After some thought I’ve decided not to commit to doing NaNoWriMo this year. I have John Ayliff to thank for the conversation that set me thinking – and for keeping me company in the NaNo conscientious objectors’ corner too…
The pros and cons of NaNo are many and various. A month-long furore of writing would have left me with a comfortable bulk of words on my next project (whose working title is Bone Mare, incidentally) and a good idea of how the thing was coming together. But past experience tells me that doing NaNo when you haven’t had the luxury of time to plan in detail and get your imagination well-fuelled is a good way to run out of steam six pages into Chapter Two. And it has to be said that I lost most of October to one thing and another. Flu, changing my working hours and general background stress have left me with only the vaguest outline for a book.
Then there’s the time and energy involved in writing 1800 words a day. I’ll admit that this year has not been one of my best – I have some very demanding things going on in my personal life and getting the Topside Press story out of the door was about my limit, I think. But I’m also enough of a perfectionist in writing that I don’t want to spend time on producing 1800 words of completely unredeemable rubbish. First-draft rubbish, maybe, peppered with my stalwart companions “FIXME” and “________”, but that’s different to disposable words. I enjoy craftsmanship – I like to take time, think about my vocabulary choices, polish and construct. The NaNo trick of gaming the system for word count – using tricks like removing hyphenation and expanding contractions, for example – has always been alien to my understanding of writing; I see it as a process of exploring my own creative response and teasing out the story that wants to be told, not a contest directed at beating some external goal. Deadlines get me motivated, but the more I think about NaNo the more I think it’s actually aimed at providing a kind of writing support I don’t need.
If I were the kind of writer who freezes up in front of a blank page and needs the pressure to perform taken off, then I think NaNo would help a lot. However, I’m actually a more meditative, internally-motivated person, on top of which performing is what I love best. I have and rejoice in high standards for my own writing, but NaNo effectively asks me to compromise those for the sake of “having fun”. Contradiction explained. Do I need a prompt to get me started, hell yes – I’m as lazy as the next wannabe – but is NaNo the right one for me this time? Perhaps not.