I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo in the month of July with a bunch of other writers from one of my online writing groups and I can’t wait to get started!
But I’ve seen a lot of criticism online of NaNoWriMo. Some of it is irritable, cynical criticism where folk complain about hearing about other people’s writing journey or problems, some of it is almost on a high horse of “how dare you belittle the novel writing process?”. I think other criticism even strays warily close to “you’re not real authors, so go away” or even “all work done in NaNoWriMo is rubbish – I’ve seen how bad it is at writing workshops”.
I happen to be a fan of NaNoWriMo for various reasons but the main reason I like it is that it motivates people, in a group if they want it, to finish a first draft of work. I also like the idea that it is championing the writer within everyone and anyone. Whether you work hard at editing, rewriting, proof reading, beta reading, presenting and polishing that piece of work is up to you, after the frenzy of first draft.
I’ve been studying many courses and books on writing and I can tell you that one main takeaway from everything I have seen or read is that first drafts suck and we should allow them to suck. We need to turn off that inner editor, the negative voice that is telling you your work is crap, and just get it down on the page.
In my opinion, this is exactly what NaNoWriMo does. It helps people to get that first draft on the page. It encourages people of all ages, especially the young (as suggested by the ‘high school novel writing workbook’ they just sent to my email address lately) to write 50, 000 words – the first step to writing a book.
I think writers need to be careful not to get precious about ‘writing’ or ‘being an author’. It doesn’t belong to an elite group of people. Anyone can write and anyone should have the right to be able to write if they wish. People might say that badly self-published books saturate the market nowadays and it’s somehow making the life of a writer harder.
It is definitely harder to be seen amongst a sea of books but bad writing isn’t going to replace the good. I happen to have hope that good books will eventually rise to the top no matter what else is out there. And maybe the bad NaNoWriMo writing that people produce isn’t bad. Maybe it’s just that it’s first draft material that hasn’t been developed further. Maybe they should rename it FiDraWriMo?
At the end of the day, NaNoWriMo is a fun activity (for many) that gets people motivated about writing. It develops supportive communities and connections between like-minded individuals.
A lot of NaNo participants don’t even want to publish their books. Often they just want the sense of achievement that they did it. So don’t knock those eager writers (and they are all writers whether you like it or not). Live and let live! Let them enjoy it.
If you really want to be a writer and to publish books you can use NaNoWriMo to help motivate you to get that first draft done, just don’t forget to go through the other steps afterwards… 🙂