Write. And write. And write. And write. Those are the real four steps of the writing process.
I learned about National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) about a week late; I won’t finish any book by December. But I’m doing the best to get in the spirit of the month by writing expeditiously and injudiciously. So far this month I’ve written about 10000 words, 9000 of which just to prove I have the capability.
In this month, you write a 50,000-word novel (or about 1700 words a day). The challenge’s founders have made forums, weekly meetings at almost every city, and an official address to send your manuscript to show you finished. NaNoWriMo is designed for people like me, who love to write and need to write but for some reason don’t, out of fear that what they write will be ugly, maybe, or won’t be useful.
Divorcing that fear is what the Month is all about. NaNoWriMo urges the philosophy that the sight of words written by you on the paper is unconditionally good. It’s like the ice cream at Rita’s, which might be awful but redeems itself when you buy it in multiple large tubs.
Which has earned NaNoWriMo a lot of flak from editors and agents. They argue that writers who don’t write aren’t the kind they want to publish yet, that the issue in the book industry is not a dearth of aspiring writers but a lack of readers and that most of the novels (21,683 last year) must be junk, because only 0.04% of the books have gotten published and only one of them (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen) has a recognizable title. In her post, “Better yet, DON’T write that novel,” author Laura Miller says, “Why does giving yourself permission to write a lot of crap so often seem to segue into the insistence that other people read it? … The last thing this world needs is more bad books.”
The spirit of NaNoWriMo is not as reader-indulgent as it is cathargic. I asked my friend Joey Ickowski, who is taking on the November challenge, on how he was doing: “Horribly. I have a few thousand words and it’s halfway through the month. I have no plan… But I’ve written some things and I’ve met some people, so I got enough out of it.”
It doesn’t matter if you write 50,000 words that don’t get published, it doesn’t matter if you don’t write 50,000 words. At the end of the month, your writing spirit will be better off than it would have been if you didn’t undertake this writing journey.
Writers are too selfish to care about the state of the publishing world. They worry about dignity, motivation, energy, the ability to say they’re actually doing something with their lives – and NaNoWriMo offers all that. You might not write a novel, but you will write more than you thought you could – and proving your lack of limits is the real climax.