Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Today I caught up on my Moby Lives and enjoyed Nathan Ihara's thoughts on NaNoWriMo. He summarizes the history of the event, lists some of its stats, and finally advocates a supportive but skeptical take that echoes my own. I tried the project once, in ... 05? and got just far enough into a novel to sense the chaos of the characters around me and to freak out and go back to my own routine, which was usually at least as rocket-propelled as the NaNo routine anyway.

Ihara's main problem with National Novel Writing Month seems to be that it emphasizes a sort of smash-it-out-and-leave-it-behind outlook, rather than a considered approach to building a long-form story, even in a tighter time period. Maybe what NaNoWriMo needs is stronger encouragement for its authors to stick with their projects beyond the close of the month, to take the wild and raw materials and really shape them into something brilliant through winter and spring. An explosive head start is pretty useless if it doesn't send you anywhere meaningful.

Do you have experience with NaNoWriMo? Do you know people who are trying it? Several acquaintances have told me they plan to participate, but I'd be interested in hearing from people who have been involved before. Did you stick with your project?


  1. I tried to do NaNoWriMo when I was about 20 or so, right when I really started to think I might be into writing as a long-term thing. I quit about halfway through, but it helped me practice being disciplined about daily writing, and I carried that into the following summer. It was helpful for me, but not in the sense of starting and continuing a longer project. It does seem to me to result in more abandoned novels than anything else, even as I really respect the push that happens and the way that people start to write in response to this kind of communal deadline.

    I do think speed and some kind of deadline are good for longform writing in general, too. NaNoWriHaYe is a great concept.

  2. I kinda like it. I've never done it, but I think that's more because I think the name's stupid. There's something to be said for just smashing out a bunch of words. Not all writing has to amount to something - I like to just freewrite, spill stuff out.

  3. I've been writing novels long enough and consistently enough that there was never really any point in it for me. I mainly like it because it highlights the extent to which if you aren't currently writing a novel, you probably never will be. I think people are usually too precious about writing, so while I see what you're saying, pounding one out will probably be good for most of the participants. Better than caressing the first ten pages for the better part of a decade.

  4. Plus, I think the daily goal is only like 1666 words. It's possible to write that much daily w/ some amount of care, I think. Probably depends on typing speed, wrist health, and time available. . .

  5. I think you can swing 1666 a day for sure, at the expense of the preciousness Mike mentioned, which is better tossed anyway.

    Part of what got me thinking about NaNoWriMo this year is the even zanier Three Day Novel contest. One of my profs in grad school (David Zimmerman) won the contest for his (very short) novel Socket. It's compact but also full, and you can tell in the reading that he stuck with an initial rush of ideas and worked them into the final product. That would be the success story, I think--a project created fast, edited with care.