Why I don’t do NaNo


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Every November, it begins. Actually, the lead up begins in the second half of October, expanding the initial event by half again. Much like Christmas, actually.

Yes, it’s NaNo. To the unintiated, that’s an abreviation of NaNoWriMo. Which in turn is an abrieviation of National Novel Writing Month. I’m not entirely sure which nation it refers to, but as with most things my first guess would be the US. At its most basic level, the aim of the game is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

This means that most years, mostly by non-writer friends and occasional dabblers, I find myself being asked “Are you doing NaNo this year?” Well, the answer is invariably no, for a few reasons.

The first is that I’m a short story writer. If I wanted to spend a whole month writing a single short story then…well, I can quite happy do that at the moment, during a bad patch.

I have actually attempted NaNo in the distant mists of time. Like all of my recent non-NaNo attempts to write novel-length fiction, it ended in failure.

The second reason, is that I don’t think that NaNo is actually such a great idea for aspiring writers. 50,000 words is, whilst being very impressive if one has never written before, not a novel. A novel is generally 70,000 words and above, with some fantasy tomes pushing the boundaries of good taste at over 400,000 — I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin.

Most don’t manage to finish NaNo. Those who do are left with 50k churned out in growing fear of 30th November. It is untempered, untidied, and unedited. If they did want to make anything out of it it would require months of further hard work to beat it into a submitable shape.

Now that isn’t mentioned in the brochure.

Looming deadlines do help you work. The imminence of it, looking over your shoulder, forces you to get off your arse and work. NaNo as part of a pre-existing project makes sense, I suppose, but as I understand it this is meant for the newcomer.

When it comes down to it, NaNo is a gimmick. Which is fine. If you want to hammer out 50,000 words in a month each year then power to you. But the truth is that you can’t be a writer for just a single month. It is a vocation, a passion, something which runs through your very being.

The masses can have fun playing at storyteller, which is great. But the true writers are the ones whose pens are still in their hands come December 1st.

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