Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's Almost Novelember

I've done National Novel Writing Month -- an online challenge for participants to write an entire 200 page novel during the month of November -- for the last couple of years, and I plan on doing it again this year. I really love it. I love knocking out those pages and typing my daily wordcount into the website's graphing thing, etc. (Take a look at the website: it's really neato).

However, I'm not sure how useful it is to a person, such as myself, who takes writing perhaps a little too seriously and wants to do it well. In order to produce that many pages in a month, most of us have to wrestle our internal critic aside and just write anything. That can be a great relief and lots of fun for a person, such as myself, who has a bully for an internal critic, but how useful is it? Can it produce work worth reading? I'm not so sure. My first NaNoWriMo novel was pretty unintelligible; maybe one paragraph out of the 200 pages was something I'd want to keep (it described a character's losing an eye, haha). The second one had more decent stuff in it, but it, too, was as close to being a real novel as my latest grocery list.

It makes me question the whole idea of the "shitty first draft," the creative writing idea (Anne Lamott's, I think) that just getting words down on paper, any old words, is better than nothing, because then, at least, you have something to revise. But the work involved in polishing this "shit" is often much more overwhelming than writing a thoughtful draft in the first place.

Ugh -- but then again. It's true that you can come up with marvelous, inspired stuff if you're just counting pages and aren't too fixated on its being marvelous and inspired. And is it not true that my last NaNoNovel is the only thing I've come even close to finishing in a very long time?

Anyway, whether or not NaNoWriMo produces anything worthwhile is beside the point. Isn't it? If one takes writing too seriously, it's probably not for one.

7 comments:

jrlennon said...

As you well know, dear, 1) I am a big subscriber to the shitty-first-draft method, but you have to be willing to confront your shittiness full-on in order for it to work. And 2), your second NaNoWriMo thing is awesome. Best thing you ever wrote, in fact. You should spend November filling in the gaps at breakneck speed...

Pete said...

I've done NaNoWriMo the last five years. It's great from a motivational standpoint and really instills the habit of writing every day, but it only creates good writing if you resist any obsession with the 50K word goal. If you write at that rapid pace anyway, that's fine, but if you're a slower writer (like me), then going at that breakneck speed will leave you with nothing but crap. During NaNoWriMo I've always tried to work just a little faster than my normal pace, which has resulted in writing "only" 30-35K words for the month - which I'm more than happy with. The novella I'm currently working on (now in its second draft) was originally a NaNoWriMo project, and the one I did last year has some good long-term potential as well.

That said, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. My past efforts have given me three unfinished novels so far, and I really don't want to add a fourth to the pile. Once I get one or two of those completely finished, I'll probably do NaNoWriMo again, but not for a while.

Joe said...

I've been considering having a go at NaNoWriMo this year. If I do take the plunge, I plan to cheat (don't worry--I won't be registering my novel) by just reworking and expanding a novella I wrote a few years back. As I'm computer-less at the moment, I'd be using a typewriter, which should allow for much more crap--and pages--to be written.

bigscarygiraffe said...

Typewriters are a thing of the gods. I only wish I had the wallet, and ear drums, to afford them.

McQ said...

I'm joining you in NaNoLand again this year. It will be the first writing I've done since leaving I., and do I ever need an external excuse to add some scribbling back in to my "so overwhelming I don't have a free moment to talk to even my very best friends in the world for months on end" existence.

Please, please, please tell me that your NaNo07 project involves M. I miss her terribly (though not nearly as much as I miss you two) and frequently wonder what she's up to these days.

McQ, slackeriest correspondent of the known world

rmellis said...

YAY!!!!!

Hugo Minor said...

This is my fourth year as a NaNoWriMo participant, and I have been disappointed with the novels I've written. I think it's because I was trying to be serious about the writing, so this year I will write a fun young adult novel, and let it be crazy and messy just like the adolescent characters within it.