As you may or may not know, November is National November Write Month. Simply put, people from all walks of life sit in front of their computers for thirty days and write upward of 50,000 words. Some people write memoirs and some people write sci-fi epics, while others write about their exploits in college. Recently, there was a post from Salon laying down some serious NaNoWriMo hate. I’m not sure I agreed with the logic the author employed, but they brought up two interesting points: 1) These writers don’t spend enough time reading, and 2) Events for writers are “largely unnecessary.” It’s that second point that has me the most intrigued.
When I participated last year, I wrote a cathartic piece about life after college and dealing with post-graduation depression. The whole thing was a meandering mess, wobbling back and forth between fact and fiction like a kid learning to ride bicycle. I finished my story within a day of NaNo ending, energized by the daily ritual of writing I had created and the inspiration that ritual had awakened.
And then I didn’t write anything until the following spring.
Are writing events really necessary? Do we need these month long fests to write? At best these binge-writing sessions stir the creative juices around a bit, only to have them simmer and then congeal until the following year. It’s a cycle of inspiration and determination, followed by months of shame and disappointment. How is that helpful to the writing lifestyle?
I decided to try something different this year. Instead of participating in NaNo, I would try and establish a stable writing routine for myself that I would follow on a weekly basis and that would be toward some kind of end (as in writing a blog series or trying to get a spec script ready for pitching). While it hasn’t gotten me writing every day of the week like I had hoped it would, it’s made me prioritize my writing each week and set deadlines for myself. These deadlines have yielded much stronger results than waiting for one writing event after the other.
But these are just the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head like those awesome bouncy-balls you can get at truck stops for a quarter. What do you think? Are writing events like NaNoWriMo necessary? Do they do anything for you? What do you get from this sort of event?
Dudes (and Dudettes), I totally frickin’ did it!
I wrote a 50,000 word novel. That’s about 93 pages using your standard Times New Roman font and the basic margins set up by Microsoft Word when you open a blank document. Seven more pages and I could use one-fifth of a ream of paper to print out my novel. Reading my words would take a few trips if you took the public transportation here. So, now what? What happens now that I’ve done the unthinkable (or at least have done what I thought to be unthinkable..or doable)?
I think I’m going to take the next month or so and let the project simmer so I can get a feel if I want to actually do more with it or if it’s going to remain merely a means of cheap therapy. There’s not really that much of a plot to speak of, since it’s based loosely on me and my life after graduation. And every few thousand words I throw in something fictional to spice things up and make it readable on some level. But for the most part there’s a lot of incoherent ramblings about the craft of writing, which perhaps works well with the crazier parts of the story as one would have to be a bit nutty to fictionalize themselves.
The process of writing out this monstrosity was kind of interesting as I forced myself to write at least 2,000 words on average every day. On days I took off, I made up for it by doubling and in some cases tripling the word count. By the fourth week, I started to feel the strain of the deadline and let myself get a little looser in what I allowed on the page. But what I didn’t expect was that all this writing would spark my creative juices in such a dramatic way. I started going back to my other projects and re-examining them, planning on what I would do when I finished my novel. On one particular day, I even planned out another novel that I want to write. I imagine that there will be a NaJaWriMo or something in my future.
This fire to continue writing hasn’t stopped since I passed the 50k word limit. In fact, I wrote two short scripts on Sunday and outlined another project. And as you can tell, tonight I decided to blog a bit.
If I could impart some advice from what I’ve learned doing this whole project it would be that you just need to write. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s good or not. Tell your story and save the validity of it for draft two. Be as raw as you can be and you’ll find that the words come quite naturally.
But fuck poetry, because that’s just stupid. :P