Last week I mentioned that I’d been a little busy lately. Working, interning, apartment-searching, class-scheduling, and job-applying aside, here’s one reason why.
Yeah. Seventy thousand words in 31 days. It happened. Of course, I grew bored with my historical novel after about 50,000 words and had to throw in an interdimensional portal and a talking three-legged yak to reach 70K, but I made it. Judge away. I’ll be here.
Camp NaNoWriMo isn’t as well known as its parent event, National Novel Writing Month, but it’s still pretty popular. Unlike NaNoWriMo, which mandates that participants must write 50,000 original words of a novel, Camp NaNoWriMo lets people choose their own word-count goals and genres. They can even spend the month revising an existing work, if that’s what they feel would be most helpful.
But the events have one thing in common: critics.
Every time a writing marathon event comes along, you’ll always find people saying that writing that many words in so short a time will only result in terrible writing. That participating in NaNoWriMo doesn’t make someone a writer, any more than swimming a lap at the YMCA will make someone a Navy SEAL. That the people behind these events would have a great effect teaching how to write, instead of just focusing on the act of writing. That there is enough terrible writing in the world already, and it’s a crime against humanity to encourage the creation of more.
Speaking as someone who enjoys NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo and finds them helpful challenges, I can definitely see where these critics are coming from. Every year, my camp cabin will inevitably contain at least two people who pepper the chat thread with discussions of writing habits and snacks and schedules … and finish the month at 4% of their word-count goal. Every year, there will be much wailing and moaning over the travails of writers’ block, but not a lot of attention paid to my favourite method of overcoming it, ABC (Apply Bum to Chair). Every year, the last week of writing will be dominated by conversations about agents and editors and how self-publishing is really the only way to go because big publishers are just in it for the money and don’t appreciate real literature.
To be fair to these people, snacks are important. So is the egalitarian exchange of ideas in a judgment-free space.
And granted, conversations like those ones do make me wonder if, for those people, NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo are more about the community than actually about writing.
But is that so bad? The guy who invented Post-It Notes, according to something I read somewhere on the Internet, didn’t mean to invent them. He was trying to create a new kind of glue. The result was something that’s saved many an office worker’s life.
So if the masterminds behind NaNoWriMo meant to spur the creation of the Next Great American Novel and got a vibrant community instead, shouldn’t that still be considered a valuable success?
What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo and related events? Have you found them valuable to your writing? Or do they drive you nuts?