Is Nanowrimo a bad bad thing?
I’ll just say it.
Because it makes word count seem über alles.
I’m sure I’m simplifying it a bit but not overly so.
You have your monthly word count goal and there are prizes galore for when you cross that golden finish line with enough words in the bank to justify it.
And most of the time the words are shit.
(Hell, the official word counter that you enter them into to “verify” that you’ve written your 50,000 words or more doesn’t even check to see that they ARE real words or that you haven’t just C&P-ed some sentence over and over again.)
Not to say that they don’t have good hearts or actually want to help writers out.
It’s just that writing the equivalent of a novella in a month usually makes for piss-poor prose.
Forget Jack Kerouac and his alleged 3 day Benzadrine-fuelled pump-out of “On the Road”.
It’s a lie, an urban legend, a cool story and that’s it.
The problem with churning out fifty thousand words in a month is that at the end of the month, you can have one of two things: a stew of words and the basis of a good novel– or you can have such a mess that you feel like untangling the story from it is like separating wet Kleenex™ and give up after a few angry nights, vowing never to let yourself get hurt again in a relationship with writing a novel.
There are ways to help yourself out:
If you don’t want to end up on December 1st with 250-ish pages of mush, I think that one solution to this is spending the month before getting ready,, taking notes and generally getting a feel for the basic direction that you want the writing to go.
This doesn’t meaning that you pre-plan everything you want to say.
It just means that you have SOME idea of the direction you want to go.
If you want to end up with a draft of something.
Thinking of it as saying “I want to end up in Toronto.”
There are several ways you can go to Toronto and they will all give you a different driving experience.
However if you walk out of your door, get into your car and start driving and turning at random places, just because in the heat of driving, you started making decisions with no over arcing goal as to where you want to go.
You end up 200 Kms in the wrong direction and lose the will to now drive the 500 Kms to Toronto.
Now, all that driving around may give you great ideas for getting astory together; there might be snippets of things you see that you say “Wow, that would be something if I could just weave that into a story.”
But that driving isn’t a destination in itself, which is kinda what you want to have at the end of writing 2000ish words a day for a month, if a draft is what you are going for.
Say you don’t.
Say you want to just want to blow:
“Here’s a guy and everyboy’s there, right? Up to him to put down what’s on everybody else’s mind. He starts the first chorus, then lines up his ideas, people, yeah, yeah, but get it, and then rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somwhere in the middle of the chorus he gets IT- everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows its not the tune that counts but IT”
Jack Kerouac. ‘On The Road’
Know that what you’re writing might not be the thing that ends up in the final draft.
Any of it.
You want to to write fifty thousand (or a hundred thousand or a quarter million) words on the backstory of the guy with the green jacket the two main characters pass on the street on page 156 so that you know exactly WHY that green jack is so important to him, go ahead.
(Like you ever need permission from me to write.)
[I’ll probably devote a post or two to backstory, because I kind of like the idea of it.]
However, before you throw yourself into maelstom of Nano-s know the why as well as the what.
I think that it will help you come out of the process with a much better product and better mental health.