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Does NaNoWriMo Really Help Writers?

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3370 from Hubble
Spiral Galaxy NGC 3370 from Hubble

Complaints About NaNoWriMo

Literary agents have not become great fans of NaMoWriMo. Fot it seems that come December 1, many become deluged with “fresh-from-the-oven” 50,000 word manuscripts. In fact, the situation has become so bad that some of the more popular agents close their doors for novel submission during December and January. Besides literary agents, just like everyone else, need  a break and the seasonal holidays provide ample opportunity for parties or a ski trip to the mountains.

Other Commentaries

Many writers have also been leary of the project as well. Just recently Publetariat published a post by Alan Baxter that seriously questions why a dedicated writer would take part in NaNoWriMo. Alan wants to know why an author would need to rely on just one month of the year to produce a novel. He also points out thatn 50,000 words doesn’t really make a completed novel. 70,000 or more is more the accepted length. Good points in both cases.

Why I Participate In NaNoWriMo

I like NaNo because it forces me to concentrate on one project and it gives me a chance to correspond with other writers about the writing process. When I first tackled NaNo, I thought 50,00o words would make a completed novel. Later on I would learn that 70,000 to 100,000 is a more realistic range, even though there are a few successful exceptions to the rule.

Don’t Bombard the Literary Agents

Don’t bother querying the agents with your first draft. It is a complete waste of time. And if you don’t think an agent will know the difference, just try it and see what happens. Chances are you won’t hear a thing back if you happen to be submitting a sample from your NaNo first draft. However, if you do put together a really good query letter, you might get a positive response from an agent, especially if you fail to mention that your manuscript is part of the November craziness.

Benefits of NaNoWriMo

The best thing about the NaNo experience is that it gives you an opportunity to write a novel by the seat of your pants. The whole idea of this writing frenzy is to forget about outlines and pre-charted plots and just let the writing flow. Although some writers flourish in a more structued environment, NaNo is a good way to break free from old habits and explore some new territory. Try it; you might like it.

2 Responses to “Does NaNoWriMo Really Help Writers?”

  1. It’s also a great jump-start for people who were never going to get serious about writing anything without it, like me!

  2. I actually like NaNo, among other reasons, because, for me, it *is* a structured environment. It forces me to concentrate on producing a first draft in far less time than I would normally take. And to do that, I have to preplan the whole thing in advance. I consider that pretty darn structured.

    As for Alan Baxter’s narrow view, no serious writer limits themselves to the one month of NaNo. And they use NaNo as a tool, in ways that are unique to each writer. He makes the assumption, as so many do, that NaNo is the be all and end all. It’s a framework within which people are free to have fun, or learn, or even accomplish something worthwhile if they’re willing to do the necessary work.

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