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NaNo: A Waste of Time and Energy?

December 1, 2008

Every November hundreds of writers pump out 50,000 words in their computer.  They participate in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo).  Obviously, participants think this is a great idea.  However, if you examine this more closely, the program is very limiting in its return on investment.

It reminds me of the young student who failed his spelling test.  He was only able to answer one correctly out of ten; yet, his teacher and his parents praise him for the one word he spelled correctly –all in the name of giving the young student self-esteem.

It seems to me that the enabling teacher/parents only prolonged the inevitable.  In fact, they may have robbed him of the very self-esteem they were trying to promote.  Kids are not stupid.  They know that if they missed 9 out of 10 words that that was not good.   They sense that the praise they received from teacher and parents rang hollow.  How does this feeling of false compliments and encouragement bolster self-esteem?

Participation in NaNo is no different.  NaNo applauds the person who generates 50,000 words of mostly ill conceived thoughts and poor use of grammar.  At the end of November the program acknowledges the participating person by sending a certificate of completion.  The participant prints it out and the display is a symbol of his/her achievement.

However, the writer has to know that the novel is most likely not publishable.  Flawed with plot inconsistencies, character development issues, and pacing problems, this rough novel draft is just that…raw notes.  Spending hours cranking out 50,000 words to earn only a self generated certificate of achievement seems pretty meager for the time and energy spent.   What if the writer invested some pre-planning time?  Might that give the writer a greater sense of accomplishment and give a real boost to self-esteem? 

I’m all for freewriting.  It kind of releases the creative juices.  This is only an exercise. Call me crazy, but the end reward as the program is currently set up does not offset the things you had to sacrifice to write 50,000 words in the space of a month.

If you happen to participate in NaNo. good job in executing self-discipline.  Now what are you going to do with your 50,000 words? 

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