Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo: It's OKAY to Fail!

NaNo's all over the blogo, and I'd like to weigh in on this, if I may.

First, let me say: It's all right to fail!

Odds are you will NOT reach 50kw in one month.

Odds are you will NOT have a readable or editable manuscript.

Odds are you will NOT be able to edit and revise that (unreadable) manuscript into something saleable.

Folks, I'm a pragmatist and overly honest. I call it like I see it. I don't believe in false confidence or unrealistic expectations, and I'm telling you right now, NaNo is chock full of unrealistic expectations.

Let me tell you the reality of NaNo.

NaNo IS...

... a way to kick off your writing habit, if you do not already have one.
... a means of re-establishing your routine, if you've lost it.
... a fine excuse for dealing with your Writer's Guilt (see my previous posts on this).

NaNo is NOT...

... a good or easy way to write a novel (this is debatable, but is true for my writing style).
... the only way to write a novel.
... the only time of the year you should be writing.

So with that said, let me suggest this to you, my writer friends:

Use November to...

... establish (or re-establish) a consistent writing habit.
... write something legible and healthy.
... educate those around you that writing is ~important~ to you!

The point is, folks, be healthy during NaNo. Set realistic expectations. Don't give in to the peer pressure to set random goals you ~cannot~ achieve.

Be honest with yourself. Keep your balance -- there is no sense neglecting other parts of your life to hit a random word count of 50k words. You'll only frustrate yourself and those around you.

Do your best, and so long as you make forward progress, you are a success. 12k words, success. 5k words, success. Polished revision, success.

Do you see? Please say you see.

My fear is that NaNo discourages writers who "fail" to get the badge. It's a fine idea, folks, but don't be upset if you miss that arbitrary mark, and don't get all flippant if you do.

Because hey, I hit 50k words a long fucking time ago and I wasn't the first. Good job, now sit down and keep writing.

- Eric


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

NaNo is an excuse for me to get my butt off the internet and finish the sequel to my book.

Southpaw said...

Yeah! I do see it as encouragement to get moving.

Ann Best said...

I totally agree with you, Eric. And with Alex, too.

Write because you WANT to write. If you want to write something in November, so be it. I know I'm not going to stress myself out trying to write something or "finish" something just because someone out there has set a deadline. I DO have other parts of my life that are more important than writing, writing, writing.

Excellent post!!

Eric W. Trant said...

I should also add that I'm not ~against~ NaNo, and it's a great idea and all, but be honest with yourself and set some reasonable goals.

EC said...

Hi Eric,

This is a great post, and I was going to mention something similar. I think NaNo is good for all the reasons you mentioned, but I'm not a big fan of it myself (even though I've never participated, shame on me) because I think it produces less quality material. The first draft of any write needs to be solid in plot structure and character development, and I just don't see how a writer can do all that in 40,000 words, in one month (maybe if you were single, kidless, maybe even unemployed).


EC said...

P.S. I'll be linking to this great post - I hope you don't mind.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Once again, the voice of calm reason. I agree with you.

Wine and Words said...

Never been a joiner. Ain't gonna start now. All my powers to you Eric. Carry on my good man.

Summer Ross said...

I agree that people should know themselves enough to set realistic goals for their writing habits, But I also think NaNo is a challenge as well.

It is important for some people to meet that challenge with everything they feel is right in doing so.

I think you have a great post here, Some real honesty is involved, but just because it's unrealistic for some does not mean it's unrealistic for everyone. Thousands of people hit that goal every year.

I also agree that just because a person doesn't reach that 50k in words, doesn't mean they should freak out about it, its the experience that counts. The fact that the writer went out and tried something, and your right even if they only write 5k words, they have still met a valid achievement to be proud of in the end.

Ultimately I think its great to "hope" to achieve the goal, but to also be proud of whatever comes of it.

Charity Bradford said...

Here here! or Hear hear! which is it? LOL

I'm sharing this with my region at our kick off party tonight. Perfect timing!

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

See. This is why I love your blog.

You put so well in to words what our own guts tell us is so. And your candor is refreshing.

And even a bit funny. You have a profound grasp of when and when not to use those swear words.

Have an awesome Halloweeny, dude.

What ya dressing up as??

that rebel, Olivia

Unknown said...

My thoughts on the matter entirely.

Enough said ...

Good post.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the nuttiness of NaNo, but you are completely right!! I think I'm going to use it to work on the rewrite on my novel. With school, life and report cards, I haven't worked on my writing in weeks!!

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the nuttiness of NaNo, but you are completely right!! I think I'm going to use it to work on the rewrite on my novel. With school, life and report cards, I haven't worked on my writing in weeks!!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, Eric. Great post. You're right. I really love how encouraging you are. I agree with Alex up there. It's a GREAT time to stay off the internet. I should probably consider doing that so that I can get a head in my WiP!

~Elizabeth :)

Jules said...

Not a NaNo girl but I love honesty and valid points. Great post with prolific reminders :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Nighfala said...

I've been failing for years now, so this me feel a little better.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thanks for your comment on my NaNo post!! You nailed it. 'Write something worth reading.' So often, we put the goals of quantity before quality. I just don't feel comfortable doing that. ";-)

Jai Joshi said...

Good advice, Eric. It's good to be positive and want to make the goal but it's also good to not stress out about it so much.


Sandra said...

Wonderful blog, and much appreciated right now as I have been struggling with the fact that I'm not doing what I did the last two years (get stuck right in and produce at least 2K a day). I have been using it to do a little daily writing of pretty much anything, as a break from the novel I did actually write this year, first draft complete in September. But still I find I beat myself up for not being all gung ho and hammering away. So, thanks for this reminder that what I am doing is just fine.

I am a fan of NaNoWriMo - not to produce marvellous novels, but rather as a way of exercising the writer muscle.