I’ve come around to digging what NaNoWriMo does for the penmonkey breed, particularly having seen so many writers who have officially or unofficially ended up with published work based on their efforts during this most scribbly of months.
That being said, and this is something I talked about a bit on Twitter today: National Novel Writing Month takes the art of storytelling and the craft of writing and ladles across it a heavy shellacking of gamification. Which can work, to be clear — folks have found a great deal of value in applying a kind of social game code with attendant rules and conditions to everything from running to cooking to beer drinking.
When it works, it works.
The problem is, writing is a very peculiar, personal, persnickety endeavor — we all have our ways to do it and we further sometimes bind our hearts and minds up so deeply in the briar-tangle of wordsmithy that it becomes difficult to unsnarl our emotions from the whole thing. Which doesn’t lend itself well to to the game language that pervades the whole thing.
And thus enters one of my sole remaining concerns with NaNoWriMo, which is reliance on language like “winning” and “losing” as regards the month long novel-writing adventure. This isn’t a game of Monopoly, after all. It’s not a race in which one competes.
It’s writing a book.
As we round the bend, I’m starting to see people talk about how they’re going to “lose” — and that’s absurdist horseshit. Keep writing. NaNoWriMo is what got you started doing this thing, but it doesn’t have to be — and maybe shouldn’t be — why you finish it.
And so, it’s worth remembering:
If you finish your book on December 1st, or January 3rd or May 15th, you still won. Because HOLY SHIT YOU FINISHED A NOVEL. So few manage this epic feat that it’s worth a freeze-frame fist-bump no matter when you manage to actually stick the landing. The goal is to write a book whether it takes you one month or one year — failing to complete 50,000 words in a month that contains Thanksgiving and the ramp up to Christmas should never be regarded as a loser move.
Don’t worry about winning or losing. If it’s hurting your mindset, reject the gamification aspect. Hell, I could write my name 25,000 times and “win” the event. Or I could write 45,987 words of amazing prose that will one day be part of a bestselling novel and I’d still “lose.”
So, hang tight.
The calendar is not your prison.
NaNoWriMo is good when it helps you.
And when it hurts you, it should be curb-stomped and left for dead.
Your words matter. Whether you wrote 10,000 or 50,000 or 115,000.
Finish your shit.
Completo el Poopo.