Photo by vonslatt, Flickr.
National Novel Writing Month is the incredibly fun, incredibly insane time of year where writers attempt to bang out 50,000 words of a novel from day one of November to day thirty, hoping to get something good from their efforts. This is my third year participating in it and watching others participate in it, and the pros and cons of it become pretty apparent the first or second year; a home-school curriculum that my family once used listed in its catalog who would benefit from using their material, but also who wouldn't. And it is true that while NaNo is very fun, it may not help everyone with their writing. So here are some of the pros and cons that I've noticed while doing NaNo myself.
Pro: The primary goal of National Novel Writing Month is to get people to just write - to sit down and finally bang out whatever story has been itching in their brains. This is very helpful for those who want to write but believe that they don't have the time; it will amaze you how much time you realize you actually have when you've got a deadline.
Con: What you bang out may be abominable. I know the organizers of NaNo would probably say that this isn't the point, but it's true: what you write may be riddled with grammatical flaws, plot holes, and characters who appear to have schizophrenia. You may cringe at the thought of editing the thing.
Pro: But chances are, you'll come out with something good, even if it's a diamond in the rough. You're at least writing the outline of a story that can be expanded and revised after November comes to a close, and if nothing else, it's at least good practice for people just starting to stretch their wings in writing.
Pro: The goal is reasonable. It's not like the Write-Or-Die program that threatens to delete your document if you don't type like a rabid squirrel. 50,000 words sounds very daunting when taken as a whole, but once you break it down and realize that the daily count only has to be 1,667 words, it doesn't seem so large anymore. Plus, you have the encouragement of watching your wordcount rise.
Con: Targeting a certain amount of words in a certain amount of time does lend itself to manuscripts full of what is called "adjective-padding," "adverb abuse," and what my friend calls "blargh-spackling" - the making up of nonsense words to boost one's wordcount. This really isn't a decent way to do NaNo, especially when even the creators of NaNo try to make it clear that the wordcount isn't the purpose of the organization. If you end up with 50,006 words, 35,629 of which do not aid the plot and 1,885 of which border on blargh-spackling, your month of typing was in vain. What you've ended up with is fluff, not a story. Don't. Blargh-Spackle.
Con: After you get through that month-long rush of creativity in November, you may hit a slump. It's easy to lose interest and set your partially-finished novel aside, especially if you feel like what you wrote is rubbish. Many people squeak by 50,000 during November or even get a larger wordcount, but stop writing on December 1. Since that date is outside the jurisdiction of NaNo, technically this is an acceptable way of doing it; however, if you won't stick to it and make something of what you've been wrestling with for a month, NaNo has been a failure and a waste of time. Don't do NaNo if you don't have some reason for writing that will keep you going.
And now, news from the front.
Novel in Progress: The White Sail's Shaking
Genre: Historical Fiction
Time Period: 1803-1804, set during America's First Barbary War
Favourite Theme: The Chariot Race, Prince of Egypt Soundtrack
Wordcount as of 10:45 am November 8: 17,010