by Laura Anne Gilman
All right, yes. Like everyone else this month, I’m going to give you my take on NaNoWriMo.
I think it’s a f**king brilliant idea
Yeah, I know the arguments against it: that it results in churned-out messes of 40-60,000 words of unpublishable crap. That people treat it like a game, and thereby undermine the real work being done by people taking their writing seriously. That people flail in with a vague idea of a plot, and expect somehow, miraculously, to end up with a coherent story. That December results in a flood of aforementioned crap, clogging submission piles for agents and publishers alike.
That’s all true. But all that? Happens the other eleven months of the year, too.
[trust me, the slush piles are pretty ugly in March and September, too. And January? January used to make us quake in fear]
But NaNoWriMo doesn’t start there, and it doesn’t stop there.
It starts with the idea: if you sit down, every day, and write, at the end of the month you’ll have something. Maybe not a GOOD something, maybe not even a FINISHED something… but there will be words on the page. Fifty thousand words, if you “win.”
Fifty thousand words is a lot of writing. It takes focus, and determination, and more than a little bit of craziness. Most folk won’t do it. Of those who try, many realize halfway through that it’s not for them, that they don’t really have the gut-fire, they don’t have the willingness to give up other things to feed the page.
More people fail than win at NaNoWriMo. And they walk away saying “wow, that was hard.” Yes. Yes, it is.
Some of them never try again – once was enough. Some of them try it again the next year, with a better plan, a more realistic idea of what’s needed to win.
And some of them…try it again in December.
And that’s where NaNoWriMo stops. When it stops being WriMo and becomes WriEvMo. When a participant says “that was hard…” and keeps going. When someone realizes that writing every day, no matter what, satisfies something inside them, scratches the itch in a way nothing else can.
When someone takes what they wrote in November, and revises it in December. And January. And then writes more, a little bit or a lot, every day
When NaNoWriMo becomes, as many of us are calling it, FiMyDaNoMo.
NaNoWriMo is a game, a lark, a project, a training ground. It is a sifter, separating the wannabees from the needtobees, shaking away all the excuses and distractions, giving writers a taste of what this writing thing’s really like: not the fun bouncy social part, but the gritty, painful, gleeful meditation on your keyboard. You. The words. The story.
NaNoWriMo teaches you that in order to win, you’ve got to go all in.
As an editor, as a writer, I think that’s f**king fabulous.
Coming up in Week 45: Shut up, calm down, and mellow the hell out.
Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, including the THE SHATTERED VINE, Book 3 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, IN STORES NOW! (ahem), and the forthcoming urban fantasy TRICKS OF THE TRADE (11/15/11). Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future,” was published by Fairwood Press in June 2011. For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)
She also runs d.y.m.k. productions, an editorial services company (www.dymkproductions.com).
And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.