Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, November 05, 2004


To writers in the know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo happens every November and it started in 1999 with only 21 people. Today, hundreds of thousands of writers (and aspiring writers) participate from all over the world and from all walks of life to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days (even though that's pretty short for a book). It's basically an Internet-based challenge to get your butt into the chair to write every day.

As a regular over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler, I've been reading threads about NaNoWriMo. You can find a couple of discussions here http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm3.showMessageRange?topicID=827.topic&start=1&stop=20 and here http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm3.showMessageRange?topicID=779.topic&start=1&stop=20 . Some of the people who responded kept arguing the whole "writing is about quality, not quantity" (and I definitely agree with that!!) but the NaNoWriMo guys say on their site that it IS about quantity, not quality.

So, what they're saying is: Who cares if it's crap? Write 50,000 words. (And you will find on one of those threads that people participating in NaNoWriMo are copying/pasting something they wrote again and again to meet their word count.)

I never really got into the whole NaNoWriMo thing. Last year, I didn't hear about it until it was too late and I thought, "Well, next year." But this November sees me buried with book projects so I have to pass. Maybe I'll do the challenge next year. We'll see.

But that's all I see it to be: A challenge. I can't even remember how many words I wrote in the 3 weeks I spent rewriting a novel, but I do know it's been a LOOOONG time since I've written a novel in a month. Would be nice if I could. So, why not? I want to challenge myself to see if I can do it.

But in the meantime, I'll work on my other novels.

While I see NaNoWriMo as a challenge, others see it differently. They see it as a fun diversion, as a "kick in the pants" to write or finish their novels, as a great way to network with other writers with a common goal, etc.

But I disagree with yet another statement the NaNoWriMo guys are making on their site:

In 2003, we had about 25,000 participants. Over 3500 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

Actually, that's not technically true. Just because you have written a novel, it doesn't mean you can call yourself a "novelist." NOT UNTIL YOUR BOOK IS PUBLISHED. Then, by all means, knock yourself out. The only thing these people accomplished was that they wrote a book. Period. They don't instantly become a novelist. I mean, come on! You gonna call the person who copies then pastes the same 5 pages of work a zillion times a novelist? No. Same goes with the rest of the UNPUBLISHED participants. Get your book published. THEN you are a novelist. Until then, you've only written a novel.

But as much as I don't participate in NaNoWriMo now, it's the whole "quantity" thing that gets at me. That keeps pulling me back to the threads. How many words did this person write? How many words did that person write? I was feeling pretty darn good about myself when I managed to get almost 5,000 words done in two days (20+ pages). Then I read this writer got 7,000 words done. OK, time to up my quota.

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, go here:


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