So, let’s talk about that gory maggot-infested undead elephant in the room: National Novel Writing Month.
We might as well talk about it, because everyone else is. From Time Magazine to Salon, the Washington Post to Wired, the internet is very interested in why you should or should not try to write a novel in one month. Some of these literary pundits (or litdits, if you will) claim NaNoWriMo will be the death of literary publishing altogether. Others herald the egalitarian motives of NaNoWriMo, applauding the event for giving everyone, regardless of talent or spelling ability, the chance to be an author for a little while, hence promoting peace and goodwill. And if you listen to the internet, you might start to think the very fate of humanity rests on our tiny little typing fingers.
Don’t worry; it doesn’t.
Historically, I’ve been on both sides of the issue. I have violently rallied against and peacefully protested for the yearly writing event. Maybe that’s why I’m able to look at NaNoWriMo with such a bipartisan viewpoint—there are pros and cons, rights and lefts, and what works for one writer may be hideous, spine-shattering torture for another. So, before I follow in the footsteps of my fellow litdits and tell you what you should or should not write, let’s take a moment look at our options.
Option 1: Partake in the most publicized mass writing event in the Northern Hemisphere by attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Pro: It’s fun to be insane.
Con: Anyone who tries this goes insane.
Now, the term insane does not equate to bad writer, it simply indicates a lack of sanity that may or may not leave an individual babbling at the bottom of the shower at four in the morning with a spatula in one hand and the cat’s litter box in the other. Of course there are going to be bad writers doing NaNoWriMo, but that’s hardly the point—the point is losing oneself in sheer creative abandon, regardless of the consequences. That’s always a good time.
Well, okay; it’s an entertaining time. We probably shouldn’t call it good. I’ve done this, by the way, and I was so insane that I managed 120,000 words in six weeks, but now I can hardly keep cookware in my house and my cat really hates me for making her go outside.
Option 2: Write as per normal.
Pro: Writing like normal.
Con: Writing like normal.
If writers have anything in common, it’s that tiny voice in the back of our heads telling us we should be writing right now. It is that unrelenting urge, that nagging feeling we are never relieved of. To satisfy it, we must shutter ourselves away from polite civilization and bang on a keyboard until our fingers are bruised and bloody, producing a piece of art that, most likely, no one but us will enjoy. But nothing truly makes that terrible voice go away. And, that’s as it should be.
The people I call Real Writerstm are the ones who are constantly banging away at odd hours of the morning, toiling over words, making any and all excuses they need to write even if they can only cram in one sentence a day between brushing their teeth and taking a pee. Those Real Writers are the ones who crave words every day of the year, whether it means they get a whole chapter done or just a measly line of dialogue. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t publish, what genre they like, or how many critics think their story was “well-written.” Writers write. Even when it’s not November.
So, at the end of the day (or month, what have you), it actually doesn’t matter whether or not you participate in NaNoWriMo because, as a writer, you’re going to go utterly insane either way. At least in November we can all be nutjobs together, in a sense of morbid thanksgiving and goodwill. And spatulas.