NaNoWriMo: Just Write. (This is where I fail.)

Third, what the hell was I waiting till November for? You want to want to be real boy, Pinocchio? Er, I mean, a real writer? Then don’t set 1/12th of the year aside to do it. Do it always, and do it unconditionally. You don’t have to write a novel between November 1st and 30th. That is not your limitation. When I did it, I didn’t want to cheat, and I wanted to hit the mark, but it was all… illusory. Somebody else made up these rules. Not me. You want to write a novel? Write a novel. Start now. Outline it, write it, revise it, sell it. This isn’t meant to be insulting to the participants, though it will sound that way: just because the herd is moving doesn’t mean you need to move with the herd. Okay? That was my issue. I thought I had to move with the herd. Turns out, I didn’t.

“I don’t have the time to write a novel; as part of NaNoWriMo or any other time.”

“Work is hectic; I barely have time for my family, and if I go to bed before midnight, it’s an early night.”

“I’m lucky to blog a few times/week, but at least it’s keeping the gears greased.”

I have a million valid reasons for not focusing on one of my main writing goals: to write fiction; short stories and novels. Most of those reasons are really just excuses, though.

Exhibit A: I’m about to spend 3+ hours watching a football game, after spending the morning catching up on email, Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve been debating doing NaNoWriMo again this month, but I just don’t see where I have the time to even come close to the 50,000 word goal. That seems like a legitimate reason not to do it, but then I read Chuck Wendig’s post this morning, quoted above, and realized I was looking at things the wrong way.

Back in 2004, the NaNoWriMo exercise worked for me because I was trying to transition from writing poetry, stretching my muscles beyond the 3-minute time limit of the slam. I only wrote 15,000 words, and the story was a mess, but I realized that I squeeze time for writing into my schedule if it was important enough to me.

I have three fantasy novels in various stages of first drafts, and that 15,000 word Zombie Babe Ruth story is worth taking another look at. I don’t need to follow the exact rules of NaNoWriMo to participate; I just need to start writing.

Writers write. Period.

5 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Just Write. (This is where I fail.)

  1. Oh my *goodness* can I ever relate to this post. What I would give to find the time…and the room of my own.Also, I think it is much, much, harder to learn to ‘let go’ and ‘just write’ when you come from poetry. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and one of the reasons I’ve come up with is the control poetry requires. Every. Word. Counts. For me, it was beneficial to become more accepting of this. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of the lucky ones who can sit down and write freely until their fingers are sore. However, in my journey from poetry to fiction, I have learned how to apply *my* process to short stories, and now it comes almost as naturally as poetry. And sometimes — some magic times — I will sit down and bang out A WHOLE PARAGRAPH like it was just writing itself! ….And then sometimes I revise it within an inch of its life. But that is for another day. So yes, just get to writing, but do it however it is that *you* write with the most joy.

  2. As a first-time participant, I won’t take offense. But maybe some writers need more discipline and structure to operate than others who can “just write” at-will. Whose to judge the various methods of writers? Does it really matter HOW the words arrive, just that they arrive somehow?

  3. @Lori: Yes, you nailed the poetry/fiction difficulty perfectly. I need to rediscover that sense of freedom I originally found in poetry and just write; need to find it somewhere other than bars, too!@Jason: I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, so no offense intended on my part. And I don’t think Chuck was dissing it as much as weighing the pros and cons, pointing out the dangers of focusing too much on short-sighted goals.

  4. Righto. I’m not dissing it — everybody uses different tools. But the way NaNoWriMo is sold sometimes promises an experience that I don’t think everybody will have universally, and by setting so many rules, it’s suddenly easy for writers to think they’re doing it “wrong” or have “failed” by not “winning.” I tried it, and it didn’t work for me. And it was because I was adhering to artificial rules that were not my rules, that were not designed for me in mine. I was hoping to put some value to weighing the process before starting it, so people can get a measure early of whether or not it could be of value to them. Thanks for the link, by the way, Guy!– Chuck

  5. I think this is a great exercise. One of my best friends @flangel03 completed it last year. She still writes during the year but to reach that milestone was great for her as she made a lot of headway in her novel and met some great contacts at a writing conference a few months later that were impressed with her progress with her novel. I am on her reading team and just seeing the progress with NaNoWriMo as the catalyst is awe-inspiring. She is also participating again this year. I understand your points as NaNoWriMo can be viewed in many ways.

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