[So, I know this post was supposed to be yesterday, but you’ll have to forgive me as we had Hurricane Michael’s remnants coming through. Between power glitches, cool weather for me to watch, tragic photos I couldn’t stop staring at, and checking in on family and friends, making sure this was posted just wasn’t priority.]
Look at this…Aila with an unpopular opinion. Imagine that.
So, let me preface this by saying that I actually applaud you fine folks who participate in NaNoWriMo. This post isn’t necessarily for you, but please feel free to stick around. There would be juice and cookies at the end, the obligatory pickles on toothpicks, but this is the internet so I can’t provide snacks.
This post is for the rest of us. The writers who don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. Those of us who might be feeling pretty lonely right now, seeing all these things our friends are posting about and sort of wishing it applied to us as well, but ultimately relieved we aren’t participating.
I think I see the social media posts, blogs, and vlogs start to mention NaNo sometime around September, but most definitely in October. And there’s this, um, shall we call it peer pressure? Maybe not, but there’s something that compels just about every writer to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Or to at least consider it.
Look, I love, love, love that there’s an entire month dedicated to the love of writing, novels specifically.
But I don’t participate.
And let me tell you why. Here are five of my reasons for not participating in NaNoWriMo. (Please don’t hate me.)
Setting Myself Up For Failure
Okay, so I wrote an entire 82k word first-draft in eleven days. (That would be Sex, Love, and Technicalities) so I am well aware that one can write 50k words in thirty days.
But, the circumstances I was in when I wrote SLT were far different from my circumstances now and I know in my heart of hearts I cannot do it.
Also, that first draft was shit. So much so, that I promised myself I would always endeavor to write cleaner first-drafts than that one.
I fail enough as it is.
In all of 2018, I’ve missed two scheduled blog posts. Two. And I feel like a complete failure. Can you imagine how nervous I’d be to fail at NaNo?
And then there’s the whole winning and losing concept.
Good grief, I do not need another reason to be feel like, or be coined, a loser.
And, yes, I know all about Preptober and how you should get everything ready this month so you can knock out that 50k words next month…but…
Again, I’m a Plantser
I do plan. A little. Not enough that I could sit down and hammer out 50k words without having to stop and regroup.
I’m not sure the way I plot/outline would do me much good for November 1st. I mean, it’d be better than nothing, sure.
Not to mention the research that goes into historical fiction. I can’t go five-hundred words without needed to double check something.
Sure, I could maybe work on a project that isn’t historical…but I’d still have research. I’ve done a lot of research about prostitution for my future project Underthings, and I still have plenty more to do.
The research would slow me down.
Anxiety is Cruel
I’ll be honest. Even thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo makes me anxious.
I hate disappointing people, especially myself. I’d be a nervous wreck to wake up with one of my I-can’t-do-anything-but-survive days, let alone a streak of two or three in a row. (Or eight or ten.) I can’t write on those days. It’s something I’ve had to accept, no matter how much self-loathing comes with it.
Knowing I had committed to doing something like NaNoWriMo and being unable to do it would just compound my anxiety even more, which could very well send me into a tailspin and cause me to run and hide for a while.
And I know there are all these tips and tricks and support groups and wonderful people who are planning on sending participants daily and weekly messages of encouragement…but that’s just more people for me to disappoint.
And, yes, I know: the camaraderie.
I truly believe most of it comes from a good place, but I also think…as someone with social anxiety…if someone is floundering, most of what they’ll focus on are those who are winning NaNo, those who are on social media and YouTube saying “You could win if you’d just do this.“
I know for me, that would just further make me feel…unworthy.
And I know some very lovely people who are participating. Who love NaNo and make it seem like such fun on the surface…but I just can’t.
Story v. Metrics
I realize that there are some excellent novels out there written during NaNoWriMo. And I hope, dear reader, if you’re participating, yours is one of them.
But, I am already in the minority who doesn’t worry so much about how fast I produce as much as I am worried about what I produce.
I envy writers who can write quickly and produce something of high quality.
But, Aila, you just said you wrote 82k words in eleven days. That’s ridiculously fast.
And I had to completely rewrite that book, revise, and edit it for an entire year.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I worry for writers who are just getting started. I worry they’ll think themselves incapable of being a writer if they can’t win NaNo. I’d much rather a new writer, especially, be concerned with learning and honing their craft, developing well-rounded characters, and weaving in subplots with care.
My Most Unpopular Opinion Of All
Now, I’m probably not talking about you specifically.
But, I have to wonder if NaNo has in any way contributed to the negative connotation tied to indie writers.
I haven’t looked up the statistics…but I wonder how many new indie books are published in December.
And how many queries are sent to agents in December?
Generally, how many unedited first-drafts are making their way into the world come December 1st?
Now obviously it isn’t the fault of NaNo’s founders, or participants as a whole, if there are outliers out there who get their winner’s badge and immediately proceed to push publish or send out dozens of premature queries.
But, it makes me wonder.
So, in closing, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo: Gooo you! You’re awesome! I wish you all the best and I envy your sheer determination! You go write the best damn novel you can write and BE PROUD.
If you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo for any reason: Read my above sentiments and also: You’re not alone! Never doubt your legitimacy! I am so proud of you!
When all is said and done, we all just want to write the best book we can.
And that’s pretty freaking awesome.
If you’d like to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below, feel free. Please just keep it civil. Remember, not everyone has the same writing process.