Monday, 19 November 2012

On Not Doing Nano

While I agonised over whether or not to continue with Nanowrimo, I handed my blog over to my sister to present a different opinion on the matter. Here are her words of wisdom:

Let me start off with a disclaimer: I am doing nano this year. I’ve done it four years previously, and
managed, albeit just – 50,000 words is about my limit in thirty days, especially given that it’s also
exam season – to succeed in most of them. However…

There seem to be a lack of reasonable voices out there discussing why they chose not to do nano.
There are certainly some unreasonable voices (this might be a little harsh, but I stand by my opinion)
– try Laura Miller, a writer who believe that all the plebs should
stop trying to write novels, shut up, and just buy her damn books because she’s a real writer, and
they’re not. You can understand why people might not find that awfully reassuring when you’re
looking for voices of reason suggesting you stay away from an intensive novelling challenge. I don’t
know for sure, but I suspect this lack of other voices might leave a few writers feeling a little bit
inadequate, wondering what’s wrong with them that means they can’t manage to produce a novel
they think is salvageable in thirty days, when everyone else around them seems to be finding it not
only fun (albeit stressful), but also rewarding in terms of novelling output.

So here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t feel bad about not partaking in the challenge.

1. Pressure.

There are some people who only work well under pressure. I’m one of them. If you give
me a deadline, I will get things done. But there’s a flipside to this. I’m really bad at self-
motivation. Without the time limit, nothing much happens.
But there are a whole host of people out there who don’t need all due dates, who have risen
above this deadline shit. They get things done consistently, bit by bit, without intensive
efforts or last minute panic. If I could rely on myself to produce novels without invisible
demigod Chris Baty looking down on me with disapproval every time I stopped writing, I’d
probably do nano less often.
Second, some people do better without pressure. There are people whose flashes of
brilliance come when they’re really desperate – and people do their best work when they’re
not stressed. If you’re one of those people, and you’d much rather let your novel develop
at its own pace, instead of squeezing it out in thirty days, if you don’t want to have to feel
guilty when you had to take a day off because your main character wasn’t doing what you
wanted her to be doing and you can’t understand how the thunderstorm was meant to fit
into the plot anymore, if the more behind your wordcount gets, the less writing you end up
doing, then you might be one of those people.
I’m jealous. Stress in not an essential part of your writing process.

2. Really bad writing.
I like writing. I like getting words, and putting them in sentences and putting them on a
page. I like the little clickety noises my keyboard makes when I’m typing away, and the way
my handwriting gets illegible when I have to write fast. Sometimes, the things I write are
really, really bad. I’ve only ever made a decent attempt to edit one of my nano manuscripts.
I’m not ashamed of the others – I’m just okay with the fact that they’re not really good. They
still have my characters in them, and my world, and my story. And I’m pretty much happy
with that.
But there are other ways to love writing. When some people say they love writing, what
they mean is that they like getting words and putting them together in the right ways, so
that when they read it back to themselves, there’s a poetry to it, the right pieces in the right
places. I am fairly sure that those people produce writing that’s better than mine. They also
produce writing that couldn’t be written in thirty days, except by some very magical, very
talented people whom I have yet to meet.
So if when you force yourself to write a novel in thirty days, you produce results that you
don’t like, then go ahead and write good writing at whatever pace suits you.

3. Happiness.
Different things make different people happy. I like fast-paced novelling challenges. They
make me happy. I don’t like writing short stories, or free verse. I know people that love
doing both of those things. Maybe trying to churn out 1667 words a day for thirty days
makes you feel like writing is a chore, and you dread the moment when you finish doing
other daily essentials, because you’ll sit down at your computer, or with your paper and pen,
or whatever and then start procrastinating, because you don’t know what you’re going to
write, and it doesn’t seem like fun any more. That’s okay. Stop. Go plan that tantalising new
idea you thought of, or write that fanfiction, or just take a few days off to figure out where
your plot is going, so that when you come back, it’s exciting again. Nano’s not about making
people depressed because they’re not writing at a ridiculous pace.

Second disclaimer: I’m just a blogger. Well, I’m not even. I’m just co-opting someone else’s blog for
the day. You don’t need me to validate your choice. I’m also assuming that writing is not what brings
in money for you. If without writing, you’re going to starve to death, then go write. Now. I’d hate
you to die.

So there you go. In spite of the collective excitement and enthusiasm of the NaNoWriMo
community, taking more than thirty days to write your novel is a valid, and probably more common,
way to go about it. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm throughout Mitt Romney’s
presidential campaign. Does that mean you should support him? Not unless it suits you. (For the
record, I’m Australian. I’d’ve chosen an example from our last election, but for some reason, the
sense of excitement is not quite the same in Australian politics, and besides, even if you’re not from
the U.S., chances are you’ve heard of Romney. I’m not sure how much people know about the whole
Gillard/Abbott showdown.)

Last note – nano is bad for me. I have an exam on Friday I’m really not all that prepared for. I could
study. Instead, I’m going to write my novel.



  1. I manage to wholeheartedly agree with your discourse in this blog post. Writing (and pretty much every hobby for that matter)is supposed to be a fun thing and we all have our own concepts on what fun is. It is known that Nano is hard to complement with your planning at times. (There are people having exams in November too on this side of the world. Reason I'm not doing Nano this year.) Either way, I hope more people read about this.
    PS I happen to know what the deal with Gillard/Abbott is, but then again I'm not a standard person so yer, Romney was the better choice ;)

  2. Thanks for the comment. That was my first blog post since I was thirteen and thought OMG SIRIUS BLACK IS HOTT was a thought I needed to share with the rest of the world. Nice to know someone thought it went well. =P
    I've known a few people who've been caught up in the nano enthusiasm then found after 20,000 words that it's killed their excitement for their novel and it seems to leave them feeling like they've failed nano, when sometimes what's happened is that nano's failed them.
    Good job on the general knowledge, too. XD