The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About National Novel Writing Month

By | November 7, 2011

Don’t get me wrong. November is my favorite month of the year. NaNoWriMo provides the structure and the goal setting I really need to get writing done on a day to day basis. There’s also the excessive amount of candy, and the sheer thrill of churning out so many words so quickly. That being said, there are good, bad, and downright ugly things about NaNoWriMo that need to be taken into consideration.

The Good: By the end of the month, you have a draft of a novel–or at least a good chunk of one. You have something that you can now go back and edit, something solid that you can hold in your hands and call your story. You completed a rapidfire novel, and you get to enjoy the thrills of discovering your story and your characters. Even if you plan ahead with meticulous detail, you’ll still reach a point where you need words, and you don’t know what to do. This year, my suitemates and I spent a night before November started creating a “plot jar”–a jar filled with scraps of paper containing plot for the absolutely desperate. Some of them are downright ridiculous (“Bears! Vampire bears!”) but they do manage to get the ball rolling and the words coming again.

The Bad: You’re writing so fast that things get confused and redundant. You don’t always realize where you’re going. You have plot holes. And as you continue, these become more and more apparent. This year, I’ve been able to stave off the horror at what I’m writing because I’m living with a bunch of people intent on keeping me sane and keeping me writing. Another problem, at least for me this year, is that I’m not sure how the pacing is working out because I’m writing so fast. I’m a couple days ahead of my required word count, and so far, my characters have been chased by soldiers, fallen into a river and gone over a waterfall. They’ve lost everything they own. The dog and the middle child have both been injured, and they just stumbled upon a pile of dead bodies in a ditch. All of this happened in 8794 words. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know if any of this works, and when you’re writing so fast, you can’t look back.

The Ugly: What you’ve written isn’t the greatest. In fact, it’s probably horrible. And when you finish, you have something you would love to call a novel but is really a mess of bad writing, plot holes, and so many extra words.

That being said, I love NaNoWriMo. I plan just enough to know where my characters are going and to know their eventual goal and the end of the story, but I leave enough open to my characters making their own decisions. NaNoWriMo is an adventure. There are plenty of problems, and on top of a college workload, it’s probably insane, but if you can do it, and if you have the motivation to finish and edit your work after November, you have a working draft of a novel. My philosophy on life is this: Embrace the insanity, and have an adventure.

Editor’s note: What do you like (or dislike) about NaNoWriMo? Let us know in the comments! Next Monday, we’ll be talking about strategies to make it to 50,000 words.