What you can learn from the NaNo forums

As I work through my post-surgery fun, another post from last year’s NaNoWriMo:

I haven’t procrastinated too much in the forums so far. I did a good bit of forum reading before November 1, and might do more after I’m done, but mid-writing I don’t find it too helpful. Here are some things I’ve noticed, for what it’s worth:

People take themselves way too seriously. I am (at least in my own opinion!) a professional writer. I do NaNo events (all the NaNo events) so that I can get a first draft. My intention is to take that draft to publication. Is that draft ready for publication on December 1? Of course not. But I am serious and intentional about my work.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, and that I don’t try to make NaNo fun. I mean, let’s face it – it’s a crazy thing to do, to write 50,000 (or more) words in a month. Regardless of your plans for the work, the process is nuts! It’s absurd, when you get right down to it. And I celebrate that. I don’t take myself so seriously that I can’t enjoy silly posts or crazy rants or even the occasional whacked-out haiku. It doesn’t offend my “craft” when people have fun writing, and it shouldn’t offend yours either, no matter how seriously you pursue your goals as a writer the rest of the year.

People give up too easily. On day 1 there were countless threads that it was over, done, finished, irretrievable, irreparable. People were calling it quits right and left, before they’d even begun. Come on, grow some backbone! Believe in yourself a little! Will you write the next great classic, destined to be taught in ivy league classrooms? Not bloody likely. Can you crank out something, even if it’s a rambling stream of consciousness involving your sister, zombies, aliens, a smuggling ring and Bigfoot? Sure! If you thought enough of your skills to sign up, think enough of them to at least try, for more than 24 or 48 hours.

People don’t dig deep enough. I don’t mean with a backhoe. I don’t think a lot of people bring a plastic beach shovel. I am not the most disciplined person around. I don’t exercise regularly, diets don’t last more than a couple of days, I hate housework, I have boxes of crap that I don’t want to file. It’s a joke to my kids that people always say, “Oh, I couldn’t homeschool because I’m not organized or patient.” Well, neither am I! Everyone I know will attest to that fact.

But I do know that, for a month, I can set a daily goal and work towards it. There will be days I don’t reach it and days I don’t write at all. There will be days I’d like to scrub the toilet rather than write. Conversely, doing it anyway means that I’ll have days like yesterday, where I had an idea that turned into a small plot point that became a big deal. Where the first 2000 words had felt like pulling teeth, the last 1600 flew off my fingers. If I hadn’t plowed through those first ones, I wouldn’t have gotten to those last ones.

My first boss used to say that the streets were full of people with talent. He didn’t hire people with talent. He hired people with tenacity and stick-to-it-iveness. Tim Tebow basically says the same thing about football: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.  Bottom line is, you have to work hard at things. Some things come easy, and some things don’t, but you don’t get far without the work. You all know what I’m talking about… When you’ve worked hard and achieved something, you’re proud, right? In this case, it’s 50,000 words. Who cares if it’s good? It’s a marathon – crossing the finish line is an accomplishment, even if it takes you 8 hours instead of 3, right?

NaNo wasn’t created for the “serious novelist.” Nowhere in anything does it say it’s for the “serious novelist.” So lighten up. Even if you’re a “serious novelist,” does that mean you never have fun? Maybe you should! Throw in some fairies, some zombies, a line of dancing girls. Eat red hots and cackle over your own genius. Have some wine and chill.

It’s supposed to be fun. Really.

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8 Comments

Filed under NaNoWriMo

8 responses to “What you can learn from the NaNo forums

  1. I haven’t done NaNo and I briefly considered participating this year… But yeah, I can see how people would take it way too seriously. I can’t hardly take ANYTHING seriously so that kind of thing always turns me off.

  2. It’s really fun IF you don’t give yourself a heart attack about it. If you read Chris Baty’s book “No Plot No Problem” he is all about it being a fun, don’t take yourself so seriously, thing. I try to do it in that spirit!

  3. this will be my first year doing NaNo. i’m pretty excited and the forums are great. really supportive people and a lot of them! even in rural nevada, whose region is titled: USA>Nevada>Elsewhere O.o hehe. jennings, are you planning on writing in one of your series or starting something new?

    • Oh good luck! And have fun! I love the forums, most of the time. There are some awesome people who are wrimos. 😀 Unfortunately I’m not doing it this year. I had surgery on my right elbow 2 weeks ago (exactly, in fact), and that (with the injury that precipiated it) has set me back. I’ve got a WIP that is desperately behind and less than a month to get it ready for production. So I’ll be doing my own mini-NaNo to get the last bit done and the editing finished. But I’m cheering you all! And my daughter’s doing it, so I’ll live vacariously through her.

  4. This is fantastic. This year’s my first and I have an awkward mix of excitement/nervousness! Thanks for your wisdom!

  5. This will be my fifth year – but before November I hope to complete a final revision on my first ever novel (Nano ’09) to send to my agent. Yup – you can get there even if it wasn’t your original goal. I did it and found out I loved to write and that God could use that. NaNo is fun and an addictive rush. And no matter how great a writer you are and how far ahead you get – week two is always the hardest to push through. Tenacity is necessary – but so is a sense of humor and the community involved. I love Nano but this will be my third novel (rough draft) this year – so I can write without it!

    • Awesome! That’s what happened to me, too. It was kind of a bucket list thing and I fully expected it to be terrible – but at least I would have written a novel once in my life. I’m almost done with my 7th book now! Good luck!

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