Why I Don't NaNo
Posted by Jason McIntire | Dec 01, 2015
I've waited until the end of November to publish this post, because I have no desire to pour cold water on the hot enthusiasm of others. That only produces steam, which tends to burn the person pouring the water. Am I taking this metephor too far? Okay, moving on....
If you do NaNoWriMo and enjoy it, more power to you. I understand that some really good books have come out of the exercise. I've even been tempted to try it myself. Technically, in fact, you could say that I did once - though unintentionally and in the wrong month. I wrote The Sparrow Found A House in a NaNo-like period of about 30 days at the beginning of 2013.
My problem with NaNo centers around two words that are all-important to the event: "word count." Word count (usually 50,000 words) is the singular goal of NaNo, based on the apparent philosophy that writing a lot of words initially is the hardest and most important part of writing a novel. And maybe it is, for some. But focusing too much on word count can also encourage "padding" and destroy quality, a fact masterfully illustrated in the web series Month Of The Novel. (Wait! Don't click that link until you finish my article. You will never return.)
In my opinion, brevity is a very important element of good writing. By brevity, I don't mean writing short books. I mean saying everything you want to say in as few words - not as many - as possible. My all-time favorite writing quote (unattributed) is one short sentence: "Omit needless words."
Think about that quote for a second. Could you rephrase it more tersely - by even one syllable - without losing any of the meaning? I try to apply that same standard, if a bit less radically, to my own work.
Just in case you're not convinced by the views of some guy named Jason (backed up with an unattributed quote), let me cite a source that most readers of this blog will agree on. Ready?
"He who has knowledge spares his words." - Prov. 17:27
When writing, whether doing NaNo or not, it's important to keep your eyes on the prize. Just remember: The prize is a good book, not necessarily a long one.