If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?
There are three reasons.
1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.
2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.
3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives."
I especially like bullet number 3.
I also liked some of the tips in the email they sent out once I signed up.
"Before you head off to begin training those typing fingers, we wanted to offer a few bits of advice. You'll find many great tips in the forums, and we'll be sending pep talks directly to your inbox during November. But for now, here's a quick overview of the three-and-a-half things we wish we had known for our first NaNoWriMo.
1) It's okay to not know what you're doing. Really. You've read a lot of novels, so you're completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do so. But it's also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you're not sure what that story might be right now.
2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it's hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn't. Every book you've ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.
3) Tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who've had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.
3.5) There will be times you'll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through. Week Two can be hard. Week Three is much better. Week Four will make you want to yodel.
And we're talking the good kind of yodeling here."
I'm following advice number three right now. Hence this post. And also, I really liked number one. It made me really think about it. So many people are super crazy serious about whatever it is that they want as their career.
Well, it's good to be determined, dedicated, and and all that. But I think a lot of people forget why exactly they went into a particular career anyway. Because it was something that they just enjoyed. They forget, and hence don't enjoy. Which is STUPID. Man, try to still have fun in life, even if you are working really hard.
So that's the other point of this post. To remind people to not waste life being miserable and bored with everything. Remember what you like about whatever it is you're doing.
That is all.
Update: I don't know why the font is black. At least it's readable, though.