ElMoEdYoCraNo, or Why I Love NaNoWriMo

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, it’s time for ElMoEdYoCraNo!

What’s ElMoEdYoCraNo, you ask?

Why, it’s Eleven Months of Editing Your Crappy Novel, of course!

Boy howdy I’m excited!

Just kidding. Editing is worse than a root canal.

I just realized that I made two “I hate editing” posts in a row.

But I digress. This post is really supposed to be in defense of NaNoWriMo, because in October and November every year, there’s a spike in blog posting and articles about how much people hate NaNoWriMo.

The following are some reasons I’ve seen on why NaNoWriMo is apparently the unholy creation of literature-hating demons from the black abyss:

  1. The people who participate in NaNo are not real writers.
  2. The only thing that gets produced by NaNo is complete and utter crap.
  3. It gets people writing, but not for the right reasons.
  4. The NaNo forums are where imaginations go to die.
  5. No one actually finishes their NaNovel.
  6. Creativity isn’t something you can force; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And here are my rebuttals to these gripes:

  1. I’m a real writer, STFU. I usually use NaNo to write in genres outside of what I normally write. I’m a SciFi gal at heart, but when I used NaNo to write my vampire bromance, it shook up a lot of great ideas and exercised mental muscles that I don’t normally flex. I think writing in a different genre has been really helpful for my main genre. It’s allowed me to incorporate fresh things. Of course, I love cross-genre lit, which some people don’t. Shrug.
  2. One blogger said, paraphrasing, that the NaNo participants would feel good about their NaNovel, but the piece would be otherwise worthless. Uhhh okay. So I’m not allowed to do things that I enjoy now, even though they’re crappy? I started knitting while I was deployed in 2005. I started out making terrible, itchy wristbands. But last year, I knitted a Doctor Who scarf for a friend for Christmas. I’ve made all kinds of things that are way more complicated (and comfortable) than those first wristbands. How? Practice. Jumping into a project and just bumbling my way through. My current thing? Drawing. I’m terrible at drawing, but I think I could become passable if I just tried. The biggest issue I have with the idea that “your NaNovel sucks so don’t even bother to write it” is that what I do with my time and energy is none of your business (unless it’s genocide, then I suppose it’s someone else’s business). Dumping on someone else’s fun is what bullies do. Don’t be a bully.
  3. This one is going to be short. I couldn’t believe what I read. “Sure, NaNo gets people writing. But the reason why they write is for competition, not for the love of writing.” Well, who gives a crap why someone else is writing? Seriously.
  4. In the NaNo forums, there are hundreds of threads that are designed to be writer’s-block-busters. Can’t figure out what to name a planet? Ask someone! You might get a really great idea. Personally, I like the Adoption Society. People will drop off an idea (or name or plot twist or one-liner or a million other things) that they like but can’t use in their novel. Maybe they write horror but had a really great plot for a romantic comedy (it happens!). They take it to the Adoption Society and hand it off to someone who does write romantic comedy, so their idea doesn’t just shrivel up and die. I found a great adoptee in that forum which actually turned into a plot-essential device. It wasn’t verbatim what the Adoption Society gave me, but the adoptee evolved into a great device for me. And if this particular blogger has such a problem with a writer getting ideas from other places, are they also against writer’s groups? The Internet? Other literature? One of the best pieces of advice for writers is to read. Why is that? For ideas! To learn the ins and outs of your chosen genre, which includes common tropes and roles, settings and quips. You can’t be a good writer by sitting alone in the dark with a computer and not interacting with anyone.
  5. Plenty of people finish their NaNovel. And some people even publish what was begun during NaNo. But, again, as is kind of the theme of this blog post: who cares?? Who. Cares. If I write half of the next Harry Potter and then just cram it into the dark recesses of my hard drive, who is that hurting? No one, that’s who!
  6. Sure, okay, that’s true… for some people. But other people are better sprinters. Some people don’t write novels at all. They write flash fiction, or poetry. If someone wrote 50,000 words’ worth of poetry, would that count for NaNo? I say yes. I’m sure some of these NaNoNaysayers would argue no. And to them, I have one thing to say.

It seems to me that a lot of the griping about NaNoWriMo is done by people who, first of all, have never done it, and they probably haven’t done it because ughhhh they’d be part of something so ughhhh.

They also seem to be kind of elitist, the kind of people who look down on me for not hand-writing my novels. They probably attend writing groups and read some bright-eyed college student’s first attempt at fantasy, and promptly set it on fire, telling this budding writer what a pile of crap their story is and that they should just take up some lesser form of self-expression, like macrame.

It’s disappointing to me to see fresh writers have their hopes dashed by people who consider themselves the gatekeepers of literature. I’ve read some pretty terrible writing (book sequels to the movie Willow, I’m lookin’ at you), but no one forced me to read it. And those times when the terrible writing has been given to me by someone in my writing group, I’ve gone through the entire piece line by line with my Pen-of-Many-Colors and made notations about how I would change it to make it better. I can tell them “your writing is kind of crap” but also tell them “you can turn it into gold if you don’t give up.”

And that’s my message to everyone who wants to be a writer: don’t give up. Even if your writing is kind of crappy, even if you use cliches, even if your dialogue is wooden, even if your characters are 2D… Don’t give up. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep exercising that writing muscle, and one day, you will have something better.

One thought on “ElMoEdYoCraNo, or Why I Love NaNoWriMo

  1. Pingback: NaNo Day 29: WINNER! | Taylor L Scheid

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