NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?

It’s November and everyone is jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Thousands of people from around the world get synced-up online on November 1st and start writing the first of 50,000 words to become an author!

But before we start, here’s a full disclosure: I totally did my own NaNoWriMo in January of 2012 (as I couldn’t partake in November). Later, I did something similar when writing my current novel. I did a Thirty-Day Challenge, where I didn’t force myself to have a word count. Instead, I would spend a part of the day to plan and organize my novel.

So what’s up here? I did NaNoWriMo (kinda) then I didn’t. So what?

Let me BLOW YOUR MIND

After getting over 54,000 words during my “JaNoWriMo,” and eventually reaching over 70,000 words a few months later, I SCRAPPED THE BOOK. Why? Because it was garbage, that’s why!

I can remember reading it over and just hating everything I had done. All of the characterization, plotting, the pacing, descriptions – oh, god, it was terrible. I still have a copy of it (unfinished) just to remind me how bad it was.

The problem with NaNoWriMo, which a buddy of mine, author Sean Munger, touches upon on his blog, is that it promotes bad habits. It promotes vomiting out word count over actual quality. While it may make a book, it doesn’t make a good one.

It stinks!

So when I did my Thirty-Day Challenge (which was for a different story), I took my knowledge from my JaNoWriMo and applied it to my busy lifestyle. I simply dedicated time to creating the project, rather than actually writing it. I would spend an hour or so getting 1,000 words of characterization down, rather than the novel itself. And I didn’t write every day (nor give myself a word count like 1,000 words a day for when I did). It made for a dramatic improvement to my story-telling and my skills of writing, pacing, and oh-so much more!

So NaNoWriMo is Bad?

There’s a silver lining to it all. I found that NaNoWriMo certainly didn’t make a good book, didn’t promote good writing, and didn’t promote good writing habits. What it DID do was get me to write and learn from my experiences. There’s a lot more to writing than just plugging yourself down and firing off words to reach a numerical goal.

I learned a lot about how to characterize and plot. My NaNo-Novel was a pale comparison to the newest one I wrote. The pacing in my newest novel is exciting and pulls the reader in – because I planned for it to do that.

Even if you plan out your novel before NaNoWriMo, you’d be surprised how many little things you will miss. Even with plotting out my novel like how I did, I had to go back multiple times and make sure things remained consistent and flowed together. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give you time to pause or reflect. You’re just supposed to punch in a word count and call it a day. Coherent writing is important, but it’s not reflected in NaNoWriMo.

But as I said, NaNoWriMo got me writing. That’s important because it helps you hone your craft. You learn little tricks and the proper way to create sentences (And yes, I know this blog is littered with errors. Pot, meet Kettle).

The way I look at it is NaNoWriMo is the biggest Creative Writing Class you’ll take all year. It’s great writing practice, but terrible if you’re looking for quality.

And for all that is good in the world: if you do partake in NaNoWriMo, do NOT give your novel to publishers! You’re congesting them with a bunch of sub-par books! Stop it!

Thanks!

That’s my take on it. But have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of learning experience was it for you? Did you go anywhere with it? Do my opinions sound ridiculous? Sound off below!

NaNoWriMo – The Uncanny Way

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month during November. It’s something I’ve always wanted to divulge myself into, but have always found excuses to not partake. This year, I actually wanted to get involved, but between work, helping folk move, and amongst other little things, I told myself to not get stressed over missing NaNoWriMo, and just do it again next year.

However, I really want to get this novel written and “next year” is only a month away. So my compromise to myself was to set thirty days aside between January and February and go at it for a full-month. So I’ve decided to start my own personal NanoWriMo.

“Why are you telling us this, Derek?”

During the month of November, writers from across the globe are there, supporting one-another to get their novels done. There’s a lot of peer support between other writers and for a month – writers become a tight-knit community. Even though I did not partake, I found myself supporting writers I knew involved in NaNoWriMo.

Why I’m telling you this because I feel as long as someone reads this, I know that that one person will hold me accountable for writing a story. That’s right. I want to be held accountable for achieving this goal. If I keep Facebook or UncannyDerek.com updates daily, you folk will know where I am in my novel, and in return, if I do not accomplish my goal, I will not be satisfied. I’m sort of setting myself up with a deadline so that I won’t let any of you down.

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo requires a minimum of 50,000 words – the length of a “standard” novel. I plan on easily surpassing that goal, but I refuse to give myself a word limit.

As for what the story is about, I’ll keep that a secret until I’m ready to announce it. As for the people whom have heard my other novel ideas in the past – this will be an entirely different concept, so it’s brand new for everyone.

I’ve rebooted my story four times now. FOUR times. ~20k+ words per version down the drain because I was dissatisfied with how it was going.

“What’s to stop you from doing this again?”

In NaNoWriMo, you have a word count to make in thirty days. That means there’s little-to-no time to sit back, reflect, and edit what you’ve done. That’s what has killed my other novel ideas in the past: I could sit with them and think about their direction and what I could improve or remove. With NaNoWriMo, I will not have the time for that. Yay. From the completion of the novel, I’ll then edit it and change whatever I want. I just need it written down first.

My plans are to start on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012, and be completed by Friday, February 3rd, 2012.

There will be a massive consumption of tea in those thirty days. Please provide supplies.

Most importantly, wish me luck.

I know both you and I are counting on me.

Let’s finish this.

Iron Man, Magneto

Do You Have What it Takes?

What makes YOU think you’re a good story writer? Did your friend tell you that? Did a College or University degree say so? Was it your boss giving you a pat on the back for a job well done?
If the answer is “Yes,” continue reading.
If the answer is “No,” still continue reading.

I believe it is safe to say that there are good and bad writers out there. WrItung lyke diS, I would not consider to be good writing. Yet my sentence still made sense. . .

Figuring this stuff out can give you a headache.

Psyderek
But I’m hoping that I can get you through this with the best of my ability.

Although everyone may argue what great story writing is – from Bill Shakespeare to Michael A. Stackpole – the point is that they’re writing. Where one may have spent countless hours deciphering the perfect words for his Iambic Pentameter, Stackpole probably spent only two seconds coming up with the name Ooryl Qrygg.

Yet both are best-selling authors! Sure, one may divulge a bit more into different genres than the other – and you also may have only heard of one of these authors. Regardless of it all, what makes good story writing? What draws an audience to their stories? Well, I’m not going to do book-by-book comparisons between the two, but I’ll definitely send you in a good direction.

1. Characters: Without characters, you pretty much do not have a story. Even if you spend three-hundred pages just describing scenery – your voice, your way of description is the character. Realistically, YOU are the character. That may be a bit to take in, but think about the truth in it.

Your voice through writing is what makes the story speak. You give it character, whether it be drab or hilarious. You, the writer, have control, and you the writer must recognize yourself as a the real protagonist or antagonist. If you want a heroic scene, give it. If you want sadness, produce it. Building characters in the world you create are just expansions off of what your character is. With that knowledge, you can strengthen your writing ten-fold, plus make it personalized to make you stand out as a unique writer. I’m sure of it.

Conclusion: Listen to your judgment!

2. Experience: I do not mean writing experiences either. How can one be a professional writer nowadays when prerequisites for being one is to already have been one? Should I re-post the picture again?

Although this may come as philosophical, it is true that you write what you know. What I mean by that is if I want to write about two people falling in love, I only know love as from my experiences. That means movies, books, cartoons, and yes, in real-life, everything I know about love in some way, shape, or form, comes through. So if one were to write about love, they would write from their experiences. The same can go with any situation – a scene in a restaurant, shopping, going to a concert, being a superhero, playing sports, etc.

Conclusion: Experience life to its fullest!

3. Advice: Definitely have someone look over your work. If they critique it, do not take it personally. After-all, input goes well with my second point – it’s experience! If someone says, “You should have X to Y,” you don’t have to, but damn-well think about how it could happen. What would be the results?

Another thing about critiquing is that people may not understand you. Hey! That’s great! A rose is a rose is a rose, right? People may say your work is incomprehensible, unflattering, or even targeting the wrong audience. Well, maybe they don’t get it? Maybe they never will? Should that stop you? No. Someone will get it. There’s so many outlets now, such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and WordPress (see me now?) where you can find a market which understands you. Take hold of that! Carpe diem! Consider what people are saying!

But despite creativity, poor grammar or blatant poor writing is no excuse for “creativity.” There is a difference between laziness and art. People can see that.

Conclusion: Although it is your story, do not shoo away criticisms or become lazy. It is experience, remember?

4. What do You Have to Lose?: My final point seems a bit ignorant, as everything is really situational. It’s also not really my story to tell. However, the story has influenced me greatly in my drive for writing. It’s a story by Stan Lee.

StanLeeTriumph
In a nutshell, in the early sixties, he was about to leave Atlas Comics (soon-to-be Marvel Comics) due to having no drive left. He’d done comics since the 1940’s, and he was thinking about actually starting a career in what he called a “real” writing job.

The publisher of Atlas, Martin Goodman wanted Stan to create a new superhero team to counter DC’s Justice League of America comics. Stan was exhausted at this point. He spoke with his wife Joanie that night about quitting, but she suggested for him to try doing what he wanted to do – make a story he’d enjoy. She reinforced him with saying he had nothing to lose if he did it. If it took off, that’s great! If it didn’t, then continue writing for another company.

Needless to say, the Fantastic Four was written and the world changed along with it – and Marvel Comics was born.

Although that is quite a tremendous story – and I cannot say for everyone that would work – especially since not all of us would have wives named “Joanie,” they are some grand words to stand by. If you’re worried about rejection for a story pitch? So what? What do you have to lose? Get denied, try again, or move on. It sounds simple in writing, but it is something to take with you.

Conclusion: Never give up because you’ll always get another opportunity.

Final Thoughts
From all this, I cannot expect everyone to just become great writers. The list above is something I personally follow as I feel it is right for me. But if you use your character, use experience, take advice, and go head-on into the game – mix it with your imagination and there will be no stopping you!

If you want, sound off below!

Keep on Space Truckin’!