NaNoWriMo: “The ‘Finish Line’ Metaphor is Telling”

We’re almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. It’s that wonderful time of year when people commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Most people seem to like the concept, to think it’s generally a positive phenomenon.

But not everyone has such a glowing opinion, such as the writer of this article, “Why I Hate National Novel Writing Month, and Why You Should, Too”:

I’m not sure why someone “scared away by the time and effort involved” in novel writing would instead want to put themselves through the wringer of doing a whole novel in a month, but the “finish line” metaphor is telling; to the NaNoWriMo people, writing a novel is like running a marathon, something difficult and strenuous that you do only so you can say you did it before you died.

Then there are the slightly cynical:

The idea of NaNo, really, is not just the doing of it, but the saying of the doing of it. The web site will connect you to other people in your area who are holding “write-ins,” group meetings to sit and work on your book…It’s a time when people commit to a set of completely arbitrary rules — you can have an outline ahead of time, but no writing done; you can “win” with 50,000 words even if your novel isn’t finished; you are at the mercy of NaNo’s word counter, no matter what yours may say — in return for having an excuse to do what they want to do anyway.

It seems a rather hard-hearted person who would look for a reason to disparage something that gets hundreds of thousands of people writing. Creating.

But what do you think about NaNoWriMo? Stupid idea? Incredible idea? Have you participated in the past? Are you doing it this year?

Most importantly, for those of you who have participated, how did it go?

(In case you were wondering, here are Eight Bestsellers Started During National Novel Writing Month.)

8 Replies to “NaNoWriMo: “The ‘Finish Line’ Metaphor is Telling””

  1. I really admire those that do it, but I’m a bit intimidated at trying to do it in 30 days. I have so many other ideas in my head. Not only that, but given my real life job and other responsibilities, I would find it difficult. Maybe some day.

  2. This is my 10th year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I usually hit a point sometime in the midst of the exercise where I think it’s stupid. ;-)

    I do realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, nor does everyone have the time to take it on. But some (like me) simply enjoy the challenge, and are already trying to write consistently and steadily. This is a chance to shake things up and see what comes out of it at the end of November and beyond.

  3. i participated and completed NaNo last year and it was exhilarating. there definitely is something about the deadline. of course, being a trained journalist/reporter, i’ve always appreciated the thrill of a good deadline.

    if you have a legitimate story to share, why not? i am too busy with other projects to have done it again this year, but not because i didn’t enjoy the process.

    i agree with you, shawn, that someone has to be pretty hard-hearted to disparage something that excites and energizes and empowers so many people to create something. but isn’t that typical for us humans? we see a group of people fanatical about something and some of us aim to bring them down.

  4. Hi, Shawn. Happy to see that you’re blogging again. … I “won” NaNoWriMo three years ago. It was a fun and liberating exercise. I usually agonize over every word (and how it fits the rest of the sentence) and over every sentence (and how it fits the rest of the paragraph), et cetera, et cetera. With a daily quota of almost 1,700 words, I didn’t face any self-imposed pressure to be perfect. Just write-write-write. The novel was garbage (I think a couple of characters got new names in the course of the story), but I had fun.

    1. Nice job, Mike. Sounds like it’s a good way to train yourself to get the shitty first draft out and on paper (as Anne Lamott recommends). Maybe I’ll give it a try next year.

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