Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Puzzled musings of a writing rebel

I wonder what it is about NaNo that makes people think that drafts have to be 50 000 words long. I mean, I announced my completing a story draft, wanting to share my joy with others who would understand. 

... Uhm... seems I made a slight wrong assumption on that count. Although you ladies and gents who read my blogs are overwhelmingly supportive, twitter and NaNo wasn't as much. 

It's odd. 

Not that the people there were mean or anything, but they keep commenting on my 18k shortfall. Or saying I should do whatever I can to pad the story and win. 

All I want to know is why? NaNo is about writing a rough draft that can be worked into something more. So if I got to that point at 10k, I would have made the same announcement. Or any other number. If I hadn't found the right formula, I would have kept going to 50k. But no. My lucky number for this story was 32k. It's done. 

Why will I mess around with backstory and all sorts of nonsense in search of 18k I don't need? It's a waste of time, if I'm honest. 

It just puzzles me in the same way the issue's cousin has me scratching my head. Why do some writers thing their way is the only way to write? 

It's the best way for them, yes. But why would that give them a reason to look down their noses at every single other method out there. And trust me. There are as many methods as there are writers. 

Why must everyone conform to a single way of doing things? Doesn't that defeat the object of artistic expression? 

Thoughts? 

27 comments:

  1. Great post, Misha! I have to admit, I don't really "get" the rules of NaNo. I love the idea of a month celebrating writing. But why 50k? Why does it have to be completely written in one month? It so totally doesn't fit my style of writing.

    I've spent November revising a novel. I've dropped 11k words and have 1k left to cut. I'll be working my way through it a second time over Thanksgiving break, trying to trim those 1000 words and better integrate the new scenes I wrote in revision.

    Congrats on your accomplishment! Don't pad anything that doesn't need it!

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    1. Oh those are excellent revision stats. I know you can achieve your goals.

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  2. Some novels go over 50,000. In fact, most do, so even winning NaNo means more writing.
    You finished your story. You won. Period, end of story.

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  3. So glad you get what I'm saying. I was sort of wondering if I was posting some sort of writing-blasphemy. :-P

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  4. 50 K is an abstract number. Most novels are going to be longer than that to begin with. And why pad something that will then require extensive edits later on. In high school, whenever I had to do an xx word report, I'd pad it in with extra pointless words to get to my goal. I lost sight that the real goal was to produce a quality report. The NaNo mentality is like high school all over again. I say if you've finished and it isn't 50 K, you still win. Maybe not in the spirit of the competition, because you didn't write 50 K, which is difficult to do (unless you're just typing random words). But you still win in terms of finishing what you set out to do.

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    1. Exactly. I think 50k is something they give for new writers to aspire to.

      I'm a bit of a veteran by now, though, so I know my rough drafts never go far beyond 30k.

      I agree with you on the NaNo mentality thing. It's sad though, because if it becomes a culture thing, it'll actually end up discouraging first time writers instead of inspiring them.

      I mean, if I was writing Doorways and thought that NaNo-style was the only way to go, I'd never have managed it. That draft took me 3.5 sometimes difficult but always satisfying years. But the end result was 100% worth it.

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  5. Because they are poop-heads. No, really, that's the reason. They want art by the square-foot so it will fill the bookcase.

    Some artist love to write within confines, so many words, green grass, blue skies, and it works for them. Every writer has to find what method will be theirs and usually that method is not 50k one size fits all.

    The entire NaNoNannette thing sounded dreadfully painful to me. I admire your tenacity because the whole contest/experiment was something I could never do myself.

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    1. Yeah it's actually really difficult for me because I generally draft slow and edit fast, but I wanted to stretch myself and see how far I can go.

      I think challenging myself is great to keep my passion for writing alive.

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  6. 50k is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Many middle grade novels may not reach 50k so does that mean MG writers can't or shouldn't NaNo? Of course not. You finished the first draft and/or met the 50k mark. So, you won.

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    1. So glad you agree. LOVE the new profile picture, by the way. :-)

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  7. I have only been in this field for a year and have had to learn things quickly. I'm certainly no expert. When I first approached NaNo, I recall asking my new friends why. Then the "everyone does it," "it's cool," or "it builds speed" started to come back to me. Maybe it helps with block; I'm not sure, but I've never had an acquisitions editor write back to me and say "This is nice but I'm looking for novel that sounds like it was written in a month." Just reading about your strong interest in writing, Misha, I bet what you wrote has quality and that is the parameter that counts. Writing a specific number of words in a specific amount of time are two measures which hold no value for me.

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    1. So true hahahaha. I think NaNoWriMo is wonderful in that people get a lot of resources and support to get started with writing a novel. It's never about writing to perfection. In fact, I think 50k is a goal to motivate people, but should never be the be all and end-all of writing a story.

      For me, the draft is only a portion of the process. In fact, I sort of see it as less important than the rewriting and edits. Yes, drafts get the story ideas down, but only when I rewrite does it really become what I envisioned it to be.

      And I guess that's the thing with NaNo for me. I don't like to write 50k of nonsense that I edit away. I like to write 30k of okay story and add until I have something I love. I find that approach a lot less painful.

      But hey, if the reverse works for others, I'm happy to support them in all their endeavors.

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  8. I've never understood NANO either. My feeling is you write as much as you can and the story that comes. I guess the point is to give people a deadline, but it sounds like you wrote your story, met your deadline and so, in my book, YOU WON :)

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    1. That's what I feel too, but sometimes people take rules as written in stone when they were written in sand.

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  9. I think they figure since the average novel is usually 70-90K, 50K makes a solid start on a rough draft. But after spending months cutting and moving around a manuscript I wrote at 5K per week, I accepted that writing a better 3K per week gets me a cleaner manuscript in the same (or less!) amount of time.

    Use Nano for what it is - a great community of writers to inspire you to write your rough draft. If your rough draft is done by 11/30, you're a winner as far as I'm concerned.

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    1. I know what you mean.

      Another common misconception I keep getting is that NaNo'ers have to finish the whole story in a month.

      Now why would any sane person subject themselves to that sort of torture?

      Except for the few exceptions who write insanely fast.

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  10. What is it that makes people think NaNoRiMo is some kind of sacred ritual? I've written for over 40 years and never in my life set such artificial goals as writing 50,000 words in any given amount of time! As some have said here, I guess some people can't do anything unless they're driven by deadlines, but personally deadlines kill my creativity! So I think your approach shows good common sense, Misha!

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  11. Never taken part in NaNo, but from what I can tell 50k is an arbitrary number that is achievable while being a stretch, and takes you well on the way to a full novel. I don't think completed adult novels in any genre are actually that short. I reckon 70 to 80k is where you enter grown-up novel territory.

    As for "rules" and targets - they are what you choose to make them IMHO.

    And there are indeed as many different ways to write as there are writers. More, in fact, because I don't think I approach two projects the exact same way.

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    1. Same here. I adapt my methods with every single book I write in order to get the best quality work possible out of it.

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  12. I absolutely agree with you Misha on all counts. It's just that people get very strict when participating in blog competitions etc concerning the 'rules'.
    I must say I found it quite similar during the last A-Z April Blogging Challenge when some participants were making such a big deal about other blog's word verification. While I hate word verification, I still respect somebody else's desire to use it on their blog, and I wouldn't go around complaining to them about it!
    At the end of the day, you should be happy with what you've accomplished, regardless of how many words it contains!
    Duncan In Kuantan

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    1. I have to admit that I regularly complain about verification.

      I guess it doesn't bother most people, but when you're like me and try to visit as many blogs as possible (especially during blogfests), word verification really becomes seriously annoying.

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  13. Write an 18k blurb?

    You wrote your novel, within the month, thats all there is too it right? If you know your writing is most effective during the rewrites and so on then thats your style, you cant force it another way for something as personal as writing, or else you will never be satisfied.

    Stand tall and good luck with those edits. I have never been very good with word counts anyway :)

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  14. You are exactly right. Every writer has a different method and no one should criticize another's way because they think it's inferior. Believe in yourself. :)

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    1. Glad to know you're agreeing with me. :-)

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