War of the words: National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)


Why this artsy pastime is a waste

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

Come every November, the world of the artistically-inclined descends into NaNoWriMo. This is a global initiative in which participants are encouraged to write an entire 50,000-word novel in a month (an average of 1,666 words a day). Websites, support chapters, and “write-ins” take place all around the world in support of this activity, which attracts hundreds of thousands of participants each year.

But frankly, the entire initiative is misguided and a waste of time. Writing a novel is a long and complicated process. It’s true that the result of NaNoWriMo is only meant to be a first draft, but finishing a complete draft continuously throughout a month is somewhat pointless. While there is no “correct” way to write a novel, it should not be a rushed process, especially for a first one, as the majority of NaNoWriMo works are.

It’s great to write and improve your skills, particularly if you are someone who does not write often. But attempting to finish a complete work in a short timespan merely to participate in a big activity will likely result in unsatisfying work. Quantity over quality should never be a goal for a concrete piece.

Writing is great. It’s therapeutic, creative, and enlightening, often teaching the author something about themselves. But there are better ways to get the creative process open, without being in a stressful and timed atmosphere. Creative writing should not be stressful when it’s done for nobody’s benefit but your own, and that’s exactly what NaNoWriMo is—an activity based on producing content, no matter how crappy the content is. Even experienced creative writers who take time doing their work often feel frustration at their results. How many wannabe writers have looked at the results of their NaNoWriMo works and felt even more revulsion and contempt for their hastily written works, banged out in a coffeehouse on a timer among other participants? The activity may even be doing more harm than good.

Writing a novel takes time, effort, and determination. It’s a daunting task that should be taken seriously, and preferably by experienced writers who know what they’re doing. I fully support writing and writing every day, but 1,666 words is very excessive—especially by an inexperienced writer, and in the context of being a part of a novel. If you really want to write in November to get your ideas out, do so. But don’t feel pressured by the number of words you need or your content fitting into a narrative. Write poetry. Write a personal narrative. Write a short story, a one-off event, erotica, or just ramblings. Write what you want at a rate you feel comfortable with, and don’t take on a novel if you don’t feel ready.