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It looks like I will not be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year.

The emails have started.  They'd like me to come back.


National Novel Writing Month is imminent again, and I'm sure it's bound to be their biggest year yet. However, even though I was a happy participant in 2013 and 2014, I'm not so sure I'll try it again.  It's getting harder and harder to justify.

Back in 2013, when this blog was still young and I was still trying to get into the regular habit of taking my writing seriously, I thought of NaNoWriMo as a fun challenge and an opportunity to prove myself.  In 2014, when I had just published I Need a Job and Lulabelle's birth was just around the corner (and wound up surprising us with complications right in the middle of the month), I wanted to participate just to prove to myself that I could actually balance my writing with both my day job and being a parent.  Now in 2015, I'm in the thick of dozens of time-consuming projects, including multiple novels - but I have the utmost confidence that I can tackle them all as long as I don't get distracted.

NaNoWriMo no longer has any meaning for me as a source of challenge or inspiration.  I'm sure it still does for many others and I hope they will do their best to participate. I just don't want to be a part of it.  What would I gain?  A merit badge?  I have one already.  The satisfaction of a completed novel?  I'm going to get that, anyway.

It boils down to the fact that, from the perspective of generating usable content for publication, my last two NaNoWriMo creations ended up saddling me with more problems than they resolved.

The draft of Bitter People Without Souls that I wrote in 2013 required so many extensive revisions I had to scrap about two-thirds of it.  When all was said and I done, I spent this past spring and summer generating about 65,000 words of new content and revising the 15,000 or so I kept from that first draft.  That ended up eating into all the time I had hoped to spend generating the first draft of the book I hope to release in 2016, which I now need to write over the remainder of the year, which means the time I was going to spend revising the other novel I have in the pipeline is going to cut into spring and summer of next year.  Looking at it that way, NaNoWriMo 2013 has ended up putting a pinch on my schedule over the course of almost three years.

Would it actually be much better if I just didn't participate at all and wrote Bitter People at my own pace?  It's hard to say, but I think so.  The main problem is that the draft from 2013 had a clumsy structure and few solid ideas.  What little usable content there was ended up cementing the story in a direction I'm not entirely sure I would have gone if I wasn't in a crunch.  So nearly all the time spent on the story since then has not been a matter of refining some well-structured content, but simply creating a basic, usable plot.

As for last year's experiment?  The partial draft of Bill Roman Is Being Oppressed that I wrote in 2014 has some decent ideas in it, but it's such a mess and the tone is so inconsistent and different from what I wanted that I think I'm going to have to just scrap it altogether and start over.  (And if I hadn't spend that month working on Bill Roman, I could have spent it tweaking Bitter People, which would have had a domino effect into this year....)

Long story short (too late), NaNoWriMo just isn't a very good platform for quality output.  I support the mission of the organization and I think it's a great challenge for people who maybe need an extra kick in the pants to get their projects moving.  But that's all it's really good for, unfortunately.

NaNoWriMo is the guy who helps you push your crappy car when you're trying to get the engine to turn over and you need some momentum.  But once your car is running, you don't need that guy chasing you anymore.  And if you try to move slow enough to stick around with him, there's a good chance your car's just going to conk out again.

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