Saturday, December 01, 2007

Nano Winner, But For Last Time?

It will come as no surprise, of course, to those who follow my blog. I hit 50k fairly easily this time. When I first did Nano two years ago, I also hit 50k, but it seemed like a much bigger adventure then. I had never done that before and wasn't sure I could. Since then I've written many thousands of words in any given month, and I knew going into this Nano that I certainly could do it, so it was only a matter of putting in the time and effort to do it. It was much less gratifying than it was the first time, since the mystery of "can I?" was no longer there. But it does feel good to have accomplished a lot during this month.

I do have to wonder though whether there is really any point to my doing Nano again after this. I think I need to focus on my own writing goals throughout the year and do what I need to do, regardless of the Nano schedule. I was in the middle of the JASPER novel and set it aside to take up something new just for Nano. It was kind of silly to do that just because it's November. If I had trouble getting words down or something, then I could see where I would benefit from that extra push, but I've been working steadily at my writing and have greatly increased my output over time, so other than the opportunity to network with other writers (significant in itself), there is no reason I would need to do Nano for anything other than kicks. I think it's great for those who need the push, but we don't all need that.

Also, I have mixed feelings about the whole Nano thing. I think it's a great idea, don't get me wrong, and I strongly support the general concept. However, there are thousands of inexperienced novice writers doing Nano each year who have no idea what they're getting themselves into. It's a marathon for the sake of a marathon, with a lot of hopes and dreams tied up in it. Most of them fail to reach their goals. I read that this was a very hard year with more than the usual number falling by the wayside. I don't know the numbers, but previously 5 out of 6 people failed to reach 50k within the month. Setting up 5 out of 6 people to fail is questionable in my view.

Also, I don't know that I much enjoy seeing so many forum questions by writers who not only don't have a clue, but who never will, simply because they only "think" they want to write a novel, but once they discover how much hard work it is, they'll just give up. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who wants to write to do so, but isn't there something to be said for participants' having some realistic notion of what they're doing? If they're truly committed, they'll keep at it. They'll learn and grow, as I have been working so hard to do over time. I guess it just bothers me to see postings in the forums like "help save my plot" and "put a zebra in your story because I said so". We can all use plot help from time to time -- I'm referring to those particular pleas from clueless individuals who will never get a clue no matter how much you try to help them. They'll just give up and walk away because they didn't really make the commitment in the first place. They're not writers, they're thrill-seekers and the marathon is too much to resist.

Perhaps Nano is beneficial in that it can draw in more potential writers, encourage them, and out of the mayhem those who are committed will find the support and encouragement they need. It's just awkward to post alongside people that I know are there on a whim and who will ultimately give up and not bother to really bring themselves to a point of understanding what it was all about in the first place (meaning those details that writers know about but readers aren't generally aware of).

There is one positive aspect of Nano that I am very impressed with, and that is the way it is getting more people interested in writing and therefore books. With sales of novels for adults falling off, it's good that so many young people get caught up in Nano-fever. Many teachers get their classes involved, which I imagine must make a typical school writing class much more interesting. That's a wonderful thing and I strongly support it. Nano-mania is spreading around the world. At a time when DVD's and MP3's and other forms of electronic entertainment are distracting us from reading books, such an interest in writing and reading should be strongly encouraged.

There is one other issue I have with the Nano forums, which is that they have not yet created a separate forum for GLBT lit. They have one for "Chick-Lit" and other genres, but the Nano elite do not regard GLBT literature as a genre in itself, or GLBT writers as deserving a place to congregate. For the past three years I've read the arguments that are invariably posted on this, wherein GLBT folks request a form for themselves and are denied it. I even posted on this myself previously. It makes no difference. I can't help but feel that people just don't "get it".

GLBT individuals deal with very unique circumstances. They have a unique culture, which is rich and varied. They deal with issues that are similar to what other groups deal with, yet the issues GLBT individuals face are unique. Scholars recognize "African-American Literature" and "Women's Literature". It's time people allowed themselves to understand that there IS such as thing as "GLBT Literature". I know in scholarly circles there is some disagreement still, so it should not surprise me that the Nano elite also don't quite "get it". To keep it very, very simple, let me just say that to deal with prejudice is something blacks, women and gays have in common. However, the particular types of prejudice, the ways in which they manifest themselves, and the types of discrimination that these groups deal with is unique. Also, who these people are is unique. Their mindset, culture, life experiences are unique when seen in light of their membership in an oppressed minority. I could go on at length, but I'll stop there.

So, I will have to think it over before signing up for Nano in the future. I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure it's right for me.

Best wishes to all Nano winners, Nano-almost-winners, Nano-"I gave up after 3k"-ers, and all the rest of you who did or did not, who would or would not, take part in the craziness that is Nano. If any noobies got a taste of something wonderful and decide they are in it for the long-haul, then that at least was worthwhile.



Gabriele C. said...

I enjoy Nano despite the fact that for me 10K counts as winning (and I did it this year). But I agree, the forums are a mixed bag. There are some good threads in Historical Fiction, but a lot is along the lines, I've a cool idea but didn't do any research and don't want to, so can anyone just present me with the facts in easily digestable bits.

I did Nano for the first time in 2003, but with the increasing number of particpants, my presence in the forums has grown less and less. It's just no longer what it had been those first two years.

Some people who join do manage to not only finish their 50K but stick to writing. So I'd say Nano is a good thing, and those who give up easily would give up other things as well, like bailing out of baseball the first time they break into a sweat.

Adrian Swift said...


Here's an idea: maybe people should set their own word count goals, and their success should be measured by that? The original Greek sense of competition, that it is against the self?

A lot of running marathons allow people to enter under different categories -- one person is in it for 25k, but someone else might join the 5k version that is a walk/run marathon. They all use the same track and event, and get something out of it that is more meaningful to them. Maybe different word-count goals to win the platinum, gold, silver or bronze, or die-cast metal, or plastic, or recycled aluminum, or whatever.

I agree with you that the atmosphere has changed as more people take part. I see a difference just between 2005 and 2007. There is a spark that is lacking this year, to me, compared with my involvement two years ago. This can also be the fact that I'm jaded now, so to speak (been there, done that, wee-ha).

I agree that overall it is a good thing. I'm not anti-nano. I'm just feeling very mixed about it this time, where I really felt good about it previously. I see more of what could be, and how some changes might help make this event more meaningful to more people.

I guess we get out of it what we are ready to get out of it. Those who are receptive can make enormous progress. Others can't and won't at thie time.

I'd like to see more structured help for people who are total beginners. Walk-throughs, earlier October "deadlines" to shoot for in terms of organizing ideas and preparing to write, gaining a sense of what it is to generate a story that is coherent over many pages. "No Plot, No Problem" is really not the way it works. That can be a good starting point for some, but people need a component here that moves them beyond that. Left to figure it out on their own, most don't, because they have no idea what to do, how to do it.

I'll shut up now.

Thanks for sharing your take on it, Gabriele. I have a lot of respect for your opinions, to be sure.

Wynn Bexton said...

I don't really know much (if anything) about Nano but I know of several people who participate. As well, I know of people who participate in the 3-day novel writing contest that is held here very Sept. long weekend. I think it's an interesting challenge to do these things, maybe for your own sense of self-discipline. But frankly I wonder at the quality of most of the writing done. I've seen a couple of the winners of the 3-day contest and frankly they didn't impress me at all. Anyone who writes seriously know how much time you spend in research, revisions, character development etc. So a contest like these hardly leaves you time for this. I think you should pat yourself on the back for doing it though, and sticking it out. I know very well from the novel writing classes I teach that so many people come into the class (8 wks) thinking they want to write a novel, but once they discover that it doesn't happen by osmosis, likely won't be finished in six months (or less!) and that it requires a good deal of hard work, then they quickly fall by the wayside and drop out. Congratulations to you writers who really stuck it out! It shows you truly have the stamina to carry on and get a good body of work done.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Adrian! Good post on Nano. Although I've done it twice (counting the 2005 manuscript I did on my own), it's still a mystery to me rather or not I'll make the 50,000! (lol) Anyway, I agree there are many who do it just because it's a competition and they do not know what they're really doing. For that reason, I avoid the forums. Nano is a good thing for writers who are writers, not thrill-seekers--but I can't help but be reminded of Eudora Welty, who supposedly replied to a comment that writing classes can squash talent that they weren't squashing enough. d:)bra
(PS: Hey there's only the "anonymous" option for identification if you're not on Blogger. .)

Adrian Swift said...

Hi, Wynn and Debra! (I think that's Debra there!) Thanks for your thoughts. Writing is definitely a challenge and it takes commitment over the long-haul. It's nice to know other writers who are also working hard and who take their craft seriously.

Wishing all of us the best with our writing in 2008!