December 3rd, 2006



I was just looking at Krud's Opendiary, the only Opendiary I still read. Usually I visit every few months, when I've caught up on my LJ friends list. Then I leave notes on almost every entry, by way of making up for my long periods of neglect (or something).

Krud participated in, and completed (yay Krud!) NaNoWriMo this year. On the first entry where he talked about doing it this year, I was leaving a note to explain why I'd never done it. Then I realized this was going to be a lot more than 400 characters, and I might as well make a little post of it in my own journal. So:

My Excuses For Not Participating in NaNoWriMo

  • I've already written a book. And as of this year, I can promote that excuse to "two books". None of the other people I know who've written books use this as an excuse, but I think there's a certain point to it. The first time I heard about NaNoWriMo, the event creators were touting it as an opportunity for all those people who said "I want to write a book someday" to stop putting it off to "someday" and do it. From 1993 to 2001, I was definitely one of those "I'll do it someday" people. But I first heard of NaNoWriMo in 2002 or 2003, by which time I was already dedicated to finishing Prophecy. I reasoned that I did not need to participate in NaNoWriMo to prove to myself that I was serious about writing. I was proving that to myself every week already. At this point, I consider it proven. I could still use a "NaNoEdMo" or "NaNoSubMo", given my lousy track record on editing and submitting for publication. But NaNoWriMo isn't about publication or polishing, it's about getting out that rough draft, and that part I've already done. Twice.

  • I don't write that fast. I've never written at the pace NaNoWriMo requires. My fastest writing pace ever was when I worked on the ending to Silver Scales, when I would get up at 4AM so I could write a couple of entries before work. Even the 30 days including that period only added up to 40,000 words or so. Granted, the "peak inspiration" period was only ten or eleven days, and during those I was averaging over 2000 words a day. But that was the most inspired I've ever been in my life, and even with that going on I wasn't doing that much better than the minimum needed per day for NaNoWriMo. So I have serious doubts about my ability to meet the deadline.

  • 50,000 words isn't a novel. I like the way Ubersoft put it best. I realize that the terms of NaNoWriMo specify that you've succeeded if you hit 50,000 words even if your book isn't finished. But if I'm going to try writing a novel in a month, I'd want the novel to be done at the end of the month. And given the length of my last two books, 50,000 words would give me less than one-quarter of the story. It just wouldn't be very satisfying for me. On the flip side, it'd be good for me if I could manage to fit a book into around 50,000 words. But I think the odds of my padding to make up word count are much better than the odds of my writing concisely in order to finish the whole story.

  • I don't like editing. I suspect it would take me much more than a month to edit into shape a novel I'd spent only a month writing. And I would enjoy the editing much less. Editing is inevitable in any case, but I think I'd rather try to get a story in as good shape as possible on the first pass, rather than trying to get it down quickly and planning to go over it again and again afterwards.

And all this said, I know that calling this list "excuses" rather than "reasons" wasn't an accident. There is a lure in the idea of writing a novel in a month. I remember the fierce joy of completing "Peace and Joy in Twenty-Four Hours" -- though the first several hours were agonizing, most of the time was spent in a blissful creative haze. I felt that same elation as I finished Silver Scales. The joy not of "having created" but "of creating", of being in the actual process of making dreams and fantasies come alive. That delicious fugue. I may tell myself "you can't force that to happen just by wishing for it", but I forced it to happen with "Peace and Joy". Maybe I could do it for writing a book, too. Maybe I should try.