Writing is still a process – A Defense of NaNoWriMo

I’m always disappointed when people come out on news sites and disparage Nano. I’m not saying this purely because I’ve been doing this for six years.

I’m saying this because the culture so often in my university’s writing department, at least among the students, is “I’ll write when the mood strikes me/my muse shows up/God commands me to write the novel that will change the world.” And when you come across a particularly special snowflake, they added a dollop of,” I’m a perfectionist, everything I write must be perfect on the first go. That’s why blank pages intimidate me, therefore NaNo will never be for me.”

It’s an arrogant, lazy, snobbery that my creative writing professors had to butt heads with almost every day in their classrooms. I know they were trying to be kind about it, but I imagined they dealt with creative writing concentration students like this every day, and I was just some professional writing concentration student passing through their classrooms. They were just trying to be kind about it to the non-creative writing students passing through.

Writing is not about perfection on the first try.

From a young age we are taught that writing is a process and we have to go through that process (even though I plead plenty guilty of bypassing certain steps along the way). That doesn’t, and shouldn’t change as we get older, and go through life.

Writing is still a process.

Even if thousands of NaNo participants submit their unfinished, incomplete manuscripts to publishing houses on December 1st, writing is still a process. It’s still write a draft, revision, revision, revision. None of that changes in the NaNo process, but rather, NaNo is about sitting your butt down and stop making excuses for not writing a single word of your story down. The Publishing houses aren’t going to mindlessly accept a novel and give the writer a cookie just because they did NaNoWriMo and submitted their incomplete manuscript to every publishing house in the country. They still have standards and methods of keeping that stuff from getting published.

As for the self publishing market, well, people vote with their dollars. Generally, consumers are able to spot crap immediately from the excerpt posted, so they don’t buy it (even if it has an interesting premise). It won’t stop people from publishing their novels, the very nature of self-publishing makes it impossible to stop people from publishing their novels, but at the very least those people won’t be getting money for their novel.

No one said Self-publishing was a perfect gatekeeping system. Most people who have gone the self-publishing route post-nano, to my knowledge, have not only vetted their novels thoroughly, but they’ve also consulted the NaNo community on this as well. This topic always comes up during nano and people on the threads relating to this have always come forward with their experiences and advice, and the first piece of advice is always, without fail, “for the love of all that’s good in this world, edit your manuscript first.” Even if a few participants go ahead and do it anyways, the forums generally captures the majority of people who want to go the self-publishing route.

So why am I here stanning for NaNo?

I’ve always been attacked by plot bunnies. I’ve had all of these great, grand ideas that I want to commit to a story, but in the end I never put them down because I let school get in the way. I let my parents pestering me about having a social life get in the way. I became an expert in delaying writing those words down on a page to create the stories I wanted to write. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college, when I had obnoxious roommates, that I finally committed to sequestering myself in my room during the month of November, and I finally committed myself to the process of getting ideas down.

NaNo was seriously the best thing that happened to me that year. Without it, I’m pretty certain this blog wouldn’t exist, and I would have been waffling on what to blog about for a class topic for four weeks. I probably would have gone on calling myself a writer without actually writing, which is all too often the tempting thing to do.

At any rate, I have a novel I have to work on writing.

3 thoughts on “Writing is still a process – A Defense of NaNoWriMo

  1. I have to agree with this post. I’ve never forced myself to sit down and seriously attempt to write a novel, and that’s gotten me nowhere. I won’t finish my novel in a month, but I’m grateful for NaNoWriMo because it’s motivated me to really apply myself.

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  2. Yes! NaNo helped me realize that I don’t have writer’s block, I’m just not putting anything on the page because I’m afraid it isn’t worthy. Just write already! Turns out, I didn’t write the worse thing in the world.

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