To be a successful writer, you can no longer go it alone. You need a community of guidance and help.
But I came from a generation of writers who were taught the opposite. That talent came from honing your craft secretly, in seclusion, and being highly competitive with other writers.
NaNoWriMo flies in the face of all of that.
Because of that mentality, early on I struggled with the concept NaNoWriMo.
Here were some of my early misgivings. 4 clever reasons that I thought made me so clever:
Disclaimer the following 4 “clever” reasons are far from how I actually feel about NaNoWriMo and more misgivings I have heard from other nay-sayers (Just sayin’-don’t hate me)
1. What’s the point?
Many of us, at least many of us grizzled seasoned writers (eye-roll) were used to writing ALONE. No trackers, no guidance, no pep talks, no help what-so-ever.
Talking to other writers about writing? Yikes. You’re just supposed to write in secret and then lay your manuscript out on the desk of a snooty writing professor like a lamb awaiting it’s slaughter.
But it was more than that. Some early attempts at this concept sort of fell flat.
Maybe it was a terrible writer’s prompt here and there. Maybe it was the concept that all writing needed to be literary and highbrow and beyond reproach and only talked about in English classrooms.
Who needs ya. Get off my lawn. And so on. Yes, I was turning into one of those crotchety internet know-it-alls. Elitist, stuffy, and spending more time complaining than getting any work done. Which leads me to my next point:
2. Everyone on the site only reads Harry Potter and is only 12-20 years old.
This generalization is way off base, but at first glance, it used be true. There are a lot of references to Harry Potter on the website, sure, and that can be off-putting to non-fans. The good people at Nano did just do an update to the site visual, I assume to appeal to the grumps. It has a more polished look, but it’s still fun and customizable. Check out mine!
It’s not that I’m not a fan of the series, it’s just that it’s not in my opinion the best thing that was ever written.
But let’s face it, I’m old. JK Rowling didn’t inspire me to be a writer, simply because I was a writer long before the Potter saga broke.
I think the problem is as writers, especially writers of a certain generation, we tend to assume that we cannot learn anything from anyone younger than us because younger=less experienced, which let’s face it, is just not true anymore.
But I would like to point out where this mentality came from. Elders who used my age and inexperience against me and instead of encouraging and mentoring me, wanting to hold me back. Now that I am in that age bracket, I fully understand their feelings of jealousy, but also wholly abhor them. And I work hard to do the opposite of what they advised. To my own benefit!
3. I don’t typically write in the fantasy genre and I refuse to try.
Something you may not know: Fantasy or Sci-Fi or Paranormal or Supernatural or those similar used to not be taken seriously as genres.
Sad, I know. They were no doubt taken VERY SERIOUSLY by fans of the genre, but those people were not taken seriously themselves. Lame, right?
NaNoWriMo, at first glance, appears to be flooded with amateur fantasy writers. Even if that were the case, so what? But still, it’s simply not true, just check the forums for the question “Anyone not writing fantasy?” to find your desired genre.
Those old farts had no idea how quickly these genres would take off in popularity.
So who’s laughing now?
“Write what you know” Pfft.
Because you don’t have firsthand knowledge of vampires, zombies, or aliens you shouldn’t write about them?
That’s silly. Write what you want to write.
Also, there is a reason why there are multiple genres and sub-genres of fantasy and Sci-Fi. We don’t all fit in the box. But look, it is what sells, why not figure out how to take your own spin on it?
Stop being such a grump!
4. NaNoWriMo is a fad and will disappear like every fad before it.
*Laughs in writer*
Remember when they said Facebook wouldn’t last? Yeah, me too.
In fact, what helped Facebook succeed is everyone involving everyone else. Word of mouth gave NaNoWriMo it’s longevity. It’s stood the test of time and has turned into a Utopian dream for writers.
That’s all that really needs to be said about it. And if you don’t like NaNoWriMo, don’t participate in it. No one has a gun to your head. It’s not like it’s Facebook.
And here is what I figured out. Those who are writing negative spiels about NaNoWriMo are just upset and jealous people teeming to the brim with the deep-seated frustration of not being the one who thought of it first.
Get over it.
Before NaNoWriMo there really wasn’t anything else like it. Just a lot of frustrated dreamers wishing it did exist. As a result, it has bred plenty of contempt from the people who didn’t think of it first.
When I finally gave Nano a shot, it all clicked for me. After a few years of creating content, connecting with other users and being wholly more productive than I had ever been, I eventually changed my tune.
So, I didn’t think of NaNoWriMo first. I couldn’t have created something like that on my own. Neither did any one person. It was a joint effort of hundreds of dedicated people. Who wouldn’t get behind that?
These are the reasons I LURVE NaNo-ing. A place where my inner geek could finally shine!
You’ll note it’s a longer list:
1. You’re developing content faster than you ever have before.
Yes, faster, trust me. They say you can’t write a novel in a month. I couldn’t do it in a year, because I wasn’t focused on finishing, I was focused on writing a perfect novel.
But the dirty secret of the publishing world is that you have to finish before anyone will read it.
You have an entire month to write ~50K words (or more, or less) and you can do it. It’s possible. I know, because the first time I wrote ~50K in a month.
But you don’t have to take 30 days. Plus, the amount you are pumping out at a regular basis to keep your word-count is most likely more than you would typically write.
I know, I was that writer who totally tried to do NaNoWriMo on-my-own, without the tracker. Couldn’t do it. I just wrote until I couldn’t write anymore, and then I stopped.
Every morning in November you wake up, you start again.
2. A community of writers who actually want to see you succeed.
You read that right. WANT you to succeed. No begrudging, no sabotage, no idea-stealing, no subterfuge, no cattiness, no cutthroat competition to get there FIRST. No teacher’s pet. We all get there. We all win.
In the seven years I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo, I have yet to witness any back-biting. I have yet to see anyone undermine anyone else. I have yet to see anyone give any overly harsh criticism. In fact, I’m usually harder on myself than NaNoWriMo wants me to be, which is a nice respite.
Weird, not being constantly criticized makes me write more, and more successfully.
3. Professional help during the process in case you get stuck.
Even in the best of circumstances, the writing process can make you crazy. That’s true for everyone, I don’t care who you ask. If it’s not just an ongoing emotional purge, it’s a lot of sleepless nights, early mornings. Lots of thinking and overthinking.
When you think you’re the only one going through this process, it can become insurmountable.
When you know that roughly a few thousand people (or more) are taking on the process as well, and struggling too, it can be a huge motivational boost.
4. Frequent encouragement of all sorts.
Many writers involved in the process have done it countless times and are more than willing to offer help with email blasts, YouTube videos, and writer sit ins*. The community overall is one that touts engagement.
And engagement is key to this particular process.
No matter what anyone else tries to tell you.
Writers need the encouragement of other writers. Why? Because you are a human being and not a writer-robot, and you cannot go it alone.
NaNoWriMo proves that there are thousands of people who have accepted this about the process. You might be hot stuff when it comes to writing, but you will have off days. You will have doldrums. You will question why you even do this.
But then you will talk to someone on a forum, watch a funny video, find a writing prompt that interests you, and or read an encouraging article someone else wrote who is feeling all these same things.
You will resolve to not give up.
5. You can get involved outside of yourself and your own writing!
ML’s or Municipal Liaisons as they are called, are volunteers who create live writer’s groups in the community. And you can be one! You can put all that writing expertise to good use and be a leader! Isn’t that a better thing to be than a nay-sayer?
My local chapter has a discord chat that is AMAZING. Everyone on it is funny and cool.
It takes the edge off, and I write more as a result.
6. I tried it more than once and succeeded. So, don’t knock it until you try it at least once.
I know I was not, and still am not alone in my once hatred for NaNoWriMo. Go ahead and Google “Why I hate NaNoWriMo”. I’ll wait.
But even me the once crotchety nay-sayer, I have almost 500K words under my belt just from the last few years. I have a catalog of work now instead of folders on my computer of WIPs. I also have won every single time.
That feels good.
It feels good to win when all you did was your favorite thing, write and write and write some more. You can even do NaNoWriMo multiple times a year, you can do it for 365 days if you wish. NaNoWriMo is always there to support you!
I get that lots of people hate it. They would rather edit themselves to death line by line, trying for perfection than just think and create and interact. But their unoriginal reasoning is constantly stuck on repeat.
If they can write, on a whim, 50,000 words without any outside help, they can at least set aside some time to just do it in a different way. And if they still refuse to try it at least once, their reasons lose validity.