Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Plea to Keep NaNoWriMo Discouragement-Free


It's National Novel Writing Month!!!! Wheeeee!

I'm super bummed that I'm not doing it. I know. I'm a party pooper. But this is the second year in a row it just doesn't fall in the right month - I have 16k to go on my WiP, then I need to do a first pass edit, and then I'm outlining Two. (I KNOW!!!! I can hardly believe it either.) So, not exactly drafting weather over at my writer's desk. Such a bummer. Maybe next year.

That doesn't mean that I haven't seen all the discussion of NaNoWriMo happening on Twitter. For the most part, it's super inspirational - people encouraging one another, inviting others to be 'friends' with them on the NaNo site, being interested in concepts, and all kinds of general writer cheeriness and support. So cool.

As November approached, however, I started to see more and more writers and agents giving "advice" about NaNoWriMo that, in my opinion, only added up to so much discouragement. 

"The words probably won't be any good,"

 "You'll have to cut most of the words you wrote anyway,"

 "Drafts can't be rushed," 

"If you really wanted to write a novel you wouldn't wait till November to do it," 

"You're not an exception to the rule. Most people aren't that lucky or talented or disciplined."

My one overwhelming reaction to all of this? Sadness. And then a little bit of anger. Because, seriously - WTF, you guys?


So I started chatting with a bunch of my writer friends about their experiences with NaNo, since I haven't everdone it - and even if I had, my experience wouldn't be The Experience By Which We Measure All NaNo Experiences, right? Right.

So, here's what they said:

NaNo is a learning experience. It teaches you discipline, the importance of momentum, and that you CAN write a substantial amount every day. Hopefully, it also teaches you what planning you need as a writer in order to crank out a decent first draft. (Whether it's as little as drawing a map of a submarine and naming a rock band, or as extensive as a 20-page outline.) 

NaNo is a motivational experience. There's something incredible about being one huge team of writers who all have the same basic goal. The support and camaraderie is just amazing. Also, meeting that fifty thousand word goal can be encouragement enough for writers to not procrastinate - for some of us, that's gold.

NaNo encourages you to write with abandon. Often, the worry over Doing Things Right hinders the creative process. The goal of getting 1700 words on a page every day makes us forget everything that holds us back so we can let the words pour out. 

Lastly, for everyone reminding us that our NaNo novels need to be edited - that's totally true. And it's also true of any other draft that anyone has ever written, whether it took them a month or a year to get the words down. Some people write faster than others. I know from experience that I can crank out 5-6k on an uninterrupted day, and the majority of those words are merely tweaked in edits - not axed, not drastically changed. There have been weeks at a time that I've done a steady 1.5k a day while working full time and mothering four kids without breaking a sweat. 

So it is possible. Really. REALLY. My CP Andrea Hannah says that she wrote the novel that got her signed with her incredible agent during NaNo, and it only went through one quick revision before she sent it out. Those were good words, legitimate words. 

Just because a novel was written during NaNoWriMo does not mean that it's a load of crap words, she said. It means that the writer buckled down every day and made writing a priority. And that's something incredible. We shouldn't discount that and make assumptions about the quality of the work that comes from that.

And, last, to those of you posting your discouragement: I know you might think it's altruistic. You've experienced it, you have some advice to give, right? 

Well, if you feel the need to "caution" people, can I just ask...why? These writers are excited. They feel ready. They're going to write fifty thousand words this month, or they're going to try their hardest. They're not hurting anyone. 

If they annoy you, unfollow them for the month. If you disagree with their blog post, you don't have to comment. If you are an agent and you don't want to see their query in December, close to queries then. Or make your intern sift through the ones that obviously suck, like you would any other time of year.

You may be right. Their fifty thousand words might be crap.

But.

If they are, the world won't stop. Take a deep breath. Remember a time when you were that excited about writing. Wasn't that magic? How would you have felt if someone had brought their "warnings" to your magic writing parade of excitement? That's what I thought.

 Please, don't ruin it for anyone else. 

And maybe, just maybe, stop to think - What if that novel that is about to spill out of their thoughts and into their word processors *is* good stuff? What if it's the book that gets them signed with an agent (like at least three of my CPs?) What if it's the next Crewel, or The Night Circus, or White Cat, or Losing Faith, or Cinder, or Water for Elephants

Because it just might be. And if I found out that anyone discouraged any of those authors from tackling NaNoWriMo because their words probably would suck? I'd be MIGHTY angry.

So, to all you NaNo discouragers, haters, and party-wreckers, please, for the love of excitement and creativity and Writing Magic everywhere, back off. 

And to each and every one of you potential special snowflakes tackling NaNoWriMo - write on, my sweeties. Good luck writing, good luck editing, good luck on your paths to publication.  Support each other. 

You are brave, and you are awesome. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

73 comments:

  1. You are excellent. And this is a damn fine post.

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    1. YOU are excellent, my dear. *smoosh*

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  2. What an excellent post, and I agree with what you've said 100%. I've seen non-writers be discouraging about NaNo, but never writers and agents. I think it's pretty mean spirited, everyone is motivated to write in a different way, and if NaNo works for them, why be disparaging? Like you said, they're not hurting anyone!

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    1. Exactly. Also those NaNo goals are pretty normal for lots of people. So.

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  3. Wonderfully said! Haters gonna hate.

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    1. Hahaha that's right! Haters gonna haaaaaaaate. *high fives*

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  4. Beautifully said Leigh Ann. Don't anger Mama Bear.

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  5. THIS THIS THIS! Amazing post, L. I wouldn't be writing now if it wasn't for Nano. I just don't understand all the angst and criticism out there about it now. Thank you for writing this!

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    1. Jamie my whole life would be miserable if you weren't writing.

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  6. Replies
    1. Aw, thanks! So glad I got to "meet" you!

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  7. Yes. All this. Let no one rain on our magic writing parade!Thanks for this post, darling.

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    1. *Twirls in magic writing confetti* <3

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  8. This. I saw so many agents last night just slamming NaNo and it really upset me. Why, for the love of all that's magical and creative, would you do that? What happened to professionalism and not saying anything if you have nothing nice to say. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to participate or accept NaNo queries.

    Jeez. Let folks have some fun.

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    1. Exactly. At least those agents are showing their true colors, though, so we can all put them on our do-not-query lists, huh? ;)

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  9. Thanks for summing this up so nicely! I haven't done a real NaNo myself because the stars haven't lined up that way, but I think it can definitely work--AS CAN ANYTHING. Thanks for encouraging others with this post!

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    1. OH HI KIP. Thanks for stopping by. <3

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  10. Sigh :(

    I hope I won't regret this.

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    1. You won't! It's gonna be fun no matter how it shakes out! Buck up, little camper!

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  11. Yes. Good. That. I'm seriously skimming over all of them and shoving them out of my memory. I'm hard enough on myself, I don't need anyone else telling me I *might* suck, or that my words will *probably* be terrible. Because there's always that CHANCE that they'll be GREAT.

    And that's why I keep writing.

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    1. That's why we all keep writing. Everything is a narrow chance. But it'll never happen if we dont' keep trying. <3

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  12. Love this. Just because someone may have a personal experience of failure in a particular area doesn't mean someone else will and as you said eloquently said, even if they do, life goes on. It's all a learning experience at the very least. Great post!

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    1. Thank you! ANd my goodness, if every failure applied to everyone who tries we'd be sad indeed.

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  13. Yeah! I'm doing a more informal NaNo - I started a group on facebook for those of use who aren't writing something new. It's where we can make revision goals, or Finish that WIP, and have others in the group to encourage us:)

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    1. That's so cool. Support is so crucial for so many writers. Rock on, babe.

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  14. Leigh Ann, this is such a wonderful post. You are always so encouraging to others around you, and we all appreciate you for it. I'm mostly using NaNo to get on a much better writing schedule than I used to have, and if I don't reach 50K, so be it. But I have been sort of soaking up the encouragement and excitement in the air to reach my own personal goals. Thanks for posting this.

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    1. Oooh, yeah. Writing schedules are so hard. I'm struggling with my own now. Thanks for coming by, and GOOD LUCK!

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  15. Oh my god...I don't know you (though we have many mutual friends...Andrea is one of them), and this is my first time here...but...I THINK I LOVE YOU. This might be my favorite post in the history if ever.

    A-to-the-men, sister. Preach it. Testify up in here.

    Squishy hugs,
    Lola

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    1. AMEN!

      I love you too, honey. *smooooooooosh*

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  16. YES. Thank you :)

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    1. You're welcome. :)

      (And especially thank you for not being a hater when I thought "anonymous" was going to be.)

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  17. I think anything that motivates writers to WRITE is a good thing---and even though I'll probably never do NaNo again, I'm a huge supporter. NaNo taught me how to discipline myself... how to work through frustration, and that working under pressure can produce great results. We each know ourselves, and what's best for us. And I think we writers at least need to do NaNo once. You learn so much about yourself and what you can accomplish within a months' time. Great post! <3

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    1. Wait...you mean, I can make my OWN writing decisions? *gasp* ;)

      Great to see you over here, doppy. *smoooosh*

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  18. Replies
    1. KELSEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. You know what I mean. ;)

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  19. This is absolutely brilliant. There's no other way to put it. NaNoWriMo is a challenge that writers gladly accept and it teaches us so much! That's what it's all about. Learning. And most importantly:

    Writing.

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    1. Write write write. WRITE.

      Thanks dear. <3

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  20. That's a beautiful post. I love the NaNo challenge, and I agree with every part of it.

    Good luck to all the NaNoers!

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    1. Thank you! And yes, good luck to everyone!!!!

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  21. Leigh Ann, you're amazing!

    I think it's hilarious when I hear about people saying negative things about NaNoWriMo. Why is it more threatening for a writer to crank out a first draft in November than in any other month of the year? NaNo isn't for everyone, obviously, but for some people, it's the perfect excuse to stop procrastinating on the book they've been dying to write.

    I have one friend (whose books, btw, have been on the New York Times' bestseller list multiple times) who always procrastinates the actual writing of his books until he's facing looming deadlines and about to drive his editors crazy, and then he forces himself into his writing cave to finish off the book... This year, he's planning to do NaNoWriMo, which will eliminate that rushed, last-minute crunch kind of feeling on his next book! Even established authors sometimes benefit from the push of a shared writing goal!

    Good luck to everyone participating!! And to those of you who write on a different schedule: Good luck to you too! *Hugs!*

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    1. Veronica, YOU are amazing!!!

      Writing under pressure can be a great tool, you're right!

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  22. Replies
    1. Thank YOU for coming by and your sweet comment! <3

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  23. Nothing has added more to my writing experience than sharing it with other writers. If NaNo is how you get your foot in the door, how you form your writing community, then BRAVO! You will never regret getting to know other authors, other people going through the same process you are, other people doing their best to write an ENTIRE FREAKING NOVEL! Having a few cheerleaders (or all of the NaNo world) on your side helps you realize you CAN do it.

    My only problem with NaNo is the Win/Lose tags. You can't LOSE at NaNo. The worst you can do is give up. Even if you don't make the 50k goal by December 1, if you manage to write ANYTHING, you're well on your way. And remember, most of us are cheering for you. So GO YOU!

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    1. That's true. The "winner" thing always bugged me. Ah, well. Overall, it's fabulous.

      Yay NaNo!

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  24. BRAVO. I wanted to post a big Shut The Hell Up to all those agents who were moaning on twitter this week. NaNo is fun and anything that encourages writing should be applauded.

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    1. Exactly. If you don't want to wade through December slush, close. The hacks won't wait till January anyway.

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  25. Fantastic post! Thanks for being so inspiring!

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  26. This is a wonderful post.

    What I think is stupid about the discouragement is that most of us nanos have probably already had those thoughts and chose to still do it b/c we have an idea and we want to write it down in a super ninja discipline kinda way.

    And once my super-awesome WIP is beta read by a gazillion people and I query it, I won't mention writing it in a month. Duh. B/c I wouldn't want an agent to think it isn't worthy.

    So back off negative people. We know the "shortcomings" of nano and have chosen to still do it b/c the AWESOMENESS far outweighs any "pitfalls". ;)

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    1. Exactly. Doing NaNo is BRAVE and AWESOME. Rock on, girl.

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  27. Great post!! I haven't heard nearly as much from the NaySayers this year as I did last year. I couldn't believe how many people were out there saying how useless and pointless NaNo is and that anyone who participates is whack-a-doodle. I wanted to reach through Twitter and slap some people, let me tell you! This year hasn't been as bad, but there are still those who want to "help" by warning us that our book won't be any good. It's such a shame.
    Too bad for them, I already know everyone is going to do awesome;-) Whether we hit the 50K or not, we got words down, and THAT is what matters.

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    1. Wait, last year was WORSE? Oy.

      Thanks for your comment. ;)

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  28. YES!!! Thanks for the awesome encouragement. I'm doing NaNo for the first time this year even though I am now typing one-handed with a fussy baby on my lap. I CAN do this!

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    1. Oooooh! Congratulations on your new little one! I wrote a novel in seven weeks with a newborn on my lap this summer, but that was 70K - you can TOTALLY do this!

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  29. Kudos. It's amazing how much negativity there is around NaNoWriMo. The point of the whole thing is to write.

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  30. This is great :) I think the main thing people forget is that mostly (at least for me) we don't try cramming in a novel in 50K words. My YA Fantasy can't do that. I just plan on GETTING 50K words ahead by the end of November. There are all these exceptions, and notone of me result in worthless words. It's a progress, and people forget that; most of us won't query December 1st; heck, even for our 'other' MS's we wouldn't query right after writing it (I learned this the hard way). Awesome post.

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    1. Exaclty. 50k of progress is AMAZING no matter how you dice it. <3

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  31. Way to go Leigh Ann! I agree-let's stop the bullying and encourage tolerance. It amazes me at how crazy mean people get.

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    1. *snugs RGG* Exactly right. Encouragement is king.

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  32. Great post! I don't think I could do Nanonoonoo. Anyone who can is awesome, and deserves a big badge of awesomeness.

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  33. Yes. Well said Leigh Ann. Very well said. Never thought of that as being discouraging (I don't get discouraged by what other say), but that makes sense.

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