizabeth’s novel was the scariest book I’ve read in a long, long time. She’s a Nanorwrimo organiser and I’m joining her small weekend retreat in West Sussex, feeling very fortunate…) But I still think it would be worth doing even if we couldn’t cite a whole list of books that have grown out of it. Kate Mosse says we should practise writing in the same way as a musician praticses the scales and this is a month long attempt to focus on that side of our lives. Instead of wanting to be a writer, diving in and give it a go….
    As the great Katherine Mansfield said:
    ‘Far better to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.’
    Vikki Thompson is a three time veteran and wrote a guest post on my blog about her very very first time. She still hasn’t felt able to read back what she wrote then but that experience and support from fellow writers has kept her going. And isn’t understanding what you’ve done wrong part of the learning process….good luck, Catherine. I’ve set myself a personal target of 20,000 words. (I’m a slow writer) Drinks are on me if I exceed it!

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 09:12 #

      So jealous of you going to Elizabeth Haynes retreat! Honestly that novel kept me awake at night—so glad that I wasn’t living alone while I was reading it.

      • bridget whelan October 22, 2012 at 09:16 #

        I recommend it to students wanting to write horror – Elizabeth dishes out suspense by the galleon load.

  9. afteroldjoe October 22, 2012 at 09:21 #

    I’m working on a novel I wrote for Nanowrimo in 2010, and I feel like it’s really going to turn out well (someday.) Nano provides a much-needed shot of self-discipline and I’ve found it to be really valuable. A lot of serious writers do Nano, and these negative people who belittle it are the same ones who always try to discourage us. Sure, it’s a tough business to get into, but they don’t have a crystal ball any more than we do. They don’t know the future. If they did, they’d realize there’s room for all of us to write. There really is.

  10. jjtoner October 22, 2012 at 09:29 #

    I’d love to try this, but I reckon it’s the fast track to the divorce courts! I have an excuse this year, anyhow – I’m booked on a writers’ weekend course with COLIN BATEMAN on 10/11 November. Good luck to all who do the NaNo thing.

  11. jumpingfromcliffs October 22, 2012 at 09:40 #

    Perfect response. I’m thinking of tackling NaNo for the first time this year, but am stuck in the ‘no time’ bracket. However that pans out, I’m full of admiration for those who do make the commitment, regardless of whether what they write ever makes it to a finished novel At least they’re writing and doing something they love. Great ranty post!

  12. Anjasa October 22, 2012 at 10:39 #

    I’ve tried doing NaNo a few times and never succeeded. For me, it’s just too much pressure! Even though last year I wrote more than 1 million words with my partner, I just could not sit down and force myself to do it. To work on one project every day? Boring!

    But I can totally see how people who don’t usually write, or those who have problems naturally writing, would love it! Motivation! Accountability! People who do it with them! A fun, social event!

    Why should I care about them? Why would I, possibly, feel threatened or slighted by them?

    Most of them won’t finish. Those who do finish? Most of their stuff will never see the light of the day. We’ve heard about, what, a handful of people going on to publish their stuff? There’s no threat to professional writers.

    And that’s the difference. It’s like if I went and took an acting workshop for a month and Angelina Jolie complained about me belittling her work and thinking I can pick it up in a month. It’s just something fun I’m doing for a while to challenge myself. I’m not trying to, like, challenge her to an act off.

    In the end, we just have ourselves to worry about, and I can’t spend my life fretting that others might do something better than me after only a month.

  13. Catherine October 22, 2012 at 11:47 #

    Good on you for having your rant there. I agree it’s a great initiative, but I think my household would rebel big time. I’m distracted enough as it is! Good luck with your efforts, but I’m way too slow to attempt this.. the hours I spend communing with the blank screen or checking the birds out the window. In a way I really need these spaces.

    • bridget whelan October 22, 2012 at 11:58 #

      I’m slow too. I’m wondering if there would be a demand for a second speed nanowrimo: perhaps nanowrianna….50,000 words in a YEAR…..I suppose that’s just called writing.

  14. Tim McGregor October 22, 2012 at 12:07 #

    What do I think? I think I would totally consult you if you were a doctor for a month.

    I love your posts, especially the rants.

  15. moonduster October 22, 2012 at 12:56 #

    I agree and have no real idea why anyone should have a problem with NaNoWriMo. I have done it successfully for three years now and am planning to join in with NaNoWriMo again this year. I have been the local municiple liaison for my region for the past two years, and, through the local NaNoWriMo meet-ups, we have managed to create a local critique group that meets up once a month, year-round.

    I have also managed to wrangle some successful short stories from my NaNoWriMo manuscripts which have done well in competitions, and NaNoWriMo helps me to focus on my writing more. In fact, I work much better with a deadline looming!

  16. limebirdwriters October 22, 2012 at 12:59 #

    Haha! I love this post, great stuff! Beth

  17. The Grown Up Princess October 22, 2012 at 13:03 #

    I am giving NaNoWriMo my first honest attempt this year. You’re right, most of the people I know who have or will try ARE writers, but I kind of pull for the few who aren’t. I don’t see how that is insulting at all. Instead, I commend people for pushing outside their comfort zones and trying something new! Sometimes all it takes to find a hidden talent is the challenge to get started. If I were threatened by others finding their voice, that doesn’t say much about my writing.

  18. Stacey Mitchell October 22, 2012 at 13:06 #

    I didn’t realise some people felt so strongly against NaNoWriMo! Live and let live, I say. Anyone who doesn’t like NaNoWriMo can just crack on with their own writing and leave the rest of us to it. Surely there are lots of writers who write 50,000 words in a month — so what’s the difference?

    I LOVE NaNoWriMo. It’s a great feeling to be part of something so widespread, and as I love a challenge, it’s also a great motivator.

  19. Normandie October 22, 2012 at 13:09 #

    The year I did it, I loved it, because I could make the general announcement, “Not now, please. I’ve got to up my word count.” And no one got mad at me because they knew I’d make up for it with a smile if they only let me finish the bit I was writing.

    I’m with Tim: I receive your posts just as I sit down to a great cup of coffee, and I come away sighing over the coffee and smiling over your words.

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 17:51 #

      That’s exactly it: NaNoWriMo gives you an opportunity to say, ‘Sorry, but for this month I can’t do this/that/the other thing, because I have to write.’ Considering the non-writing world thinks this is some kind of leisurely activity, you might not get away with it the rest of the year.

  20. Lindsay Edmunds October 22, 2012 at 13:50 #

    My novel CEL & ANNA began as a nanowrimo entry. Best thing about that contest: it challenged me to do something I didn’t think I could do. It is not too much to say that nanowrimo changed my life. I am now writing the sequel and it is flying high.

  21. Leauxra October 22, 2012 at 13:57 #

    THANK you for writing this.

    I have a writer friend who posted a beautiful piece about how writing isn’t “fun”, it’s “work”. How difficult it is to find the right words, the struggle, etc, etc, etc. And then went on to say that NaNoWriMo was a Bad Idea.

    I said, “Do you think sitting in a little gray cubicle looking at spreadsheets is fun? I would much rather struggle at doing something creative than to let my story telling bone completely atrophy. Last year I proved to myself that I could write a novel. This year I plan to prove I can write something worth saving. NaNoWriMo is the perfect forum for getting it done, instead of planning to write a book ‘some day’.”

    Now I wish I had just responded, “What are you worried about?”

  22. Megan Cashman October 22, 2012 at 13:58 #

    Well said, Catherine! I can’t believe the holier-than-thou attitude some people have, it’s appalling. Just because you’re a writer does not make you a God!

  23. Jill Carroll October 22, 2012 at 14:10 #

    Totally agree. I did NaNoWriMo last year for the first time and wrote 50K words on a novel I’d had sitting in a drawer for 7 years. It was a great kickstart for me and for the whole project. I continued into the spring, finished it, sent it out to beta readers and an editor, hired production people, and published it through Amazon this past summer. It’s got a 4.5 rating with 24 reviews and I’ve already made enough money on it to pay several mortgage payments. I’m getting all my ducks in a row to start my second novel next week with NaNoWriMo’s help. I make a third of my living from writing (journalism, academic writing, and now fiction) and I write professionally every week on deadlines set by my editors. NaNoWriMo provides me the annual structure to jumpstart my own fiction projects. How can that be bad? Screw the so-called “professionals” who turn their noses up at it. They need to take their issue up with a therapist.

  24. hkollef October 22, 2012 at 14:11 #

    Love this post, because yes! I’m the first to admit that I can be a little snobby, but telling people who do NaNoWriMo that they’re not real writers just seems kind of dumb to me. We should be supportive of people trying to write, and if NaNoWriMo helps them get that first messy draft onto paper, why is it a problem for the rest of the writing community?

    I’m going to echo your sentiment, and proscribe a dose of chillaxing to the worry warts.

    (And I know it is not at all the point of your post, but I love that Ricky Gervais exchange. Also Ricky Gervais in general, especially when he gets Liam Neeson to be in his skits)

  25. tonia994 October 22, 2012 at 14:31 #

    As a new member of the writing community (and I use the term ‘member’ loosely) this is the first I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, and I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m in my second month as an undergraduate student in my English with Creative Writing degree so I wouldn’t dare say I’m a writer, but I do write, and I enjoy it.
    As someone starting out, this kind of concept is great and will probably help my self motivation to do written work outside of my course. People may do a month-long ‘blog post a day’ to get themselves into the habit of blogging regularly, and that’s fine despite being posted to the world with less thought being put into the drafting and reworking of a post, so why is it such a bad thing for people to write a piece in their own privacy every day? The logic of some individuals is astounding, if I become a ‘professional’ I hope never to act in such a way.

  26. T.K. Marnell October 22, 2012 at 14:33 #

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say I think NaNoWriMo is a bad idea, but not because I have my nose in the air about it “belittling the profession.” People in our profession spend their days spinning yarns in their bathrobes. We don’t have much to brag about. But I don’t think NaNoWriMo is a good idea because it tells people to write no matter what and edit nothing as they go. If you write rubbish, you’re supposed to just plow on ahead, building on rubbish. You will probably end up making more work for yourself in the long run than if you had taken the time to stop, revise, get your thoughts in order, and do it right from the start. As you said, the people who need to do NaNoWriMo to realize their dreams tend to have very little time in their daily lives to write. They are the precisely the people who can’t afford to waste time–but unless you’re a practiced fiction author, you will inevitably squander many days rambling, turning out pages of useless cruft that will ultimately need to be thrown out, just to meet your 2k quota.

    If it were called NaBoWriMo, I might have a different opinion. Non-fiction, you might be able to pull off. A NaMeWriMo for memoirs sounds like a great idea. People are naturals at talking about themselves. But fiction is a horse of a different color. If you need the discipline–or a reason to tell your family to order pizza and go play at Stevie’s; Mom needs her writing time–you can make deadlines for yourself that are more realistic than churning out a 50k novel in four weeks.

    • Writer / Mummy October 22, 2012 at 14:47 #

      I’m not a published author, but I have finished and edited several novels, and I still find I write my best work under pressure. Sure I have continuity issues to fix and I have to go through and change lots of my telling for showing, but I have a story. Something that works. I seem to instinctively write to a story arc without planing it first. I could never unlock my unconsciousness to do that if I edited as I wrote. It’s when my consciousness is in charge that my writing ends up flat and boring. I can always tell, when I’m editing. The pages with barely a mark on them are the ones that flowed, on the days when I sat and wrote 10k without stopping. It’s different horses for different courses, and probably depends if you’re a plotter or a pantser, but I sa if you don’t try you don’t know.

    • Danette October 22, 2012 at 17:37 #

      I have to disagree with you. For decades I tried revising as I wrote and it never worked for me. That is why I have a library of unfinished or barely started novels. NaNo showed me that I just need to get the words on the page and tell the story from beginning to end. While I didn’t edit as I went along, I knew when I wrote something bad or that needed improvement and wrote a note to change it, or delete it (THIS SUCKS-FIX IT was laced throughout my NaNo draft). There were huge holes in my story that I left to be filled later because I couldn’t write the scene well so I just moved on to the next one to keep the writing express on word count. I wouldn’t consider a completed rough a waste of time. Especially if it was further than I’d ever gotten before.

      I also think it would be harder to write a non-fiction book in a month because there’s a lot more research that needs to go into it than with most fiction.

      • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 17:49 #

        I also don’t understand how you could write fiction any other way than not stopping to look back, at least for the first draft. I’d never get anything finished if I didn’t write a first draft without editing as I go along—otherwise I’d be stuck in an infinite loop, editing the first chapter over an over again. It’s so hard to turn your inner editor off that NaNoWriMo is a great way to force yourself to do it, to just write without stopping, correcting or looking back. And if we put pressure on ourselves to make every word “count” then I think I’d have given this up long ago. Writing is re-writing. And that means there’s no waste.

        • T.K. Marnell October 23, 2012 at 04:51 #

          I personally can’t understand how a writer can just keep barreling ahead if she knows something is off. I never meant to imply that we need to “make every word count” on the first try; there is a middle ground between editing obsessively and rushing in headfirst without looking back. It’s not an “either/or” between perfection and completion. If you want to focus on completion, why not shut your inner editor off for a day? A particular scene? A chapter? Why does it have to be an entire month, an entire novel without revisions? Come to think of it, why do authors have so little confidence in themselves and their work that they say things like they need NaNoWriMo to force them to write? It makes it sound like Jenny Craig. “Turning off my inner chocolate lover is hard, so I need this program to force me to eat carrots!” :p

          The gals who chimed in on my first comment said they’ve authored several novels and have been at this for years, which puts them under that category of “practiced fiction authors.” They know how to structure a story; they know exactly what they’re going to write before they put pen to paper. We newbies, on the other hand, make a LOT of mistakes when we rush. Not surface problems like awkward wording or badly executed scenes–that’s just the frosting on top of the cake–I’m talking about essential mistakes in pacing and characterization that you can’t just patch up with an edit or two later. A friend of mine wrote a manuscript for NaNoWriMo 2009, and almost all of it had to go. She had entirely pointless scenes, no plot advancement in the first half, irrelevant flashbacks (there was one flashback within a flashback)…half a chapter was devoted to how much the heroine loved Halloween! And all because she felt like she had to meet her 2k quota per day, no matter what. She spent years trying to rescue that book, but it was beyond saving. She would’ve done better to scrap it and start fresh.

          So yes, I do believe you can waste your time if you could have avoided a lot of work later by taking a breather and setting your head on straight. As they say, “a stitch in time saves nine.”

          • Rebecca Douglass October 28, 2012 at 04:44 #

            I’ve never NaNoed, so I can’t speak from experience. . . But several people I know are preparing for NaNoWriMo by creating outlines,etc. Even people who don’t normally outline. That seems like a good way to avoid the worst pitfalls but still take advantage of that momentum.

            For the record, I am the queen of crappy first drafts, and my history of taking years to finish one has not helped. If I weren’t deep in revisions on my second book I’d be seriously thinking of participating this time. . . Just to see what it would feel like to make writing my top priority (it did move a loooong way up the ladder when the first book came out. But still gets bumped by too many things).

  27. Writer / Mummy October 22, 2012 at 14:40 #

    Without NaNoWriMo I would never have believed I could write a novel, and now I have three or four all in various states of completion (as you say, definitely a first draft). For me the whole point of Nano is giving me that first draft to edit. You can’t edit a blank page, but, before my first Nano (5 years ago) my internal editior was always screaming so loudly I never got past the first chapter. Also I’m a pantser and I had always been taught you had to plan your novel before you wrote it. I couldn’t plan. I didn’t have the imagination. Now I think of a couple of characters, make something horrible happen to one of them, and see what happens next. It is the speed of Nano that lets me do this. If I didn’t have that little chart showing me if I’m ahead or behind I would stop, read, edit, and give up in despair! (Now I just do that at editing stage, when I scream loudly, IT’S ALL RUBISH and sob into my G&T)

  28. Katriena Knights (@crazywritinfool) October 22, 2012 at 14:54 #

    Thank you for this post. I’ve also gotten really weary of the whines and moans from writers (and, yes, from editors and agents) about November. (And, yes, I do understand the point from editors and agents, but too many of them were taking the “do not send me your NaNoWriMo manuscript EVER because if you wrote it in November it SUCKS stance.”) My new release, coming out tomorrow, was written over not just one but THREE NaNoWriMos. I found that November challenge just the kick in the ass I needed to make progress on the book, which I was writing off and on while working a full-time day job and writing novellas for another publisher or two. And I have a book making submission rounds right now that I wrote largely over last year’s NNWM when I participated to help spur my daughter on. Both of these books went through massive revisions, rewrites, tweaks, etc. before they went out to publishers. This month, since I never seem to manage more than 30,000 words during the challenge, I’m going to set my goal as finishing a book I’m working on that I think has about 30K to go. Seems reasonable… lol. Anyway, I think NNWM is a great way to get motivated and get pen moving over paper or fingers flying over keyboard. The complaining about it is something I’ll never understand. Let people do what they need to do to get the words out. We all have our quirks and ways, and there’s no such thing as one size fits all in this profession.

    • michaelrwilson October 22, 2012 at 16:15 #

      I have a Trilogy that I am working on and great swathes of it has been increased by November’s push, so I understand. (NaNo says to start with something brand new, but I can’t bear to leave my big project to begin something new. I compromise by choosing 10 sections from my outline that have no word count yet and trying to build them up to 5K each. Brand new words but part of my larger project…it’s cheating by NaNo rules…but I won’t tell if you don’t!)

  29. Deb October 22, 2012 at 16:00 #

    One of my favorite authors- someone who has been doing this for over a decade and has published independently and traditionally and sold well- started several novels in November. I’m very excited that the sequel to the book I love most of hers will be started this November.

    I wish there was a companion NaNoEdMo, because that’s where I am and I’d love to have a community to cheer me on :-)

    • rosedandrea November 9, 2012 at 10:17 #

      I think you have a good idea there. National Novel Editing Month, could be a big hit.

  30. michaelrwilson October 22, 2012 at 16:09 #

    I have enjoyed NaNoWriMo in the past and hated every minute of it at the very same time. I have done it 5 times and only finished once. My problem is the ‘crank em out’ idea. I like my words to be perfect and my first draft is very tight as a result. (There is always something…but far, far less than my NaNo output) But the gooding of Nano is awesome to increase what I do for a month. No need for anyone to feel tetchy about it. Many NaNoWroMo’s will never move to the next level. Anyone who wants to produce Many Words is welcome to!

  31. Amy Brown October 22, 2012 at 16:16 #

    Love you! Just met you; love you! This is not one of those considered replies to a blog post, this is just a “hello!” I found you through 30daybooks — what a nice way to start the week.

  32. Keri Peardon October 22, 2012 at 16:20 #

    I just published my first NaNo novel (almost three years after I started). I’m planning on publishing last year’s NaNo novel late next year. And I’m revved up to start a new one in a couple of weeks.

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in 6th or 7th grade. I took creative writing classes in college, which slowly but surely killed all love of writing in me. It wasn’t until NaNo in 2009 that I reclaimed my love for writing. I’m now hoping that, in a year or two, I will be able to transition to writing full-time (i.e. become a professional writer).

    Being against people writing in NaNo is, in my opinion, like being against people spending a month reading and discussing books because they’re not professional book reviewers or because they don’t read “proper” literary novels. Why don’t we cut out community theater (pantomime) while we’re at it because it’s not done by professional actors? And down with Bob Ross painting classes! Painting a Bob Ross landscape in two or three evenings doesn’t make you a painter! Just like owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

    In short, don’t have any artistic hobbies at all because only professional artists make real art.

    What that position discounts, though, is that many (maybe even most) professional artists got a start, at some point in their life, by playing around with art in their spare time. I read an article in “Departures” magazine about professional portrait painters, most of whom started out life working a run-of-the-mill job (one was a stock broker) and only took up painting full-time when they had made enough money to live on. Those same people are now famous for their portraits and have their own shows in top art museums. All because they started out painting as a hobby, not as a profession.

  33. lrhunts October 22, 2012 at 16:21 #

    Peronally I love NaNoWriMo and I can’t wait to start this year. I found NaNoWriMo in 2010 and have attempted it each year, I’m hoping that this year is successful for me to reach the 50k goal and then I intend to revise that draft passed the 50k goal, even if I don’t get to that goal by the end of the month. It’s still awesome fun each year.

  34. Laura Roberts (@originaloflaura) October 22, 2012 at 16:34 #

    The NaNoWriMo snobbery is so ridiculous. If you don’t want to participate, then don’t. But why piss in someone else’s cornflakes if they want to take up the challenge? I totally agree with you (and Ricky Gervais). I wrote a novel in 3 days as part of a writing challenge. People sometimes take serious offense when I say that. Especially because I went ahead and PUBLISHED that novel. (Okay, to be fair, it’s a novella in technical terms. But there’s another interesting observation in there, because how are we even defining books these days when Amazon says anything they publish = book?) It’s a silly book, and it’s meant to be; it’s a political satire featuring NINJAS, for heaven’s sake. But it was fun as all hell to write, and it didn’t hurt anyone for me to write it over a long weekend, and if people don’t want to read it, then no biggie. Same goes for NaNoWriMo. Do it if you think it’ll be fun, don’t do it if you don’t, or pick another challenge if you’ve been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt already. Writers should do whatever it takes to sit down and write, in my opinion, and if NaNoWriMo helps them do that, then that is brilliant!

    • catherineryanhoward October 22, 2012 at 17:55 #

      But why piss in someone else’s Cornflakes indeed! Love this comment! :-D

      • Jay Gordon November 1, 2012 at 21:02 #

        Me too. I’m gettin’ dressed, goin’ out, and WAITING for the chance to use the phrase!

        • rosedandrea November 9, 2012 at 10:23 #

          lol Way to use what you learn! Hope you had fun! ;)

  35. freshveggies/gingerleaphoto October 22, 2012 at 16:53 #

    The first time I had head about it was two years ago and I thought I would try. For me, it’s motivation to get off your butt and do something with some of the ideas that float around in your head that could become a novel (or whatever). It completely about just coming up with a rough draft. Period. I ended up not meeting my goal but I am starting again this year with a new idea. We’ll see what happens. I have connected with my local NaNoWriMo group but (first impressions) they are the opposite kind of snobbery so I’m not sure that I’ll stick with them for my writing activities. Either way — it’s just for fun. Not like I’m quitting my day job for this project.

  36. Danette October 22, 2012 at 17:14 #

    I love this post. I’m not a professional writer but I am a writer because I love to write. I never pursued writing because I doubted I’d be financially successful at it (other than in my fantasy life where Oprah would pick my book for her book club and I’d become not only rich but famous and go shopping with Oprah for her “favorite things). I’ve been making up stories my entire life and writing since I could spell more than just my name. Last year was the first time I’d written more than 2000 words of any of my stories and it was NaNo. I had encouragement and motivation to write. NaNo forced me to find time to write for one month despite the fact that I was raising two children, working a full-time job and a full time student.

    I made it to 50K words. Was it perfect? Heck no. Was there switching points of view and subject verb disagreements? Heck yes. Did it take me a year of revising? Heck yes (I think there should be a NaNoRevMo to motivate me to revise the rough draft). But the point is that for the first time in my writing life (about 27 years) I actually completed more than a very short story. That’s what NaNa is for. It’s for those of us that don’t write professionally but always wanted to. I don’t think that any participants think on October 31st I was nobody and on December 1st I’ll be Jane Austen.

  37. Sleipnir October 22, 2012 at 17:39 #

    I have been a professional writer for more than 20 years, and between work commitments, and chronic illness, I have struggled to find the time to work on my fiction projects, and on some non-fiction book projects. I am very much hoping to be a participant in this year’s NaNoWriMo event. I hope that the tight deadline, something that I am used to working to for more than half of my life, will help me get the rough first draft of one of those projects mostly done. I am still awaiting confirmation of whether or not a particular professional 15,000 word assignment will be required this year, one that is usually due in mid-November, on top of the usual weekly assignments, so juggling the time could be fun!

    As for those who get in such a flap about the event – just what are they afraid of?

  38. lyswood October 22, 2012 at 17:39 #

    Fantastic!! I’m forever trying to explain to folks WHY NaNo? It’s about the fun and the messy, messy rough draft and just about getting something down on the page. It’s fun to meet other crazy people trying to accomplish the same thing and a great way to learn to shut off that internal editor and just freely WRITE.

    I think the point of the month is often misunderstood, and from that stems the frustrating snobbery. You do a fabulous job of putting those snoots in their place – delightful read!!

    Thank you for the awesome day brightener!

  39. A.J.Race October 22, 2012 at 17:44 #

    I personally loved NaNoWriMo, and truthfully I think I wrote a pretty good novel because of it. Which I spent the next month editing, sent to a professional editor then self published in February. And the response has been pretty good. Now granted 50k isn’t a very long novel, I think after edits mine came to about 53/54k, but the point is, NaNoWriMo got me to write a novel that I’d been working on for the last 9 years, constantly writing and rewriting. I think you made a lot of good points here. Being offended by NaNoWriMo is a bit melodramatic.

  40. Sally Clements October 22, 2012 at 18:23 #

    I think I’ve done nano 9 times…and I love it. I’m wavering about doing it this year because I’m writing so much this year anyway, it might be an opportunity to take a break rather than knock out another load of words…no doubt I’ll decide at the last possible moment. I used to love doing nano before many other people knew about it, and here’s why nano is different from any other event –
    the research. Any other time, you write away (I’m a pantster) and hit a roadblock – what do people in Alaska eat for breakfast?/what calibre of shell goes in a particular gun- You could go google, do research, or just ask on a forum, and be guaranteed that someone doing nano will know and tell you, instantly. It keeps the flow going, keeps your butt on the chair, and writing every day lets your muse take over and before you know it the story is writing itself, in true immersion writing style.
    Sigh…I’m going to sign up again, aren’t I?

  41. N.M. Martinez October 22, 2012 at 18:53 #

    Well said. I’m using NaNo this year as a get in shape tool. My rough drafts take too long. What I really like to do is spend time shaping and editing a story. That means I need to knock out the rough draft ASAP so that I can start putting things into place and seeing what I have. How can I know if something will work if I don’t write it? That’s always been the point of NaNo for me.

  42. Ray Dean October 22, 2012 at 19:17 #

    National Write a Messy First Draft That Might One Day, With Countless Rewrites, Become a Novel Month

    I want my NWMFDTMODWCRBNM tshirt! great post :D

  43. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel October 22, 2012 at 19:38 #

    I’m so glad to hear you say NaNoWriMo is Fun. I have a blast, and to think of doing this with people around the world makes it even more inspiring. I’ve heard the same stories you mentioned above, and it kind of feels like a slap in the face, like a put down to us doing NaNo. My time is just as valuable, and just because I’m not with their publisher, that doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer. This will be my third NaNo, and I expect to have just as much fun, and be 50K words further into a novel. There are many NaNo novels that have made it big. Next year at this time, I hope my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel can be on that list. Great post on NaNoWriMo, Catherine.

  44. lovelylici1986 October 22, 2012 at 21:06 #

    Good job! Let ‘em know!
    When people get all riled up about things like this, my first response is usually, “Why do you care?” or “How does this affect YOU?”
    I mean, seriously… No one is stopping anyone else from writing, or doing whatever it is they want to do. There is not reason to have anything but encouragement and praise for those who take on NaNoWriMo, and other challenges like it.
    I don’t even think it matters whether the people taking this on are writers or not. WHOOO CARRRES?! I’m glad people are bothering to write AT ALL.
    For those who want to sit in a stew of anger or disgust, let ‘em. I just don’t wanna smell the stink of it.
    *continues to plan NaNoWriMo novel*

  45. angelapeart October 22, 2012 at 21:09 #

    Well said, Catherine. Funny how people always find a reason to divide into “us” and “them”.

    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but I’ve cheered on my friends. This year I decided to do my private NaNo with a friend and fellow writer. Both of us plan to finish our new novellas by the end of November.

  46. Chris Jordan October 22, 2012 at 22:17 #

    I love to write, and I had the idea of a fiction story for TWELVE YEARS before I actually started writing the first page. The motivation? NaNoWriMo (and some helpful writing buddies). True, I know that the final product of those 30 days and 50,000 words is CRAP, but it’s the first draft of something that I hope to see published one day. So, I support and encourage young writers to participate in NaNo and just get writing… thanks for this excellent post!

  47. Danielle October 22, 2012 at 22:50 #

    This is great! I had never heard of it, but am now thinking that I need to use it as an excuse to finally START my novel. I’ll set myself a goal (which will not be 50,000 that’s for sure) and will aim to stick to it! I have to get moving, characters have been keeping me awake at night and I really need my sleep! :P

  48. shannonatduolit October 23, 2012 at 02:51 #

    I had a talk about this with an editor friend a few weeks ago (I was curious if editors everywhere cringed at the thought of a NaNoWriMo project coming across their desks). But my friend said she thought it was a great way for authors to push past their fears and excuses to complete that first rough draft. I have to agree with that — I’ve participated in the past and plan to do it again this year. I think it’s just a great motivational tool, a great community for authors and I would challenge anyone who puts it down to try it once and see if they feel the same when it’s all over.

    Thanks for putting the doubters in their place Catherine!

  49. befaster October 23, 2012 at 06:24 #

    I wish it wasn’t in November. It’s one of maybe two or three months when I absolutely cannot justify the time to do something likes this (although I will doubtlessly waste a lot of my time on other less productive things). Plus, I’m one of those people who thinks it through, has a bit too much self-doubt, and absolutely no training in the craft, so I’d be too scared to start! But maybe someday I can, or perhaps modify it for something else I might have a better chance at (like maybe 30 blog posts in a month?). I’m definitely looking forward to reading some that come out of this, especially if some of my friends participate, and I’ll be cheering loudly for all those who do take part! (bonus marks for writing your novel on a typewriter!)

  50. Nicole Bross October 23, 2012 at 07:22 #

    The value of NaNo for me was to show me that I COULD find the time to write. I was like your friend last November, two jobs, two young kids, a house to run and volunteering duties on top of that. I’d been telling myself for as long as I could remember that one day, maybe when the kids were in school fulltime, I would start trying to write. I thought of and forgot so many ideas for novels in that time while I was waiting for the perfect day to come along. Then a friend dared me to do NaNo with her and lo and behold, the perfect day is the day you say, ‘enough waffling. Sit your ass down and write.’ It was terrifying and wonderful and exhausting because I’m very much on the side of the people-who-don’t-outline-but-edit-as-they-go. The 53,000 words I wrote will probably never see eyes other than my own but that’s okay, because three months later when I got a brand-new idea for a series of books that I absolutely fell in love with, I had the courage and the prior experience to say ‘I can do this’ despite jobs and kids and all the rest. And I did, albeit a lot slower than NaNo’s timeline. I harbour a lot of sadness that I won’t be doing it this year but I’m cheering on those who are.

  51. avwalters October 23, 2012 at 07:43 #

    I’m a published writer, my first novel was an award-winning independently published book. (The second just came out.) Both started as NaNoWriMo efforts. I couldn’t finish 50,000 words in a month–but I kept going. I loved it. I cannot imagine anyone being a snob about someone else making the creative effort to express themselves. It’s a challenge to get off your duff (or, in this case sit down on it) and tell your story. Everybody has a story. If a professional writer gets his or her nose out of joint because of the NaNo effort, I’d say the problem is with that person, not with the budding and sincere efforts of regular people putting in the effort to make their lives richer, fuller and more satisfying. NaNoWriMo–cheaper than therapy!

  52. Jenn Flynn-Shon October 23, 2012 at 18:33 #

    Lines like this: “National Write a Messy First Draft That Might One Day, With Countless Rewrites, Become a Novel Month, just isn’t very catchy” are the reason I read your blog religiously. So spot on! I wrote my first NaNo MS in 2009. It was released as my first novel in April 2012. Countless edits & re-writes would be an understatement. I also won in 2010 but find that MS to be garbage right now & it is on indefinite hold. I plan to do NaNo again next month and fully intend to flesh out some character building and plot lines so I can fully rewrite the thing over the course of the following six months or more. Thanks for writing this today, its a great reminder that just because we’re not “known” doesn’t invalidate the time, effort and work we put into our craft. Funny, I just wrote about something similar this morning. Must be the NaNo moon or something :-)

  53. Mary October 23, 2012 at 18:46 #

    This is perfect.

  54. Gordon A. Long October 23, 2012 at 21:37 #

    Actually, folks, you’ve all been scammed. This whole controversy was created by the NaNoWriMo maniacs to generate publicity for their stunt. I mean, what person who called him- or herself a real author could fail to appreciate such a great motivational activity, and the best cure for writer’s block that ever existed! Come on, folks, don’t be fooled. Actually everyone loves NaNoWriMo.

  55. pbta06 October 24, 2012 at 02:14 #

    Reblogged this on The Southern Orange and commented:
    She made me consider doing NaNoWriMo this year – script style -, but I’m not sure if it’s too soon for me, considering it’s only been 3 months since I actively started working on my writing – a.k.a. blogging. We’ll see!

  56. elizabethraine October 24, 2012 at 04:01 #

    This will be my third try at NaNoWriMo and I plan to really finish this time- the last two years I was also teaching abroad and balance was harder. And you’re so right- I feel like it’s easy for professionals of anything to get snobby. “Real writers write every single day’ is one I’ve heard more than once. I’ve even had published writers tell me that I’d better manage to write every single day for an entire year before I try to get stuff published. The reality, though, is there is no official benchmark. You just have to keep writing when you can.

  57. Roy McCarthy October 24, 2012 at 19:32 #

    Spirited stuff Catherine, love the post. And clearly lots of writers are on your side. I still can’t get enthused though and it sounds like I’m down there in the naughty corner with one or two other unbelievers :-) Best of luck to everyone taking this on though.

  58. Kia Zi Shiru October 24, 2012 at 20:12 #

    For me NaNoWriMo gives me one month off editing, rewriting, worry about other projects, it allows me to create something new. I like it because at the end I’ve got a new novel that I can play with for the rest of the year.
    Go NaNo!

    (plus, there are also quite a lot of writers who very much endorse NaNo because it means people make time to learn how to write, which is a good thing.)

  59. laurenswrittenword October 24, 2012 at 20:37 #

    Absolutely!! Sometimes people just work better from a writing perspective when there is that fixed goal, especially if you’re not published or don’t have a deal as of yet.

    Great post!

  60. jodylynnallen October 25, 2012 at 00:16 #

    I love NANOWRIMO I’ve started two books that way and completed both of them and will try it again next month! I hate snobbery in any rom, I think most of he are scared our nano books could be better than theirs! Let’s go Nano!

  61. GJ Scobie October 25, 2012 at 15:56 #

    Great post. I decided to do this for the first time back in April and blogged about my experiences then. I managed the 50K in four weeks. I found it tough going but it did allow me to complete the plot and fill in the holes and provided an indication that I did in fact have a story. I am going to spend November going back over this draft now with the intention of working it into a state that others can begin to comment on it. The key thing for me is picking a month that suits and I intend to go again next April with an idea I am working on. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to have a go and pay no mind to those who wish to be negative about the effort you put in.

  62. wcc21 October 26, 2012 at 17:46 #

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been debating doing NaNoWriMo, and my friends have been pushing me to do it. I am a writer and editor, though not published or anything like that as I just graduated from university, and need an excuse to take time out of my day just to write! I’ve been on the receiving end of the snobbiness that surrounds NaNoWriMo the last time I tried it a few years ago. I had a professor tell me it wasn’t worth my time to try as I couldn’t be a professional writer so I shouldn’t bother. I am a big fan of yours, all the way from sunny California, and love reading your posts. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say next!

    • afteroldjoe October 26, 2012 at 20:06 #

      Dear WCC21: I read your reply and it makes me mad to think a college professor would try to discourage you like that. Screw him. He doesn’t have a crystal ball. He can’t know what your future holds. Do NaNo and don’t listen to any more negative people. Even if your manuscript is junk at the end, it’s still worth doing, for the lesson in self-discipline, if nothing else. We believe in you!

      • wcc21 October 26, 2012 at 20:20 #

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment. It feels great to have your encouragement and support! I’ll try to ignore the negative comments and just focus on what I love to do.

      • There's a frog on my Sprocket! October 26, 2012 at 22:31 #

        I totally agree… I was unaware of NaNo but will give it a shot I’m not a writer but view this as a chance to experience something new and maybe learn a little about myself, my self-discipline and creative qualities.
        I was inspired by your encouragement to a stranger… Afteroldjoe you are the sort that should be professing in the universities.
        One should never be discouraged from chasing dreams

        • afteroldjoe October 27, 2012 at 10:23 #

          Thank you! You’re so sweet. It just makes me really mad when all these negative people start telling others what their potential in life will be. No one can possibly predict that. Plus, you only get one life. Do something with it.

  63. audaciouslady (@audaciouslady) October 28, 2012 at 04:25 #

    I found you blog from reading Sydney Aaliyah’s blog. Love the spunky attitude. I didn’t even know that there were NaNoWriMo snobs. This is my third attempt at NaNoWrimo. I met Chris Batty this past year at the Writer’s Digest Conference and he was great. Good luck on Nano this year.

  64. Susan Spann October 30, 2012 at 18:32 #

    Nailed it in one here. This is exactly what people need to hear and I’m in your corner 100%. I have writing friends (published and unpublished) who use this to jump start inspiration. Others do it because their lives don’t allow this kind of effort day to day but their friends and husbands “understand” when it’s an organized thing. Mainly though, people just need to chill. Encouraging writers is a good thing no matter what the form.

  65. georgianaderwent October 30, 2012 at 22:57 #

    I’ve written two books now (well, four if you count my over-hormonal and under-grammatical teenage attempts, which I generally don’t) and never tried NaNoWriMo, but I’m pretty sure that I agree with the thrust of this.

    Firstly, the line between who’s a “proper” writer and who isn’t is becoming increasingly blurred. Fine, if someone like JK Rowling who’s sold millions of books and/or someone like Hilary Mantel who’s won major prizes wants to tell someone they’re not a real writer, I’ll take their word for it, but I suspect they’re secure enough in their profession that they wouldn’t bother.As is so often the case, I tend to think it’s more likely to be the just barely successful who are on the defensive.

    Secondly, any sensible profession tries to encourage as many people as possible to give it a go rather than pulling up the drawbridge. I’m a lawyer, and okay, we wouldn’t encourage random people to spend November defending suspected murderers, but we do go into schools and universities and tell people all about our job and let them spend a day in court. Again, anyone who is confident in their own writing skills and happy with their position in life would be encouraging as many people as possible to give writing a try, not trying to push them away. A badly written book is no competition, a well written one encourages you to up your game.

    Thirdly, contrary to what some of the commentators say, I love the idea of churning out thousands of words so that you have a good starting point. My writing mantra has always been that you can’t edit a blank page. It’s far easier to go back and edit or even (shock horror) delete a few thousand words of rubbish than it is to sit there agonising over every word. I wrote the first draft of my first proper novel in about three months. At 100 000 words, it wasn’t quite Nanowrimo levels of words per day, but it wasn’t far off. It then took me the best part of two years to get it up to publishable standard, but without that first blast, I doubt it would ever have happened.

    Finally and most importantly though, i can’t believe The Night Circus came out of this project. More than any rational argument, that fact’s tempting me to give nanowrimo a whirl for The Cavaliers Book Three rather than writing it slowly over the course of next year as originally planned.

  66. missjonai October 31, 2012 at 00:30 #

    I think this is a perfect example of how literature is slowly but surely making the big move into “the modern world.” So often writers, scholars, etc. are held back by long waits from publishing companies and are slow to get feedback on their work. We seem to be moving to an age where self-publishing is not only getting easier, but more accepted by the literary community.

  67. stefanicrystal November 7, 2012 at 12:23 #

    Thank you for shedding light on this whole NaNOWriMo business which I’ve been seeing all over WordPress and being only a very recent member, have been utterly clueless about until now. Now I know what it is, I feel utterly up for it and am using this as a way to kick start my butt in to gear and really get this novel that I have been thinking obsessively about for 2 years GOING. I have finally got the time to write with no excuses and had been telling myself every day for the past week that I really need to get on with this – how odd that I felt so compelled to write, unaware of the special month it is! NaNoWriMo is perfect as a motivation jolt to all writers who struggle to discipline themselves. Good luck :)

  68. miasnotes November 10, 2012 at 04:31 #

    Reblogged this on Finding my Rhythm.

  69. Maxi November 15, 2012 at 12:08 #

    Couldn’t agree more, and in fact had done a similarly themed blog post myself. As you say, what is the problem? The gym analogy is a good one. My husband is taking part in ‘Movember’ this month but those who sport a tash all year round aren’t accusing him of ‘making a mockery’ of their facial hair life choices. What’s the difference, people? If you want to do Nano, go for it. If you don’t, then don’t but don’t poop over the hopes and fun of those who choose to.

  70. Chrisv November 20, 2012 at 21:57 #

    This is my first year doing NaNo, and I’m doing it with my teenage daughter who convinced me to join her. I, in turn, recruited my 12 yr old to do NaNo Jr. So the three of us get together with our laptops, turn on some music, and have word sprints. Not only is it awesome to write write write, but there’s something powerful about sitting there with others who are also working as hard as you. Makes it easier to just do it than let housework and nagging piles of laundry call me away.

  71. Tania November 22, 2012 at 19:53 #

    Reblogged this on A Girl's Mini-Guide to the Apocalypse and commented:
    Hope you NaNoWriMo folks are having fun!

  72. Mary Garcia November 25, 2012 at 23:08 #

    Nanowrimo is for people like me. I try to work in writing between running three kids to all of their activities and working full time etc. My family knows that November means I’m taking 1 week of my vacation from work, and that they have to do whatever they can to allow me to write. Knowing its only one month, they back me on it. Even asking how its going. I would love it to be everyday, it just isn’t happening yet.

  73. rjrugroden October 9, 2013 at 17:43 #

    I love your third point: What are you worried about?

    1. For professionals who think that NaNoWriMo is making a mockery of their craft, I would like to ask them if they’re afraid that someone writing a novel in a month could do better than them. If so, shouldn’t they up their game, since they’re so competitive?

    2. Becoming a Doctor in a Month isn’t a fair comparison because NaNo-ers don’t become published authors in a month. They simply write a novel. The doctor thing would be more like “Learn how to take a temperature, check blood pressure, and ask if everything’s ok in a month”. Writers do not become full-fledged authors during November. That’s a much longer road, and one that NaNoWriMo helps start them on. Would professional doctors be opposed to a month where kids learn about what a doctor does and how to form good health habits? I don’t think so.

    3. And what about the young writer’s program? Don’t they realize that nanowrimo has contributed to raising up a generation of people who read, who because they were exposed to writing will love reading instead of hating it, and perhaps buy their books someday?

    Sorry. I’m a little opinionated on this subject, mostly because I had no idea there was so much NaNoWriMo hate out there.

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