In 2004 he published No Plot? No Problem!, his guidebook for completing his novel-writing marathon. I liked the title because hey, I’m a panster and who needs to plot anyway? I bought the book and participated that same year. You understand, this was before NaNoWriMo had much of an Internet presence. Needless to say, I wrote the 40K words in four weeks, and the draft was (as expected) total shit. Something about anarchists living together in a big house and plotting to use a building’s heating system to shut down the corporation that it housed. Big f’ing deal. I didn’t bother to report that I had run the marathon.
So I’d cranked out a mega quantity of material, which by all means is the very thing necessary so you have some stuff to hone down into a more structured second draft. And I got the job done in 30 days one November, dubbed “National Novel Writing Month.” (Also conveniently Fountain Pen Month).
So what’s the problem? Why didn’t I shape that first draft into a second draft? And why didn’t I participate a second year? For one thing, it has something to do with me not being a team player, I think. I’m just not into en masse mentality. Factory farms, maquiladoras, and cigar making in rows (such as the ones in the photo) that stretch toward a horizon run against my grain (no offense to wood; and sometimes it’s better to go against the grain). Not to compare NaNoWriMo with any of those things, but the idea of pumping out some product under someone else’s guidelines beside thousands, nay, millions of others on deadline just doesn’t appeal to my artistic sensibilities.
I know NaNoWriMo is just the thing for some people who swear by it and participate every year. Hell, there are probably best selling books out there written under the gun one November. As I write this post I know there are armies of bleary-eyed writers out there knowing they have only ten days to finish. It’s exhilarating to watch your word count climb, to see pages filling up, to throw caution to the wind and get that adrenaline shot from a pot of coffee and a deadline biting your butt, self-imposed or otherwise. It’s wonderful not to look back at your writing, to keep forging ahead through the blizzard of pages. Your mind is saying, “Look at me! I’m actually doing something I didn’t think I could do. Yes!” Around 30K words you’re sweating blood and you feel like a real writer, don’t you?
There’s something to be said for all of that, yes.
It’s just not my crutch of choice. The second reason I don’t participate is that I learned after those 30 days of torture was that I just didn’t like the gist of my story. It was, in my estimation, not worth my work on a second draft. So why not try it again and see what happens? Let’s put it this way. Once upon a time I went through an airport with a theatrical prop knife in my carry-on luggage. I don’t need to try that again to see if it would have a better outcome. Pretty much the same reaction as NaNoWriMo.