Why I Dislike NaNoWriMo

Why I Dislike NaNoWriMo

This 30 day challenge can oversimplify a much larger writing process.

“I have this idea… What do you think?”

I’ve likely had this conversation a hundred times now, at my local cafes or over Facebook, and always around October. They start around this time of year, well before November. People begin prepping Pinterest boards and stocking up on caffeine. Their social media fills with writing advice, cute blurbs tagged under “#nanowrimo2016”, vague posts about their big project.

National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. The web writing sensation that begins on November 1st, and always comes with the intent to "get people writing." Your goal with NaNoWriMo is simple: reach 50,000 words before the end of the month. For those interested in the numbers, that's around 1,500 words a day, every day, for 30 days. Some amazing novels have actually come out of the NaNoWriMo scene: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern were both penned in 30 November days, YA author Marissa Meyer has used the month to start novels and novellas for her Lunar Chronicles series. Hundreds of great stories have made it to market, indie or otherwise, with the help of this challenge.

I love all of these books so much.

I still dislike NaNoWriMo.

I really dislike NaNoWriMo.

I dislike NaNo in the way American retail workers dislike Christmas.

For a while, I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was that irked me about the writing challenge, since I had actually done it once or twice. Not in November, though: I had been in the middle of two different novels, in the middle of two different summers. I hit a point with every project where the momentum picks up the right way and I fly with the book, clipping through 1, 500-2,000 words a day. Each time is a delightful, restless, tea-fueled journey where I would write until dawn and exist almost solely on creative energy. Surely something like NaNoWriMo would be up my alley, given my own habits?

But I’ve never joined in on NaNoWriMo or planned a new project around it, mostly because of the things I see NaNoWriMo evolve into, and some of the bad habits I see it create for fledgling authors. I’ve dissected some of these on my personal blog, but I think it’s time we dig into the issue of NaNoWriMo with a little more depth.

So, back to the "I have an idea" part of NaNo. Because ideas are great: ideas are the seeds of good writing. Ideas are not books though, and it’s often difficult to gauge a project’s worth of time based on a few rough character descriptions and a summary you have pulled from an online prompt. Not dogging either (since I use them both, too), but these things do not a book make. These things can lead to a draft though, if you can sit down and write it.

I find the “ass-in-chair-and-fingers-to-keys” part is where a lot of people trip up because they learn very quickly that writing 1,500 words a day isn’t easy as it looks, and it rarely looks that easy to begin with. I know authors that can churn out 2,000 words every day that they write: I know authors who put down 200 words once and awhile. Writing is as personal in pace as it is in style, so the techniques that work for some may not work for all. 1,500 words a day is a skill you learn with time, and not a needed skill for finishing a novel.

“Writing books is easy. It’s only 50,000 words and I have the time.” To which I always sigh. These words always undercut two big parts about the novel.

1. Writing books is the most artistic form of torturing yourself over imaginary people and situations. There are easier ways to entertain yourself, I'll be honest with you.

2. Most books aren’t 50,000 words. We can talk about The Great Gatsby and minimal novel length all we want, but modern novels, especially in fantasy and science fiction, tend to go over the 100,000 word mark and well beyond it. Also, novels do not end after you put “The End” on your first draft. Editing can (and will) take up time.

One of the biggest issues I take with the NaNo mindset is that it’s used as a springboard to “get people writing” without giving people the proper disclaimer that writing doesn’t end or begin with writing itself. Between the planning, drafting, editing, and beta-reading, it’s taken near three years to finish my first novel and draft a second. A month of work stops being a meaningful thing when a project begins to span over years. That doesn’t discount the amazing free-fall of one month, but most writing projects expand well beyond that point, and I’ve watched so many new writers miss that.

“I don’t need to make a plan though. I can wing it.” To which I will tell you no, no you can’t. Some of us can fly by the seat of our pants, but but most of us aren’t organized enough to finish a draft, much less in a month. This is the very mindset that fuels the essays written the night before their deadline, or the millions of half-baked romance e-novellas on Kindle: minimal effort for the same expected payoff. Prep and planning and time can mean the difference between dropping a draft at 5,000 words and pushing over 150,000 words (as much of a pain as the latter is to edit- better to have more than less). When we talk about these successful authors like Rowell or Meyer, who use NaNo to complete drafts, we should also recall that Rowell and Meyer are authors with previous experience. Authors who had several novels under their belt and a grasp of their style/voice. It almost sounds discouraging to use their works as banners for a project that’s targeted at fresh-faced writers. It sells and simplifies a process so much bigger than 50,000 words and a few nightly writing binges. A process that is rarely ever as rewarding or glamorous as the Rowlings and Martins of the world make it out to be. Most all of us can create, but being an actual author is a very different skill.

So, to you all out there, as prepare your outlines, make character sheets, and finalize those writing playlists, you have my best regards for your November drafts. Remember though, that all books are much bigger than NaNoWriMo. If writing novels were as simple as 30 days of work, it would be a much less demanding, selfish, and beautiful act.

Cover Image Credit: NaNoWriMo

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22 Post Malone ‘beerbongs & bentleys’ Lyrics College Kids Will Use As Insta Captions This Summer

It's here, and it's fire.

If you didn't know, I am really not sure how you wouldn't know, but it's fine, Post Malone's new album FINALLY came out! Posty has time and time again proven that he's a trailblazer in the music industry. His genre is a mix of everything, from rap to acoustic guitar, and he sounds like he's at home in both settings.

Here it is, a list of Post Malone lyrics you'll use or see as Instagram captions. I can already feel it, this summer is Posty's summer –– a summer for "beerbongs & bentleys."

1. "Spoil My Night" - "Won't you come spoil my night?"

2. "Spoil My Night" - "Feelings come into play and I'm thinkin' this happens every time"

3. "Spoil My Night" - "Yeah, when I walk up in a party, they all act like they know me"

4. "Zack and Codeine" - "Been livin' fast, no I can't take it slowly"

5. "Zack and Codeine" - "But it don't mean nothing without all my people"

6. "Zack and Codeine" - "Pour that drink 'cause we ain't sleepin' tonight"

7. "Takin Shots" - "Heard that there's a party, I might pay a visit"

8. "Takin Shots" - "Baby, just for the night, you my soulmate"

9. "Over Now" - "I'ma turn the tables, promise you will not forget it"

10. "Stay" - "Damn, who are we right now?"

11. "Blame It On Me" - "These hurricanes inside of my brain"

12. "Same Bitches" - "Bottles on deck, and my drink full"

13. "Same Bitches" - "Population four million, how I see the same bitches?"

14. "Jonestown" - "It happens every time"

15. "92 Explorer" - "She in the front seat head bangin'"

16. "Sugar Wraith" - "And then I went and changed my life"

17. "Sugar Wraith" - "I take the lead, they just follow"

18. "Rockstar" - "Sayin, 'I'm with the band'"

19. "Rockstar" - "Livin’ like a Rockstar, I’m livin’ like a Rockstar"

20. "Rockstar" - "Sweeter than a Pop-Tart”

21. "Psycho" - "Can’t really trust nobody with all this jewelry on you"

22. "Psycho" - "I got homies, let it go"

Cover Image Credit: Post Malone // Instagram

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Fiction On The Odyssey: Without Chaos Part 2

The world is a broken record; history is a pattern that repeats itself.

Click here to read part one.

25. Stove

There is no massive pot of potato stew when she returns.

Instead, the living room is filled with barrels.

26. Smug

She used be so smug when she was younger, back when everything was perfect.

God, she wants to punch that brat.

27. Emotion

Her first emotion, when the boy with the steadfast gaze offers her a shower at his house, is fear.

28. Chin

The boy with the steadfast gaze, she learns upon closer inspection, has dimples when he smiles, as well as a small mole on his chin.

The mole fascinates her.

How must it feel to have such a perfect life that even something as insignificant as a mole sits perfectly equidistant from either side of his face?

29. Winter

When she’s not shivering, dirty, and sitting beneath the shadow of a leafless tree, she can appreciate the beauty. The view from his bathroom is positively gorgeous. The world, powdered with white and covered in icicles, is a winter wonderland.

With this comfortably sheltered view through the window frame, it’s hard to believe that such beauty could be so deadly.

30. Knots

The clothes that adorn her body are clean and warm. The air smells deliciously salty, wonderfully sweet, and perfectly spicy. For a moment, she can almost believe she’s somewhere else - somewhere where the view is vast and blue in the best possible way, the wind tangles tangles her hair, and she feels her father’s hand on her own.

“Dad, how fast are we going?” she had yelled.

“Twenty-three knots!” he’d screamed back.

“Don’t yell,” her mother had reprimanded.

But when she had glanced behind at her mother, she had seen that her mother was smiling, too.

31. Stay

“Thank you for everything,” she says to the mother of the boy with the steadfast gaze. “I’ll return the clothes tomorrow.”

“Oh, honey,” the mother says, “Wouldn’t you like to stay? I’ve made you tomato soup. My son says it’s your favorite.”

She would love to stay if not only for the tomato soup, but her mother had once told her to never, at all costs, leave herself indebted to another. “Oh, um - “

“I insist.”

But then again, her mother spends most of her time unconscious on the apartment’s puke-filled couch.

32. Rarest

The rarest feeling in the world, she decides, is that of genuine belonging.

33. Describe

“What’s the world’s most impossible task?” he asks her one windy morning.

Her shoulders lift into a shrug.

“Describing a color to a blind person.”

34. Surrounds

She learns quickly that silence is one thing that he cannot tolerate for long. As a result, the space between them is often filled to the brim with random trivia facts.

She doesn’t mind. To her, it’s a welcome distraction from everything else that surrounds her.

35. Step

She takes a step towards him and stumbles.

She’s righted before she ever had the chance to fall.

36. Eyes

His gaze still speaks of steadfast loyalty.

She no longer wants to punch him.

37. Know

“Did you know that vodka is made from potatoes?”

“Nope,” she replies breezily before feeling the full impact of their words. She pauses.

The potatoes. The massive pot. The barrels.

Oh, no.

She’s off before he can utter another word.

38. Can

She can make it home before the officers arrive.

She can make it home before the officers arrive.

She must.

39. Tasteless

His mother sets a bowl of steaming tomato soup down in front of her.

Her stomach churns.

The soup is red, bright red. It’s the exact shade of the ugly red tape that had been hastily applied in a severe “X” across the front door of the apartment: the one that read: RESTRICTED AREA: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

Her mother was arrested. The apartment was locked up.

All remnants of her previous life is gone.

And it took her four days to realize.

Briefly, she wonders why she has yet to be pulled aside by the school and placed in a community home. She wonders if, when her mother told the police that she was childless, her mother had been thinking of her daughter, for once, or if her mother had simply forgotten about the existence of her daughter.

Bitterly, she concludes that it was the latter.

His mother frowns at the untouched bowl. “Eat up. You’ll need your strength.”

The soup is tasteless.

40. Aimless

She aches from the sudden detachedness from her previous life. And yet, her release relieves her.

She thinks of everything. She thinks of nothing.

She doesn’t know what to do.

41. Weary

When he smiles, she’s too weary to smile back.

42. Tentatively

It’s a few days before the sky finally decides to reflect her the state of her soul.

He has kept quiet for the past few days. Their silences aren’t tense like they once were, but they haven’t been comfortable, either. She can feel his pressing curiosity, threatening to crush their delicate silence. She knows she should tell him before he asks, as he’s bound to find out either way. And yet, she can’t find the words.

“So, uh,” he says, tentatively.

His voice wavers slightly.

He’s also scared, she realizes with amazement. Of what, she doesn’t know. But she can guess.

“I didn’t realize that -” she breaks off abruptly, temporarily shocked by the sound of her voice. After a brief glance at him, she catches sight of the encouraging smile tugging at his lips. She continues. “I didn’t realize that my mother had been making vodka until you told me that bit of trivia, the one about vodka and potatoes.”

“You didn’t realize?” he asked, astonishment written all over his face. “But, wouldn’t you notice if your apartment started smelling like alcohol?”

Has she really not told him?

“It always smells like alcohol.”

43. Remembers

For the first time in years, she gets tucked into bed, complete with a kiss on her forehead.

Tears slide silently down her cheeks as she thinks of her father.

44. Signature

“Did you know,” she says, testing his signature phrase on her lips, “that one time, a crack junkie complained to the police about the cocaine he bought being of subpar quality?”

His head is back and he’s laughing, laughing, laughing.

She can’t process anything, she can’t process nothing, not when that jovial sound is cascading freely though his mouth. Her heart has stopped beating. She stops breathing. Her eyes are wide. She watches, and watches, and watches, and -

“W-well?” he asks, still wheezing and still giggling. “What h-happened t-to him?”

She’s caught completely off guard. Her heart is still in her throat. “Um. Oh. Right, er, uh - arrested. Obviously. He got arrested.”

He roars into laughter once again.

After a few seconds, she stops watching.

She joins him.

45. Intelligent

She never has the the guts to say it herself, but she’s grateful for his presence in her life. He always knows what to say, what not to say, and when to say nothing at all.

She’s glad to have met someone as intelligent as him.

46. Notice

It takes her a while, but finally, she visits her mother.

Her mother doesn’t even seem to notice her presence.

It takes her much, much longer, but eventually, she realizes that it’s okay that her mother cannot recognize her, much less pay her any attention. There are better people that can.

47. Strong

Once upon a time, she thought she was strong.

Fate has confirmed that.

48. Home

Over a bowl of ripe raspberries, in a blanket fort, they do silly, memorable things in the way that friends do. They talk of unimportant things and make unspoken promises. It takes her some time, but finally, it registers that she has inadvertently found herself a home with the boy with eyes that speak of steadfast loyalty.

She might as well make herself at home.

49. Carve

“What's your name?”

He smiles broadly. “I thought you'd never ask.”

She takes his name and carves it onto her heart.

50. Everything

The world is a broken record. History is a pattern that repeats itself.

Without chaos, everything remains.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash / Lane Jackman

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