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My issue with NaNoWriMo

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, there is one arbitrary rule that I roundly reject. And I'm astonished to see that people across the internet don't notice this problem? Why is everyone such a sheep?

NaNoWriMo, the most effective tool of peer pressure to make me and thousands of others write 1667 words a day for 30 days has a rule that states:
You must start a new novel from scratch, not continue work on an existing work.

Their rather weak explanation for this is that you couldn't *possibly* have the necessary abandon to write that much if you already know the characters, the setting, if you obsess over plot points and it has to make sense or if you are (gasp, the worst sin!) EDITING!

No! Instead you must start fresh, abandon many good writer habits (plotting, thinking, editing, revising) in favor of JUST WRITING (which is, to be fair, the most important habit of all).

Well, I choose to reject this rule. I have rejected it every year so far and I have "won" twice and plan to do so again this year (and no this post does not count towards my word count. I'm just procrastinating right now).

The rule is not entirely misguided, but I believe it is aimed at a particular crowd, and I do not fall into that group.

First and foremost, this is a contest aimed at getting amateur writers over their fear of writing and their tendency to place writing in the realm of "some day". The contest urgest you to "just do it". Which is good and necessary advice for those new to writing.
(As an aside, though, I admit to being an elitist in Laura Miller's camp where she argues that most of these amateur writers just shouldn't do it because most of what they write is total crap and they'll write whether we want them to or not.)

But the thing is, writing 1667 words in a day really isn't that big a deal. "Real" published writers do it all the time and more. You have to if you're going to produce a book, rewrite, edit, revise and publish in a year.
So setting this up as the biggest thing EVAR is a little like a new runner running a 5k or a 10k. I'm not taking anything away from them. I'm still a pretty amateur, slow-ass runner. And when I started out running, 5k was a BIG DEAL. So is 10k. So was my first and only half marathon. But restricting NaNoWriMo to new work and proclaiming it such a huge deal is a bit like restricting a 10k race to only new runners. To experienced runners, that same 10k might be a good challenge, a goal to practice with, a way to self-motivate, but not the end-all be all of their running lives.

I choose to reject this arbitrary notion that in order to win NaNoWriMo your work must be entirely new.
Writing 50,000 NEW COHERENT WORDS on any large fiction or non-fiction work is a WIN.
Writing 50,000 new words on an existing document in a month is even harder and more fruitful. At the end of November I'd rather have a better edited mostly complete novel I care about than a half-novel of crap that I didn't want to write in the first place.

Again, I think it's the difference between people who've never tried this before and people who are more experienced. They should maybe have a secondary stream for people who've actually finished a novel before or who are published/have an agent/can write well. Perhaps you should have to be peer reviewed to be admitted into the professional stream. I would willingly put my prose up before an audience of my peers to prove it's not garbage. Then again, perhaps we should have intelligence tests before people are allowed to vote or breed. Perhaps I am arguing merrily for the path of eugenics...

My background: I have completed, edited and revised 4 novels, and am finishing/editing 2 more at present.
I have received critical positive reviews from professionals who are not my friends.
50,000 words doesn't scare me. What I need is the discipline to sit down and do this every day. That and nifty API widgets to see my word count.
And that's what NaNoWriMo gives me.

I'm not an absolute elitist. Anyone who wants to write, should. I applaud them for it. But to continue my analogy, just because I ran a half-marathon, I'm under no illusions that I can be a professional runner. I suck and I know it. I'm short, slow and lazy and always will be, even if I continue to run for my own pleasure.
Amateur writers shouldn't assume because they really like their own prose that they are good or can be professional. After you write a first draft, you need to be able to edit and have a critical eye on your own work, or you will always be an amateur. Which is fine. Just don't assume that anyone else will want to read it.

One other beef: 50,000 words isn't a novel. It's a novella. Or rather, it's just a round number that's achievable. So why the emphasis on half a novel of garbage?


jess 4 yr old face
i can haz cupcake?

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