I think my regular visitors might have an idea of my thoughts on Nano, for the newcomers among you, I am not a fan. Though I laud the idea to encourage creativity and structure in new writers I cannot, cannot, cannot overcome what I see as the risks involved to budding writers confidence, and the knock-on effect on the publishing industry as a whole.
You *might* not have heard of NaNo, an American nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide support for struggling writers and their event NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and it’s challenge to write fifty-thousand words within the month of November without stopping, reviewing or editing. But now you have, it’s a splurge challenge, Quantity over Quality.
I don’t have a problem with encouraging creativity, I *do* have an issue with forcing it. Many of us struggle, I struggled and yes, a structured approach to writing is a real help. Whether you schedule your time day-to-day or keep an accountability diary where you note down if you did any writing, whatever works, right? Well, no. Trying to force creativity can be damaging to your process, your confidence and your self-esteem. My continuing message to those who would be writers is ‘Be Kind to Yourself’, forcing One-Thousand Six-Hundred and Sixty-Seven words out of your brain each and every day of November is not kind. My best days to date I have written in the region of three-thousand words, but it is not a sustainable rate, at least not for me. For every day of pure flow there are days, if not weeks of zero-to-two-hundred and fifty words.
Beyond the harm you can do to your creative self if you get caught up in the challenge and take it too seriously (trust me, tapping my Duolingo ranking experience here) there is the further impact on the industry. Publishers effectively shut-down for four-months post November. Why? Because of the torrent of unsolicited, unedited NaNo submissions that probably don’t even follow their Submission Guidelines. If you saw NaNo on this article and clicked in for tips, Yes, publishers have guidelines for submissions. It’s a major part of getting your manuscript considered for publication.
Still, if you are taking part, remember. It’s a guideline. The 50k is a goal but you don’t have to hit it, any progress made is admirable. If you find yourself stuck, walk away and do something to renew yourself before you go on. Writing doesn’t all take place at the keyboard. Any and all experience is part of the process. Instead of locking yourself away for the month of November take some time to read, watch, listen to, speak to, or do the things that create the experiences that will fuel the writing.
So, maybe you can write a Novella in a month, maybe you get through it without quitting, tossing it aside as pure trash and vowing never to attempt writing a story again. Good for you. Don’t submit it to a publisher. Not yet. First, edit it, re-read it, spell-check it, check the continuity of events, names and such. You’ve just thrown it at the page, take the time to polish it. Then look for an appropriate publisher, make sure they are accepting submissions (you’ll have until March according to several publishers I’ve spoken to) and construct your submission package. Whatever you do don’t tell them it was your NaNo project.
I know that there are people out there, far more talented than I am, who can probably write true genius over the course of NaNo. Of course I hate them, and I don’t even know them, envious creature that I am. But, in the slew of submissions by others who, in a sheer fit of enthusiasm, contribute to the overloading of publishers post-NaNo, those works go unconsidered, unregarded and unread, and those writers might not venture to try again and that is a loss to the reading community.
Do I hate NaNo? Not really, its a grand idea, but it’s a victim of human impatience. The ‘Yay, I did the thing, now what do I get?‘ mentality. Making a career as a writer, or even getting your first book to print, is a marathon, not a sprint. So, as ever, Be Kind To Yourself this NaNoWriMo. It’s a challenge, not a task and no-one is cracking the whip over you but you.