So I’m vastly behind on my NaNoWriMo goals, for a variety of reasons, most of them life, rather than writing-related. This weekend was my wedding anniversary, we had Q’s parent-teacher conference on Friday and there was no school on Monday, and yesterday was the election. Today, I can work all day, but Tomorrow morning bright and early, I’m heading out to Charleston, South Carolina for YA’LL Fest, and the amount of work I’m able to do will depend on how well I’m able to resist the swan song of hanging out with author friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in a year, some of whom I haven’t seen before Q was born.
Last week, I used my spot at Genreality to talk about NaNo, and how it’s not really designed for pro writers. Yesterday, I saw author Beth Revis post something along the same lines. See, Beth was moving right along on NaNo, until she realized she was taking her story down the wrong path, and deleted big swaths of it. A friend of hers didn’t understand why she would do that, since it risked her chances at “winning NaNo.”
And in looking at the responses to her blog post, most of her commenters are agreeing with the friend.
But here’s the thing, guys — those NaNoWriMo goals, that NaNoWriMo edict to “turn off the internal editor and just write” — those are designed for amateurs. For people who have never been able to turn off the internal editor long enough to finish a book. This is not a problem for Beth Revis, the New York Times bestselling author of three books who has (I believe), another ten manuscripts she wrote before she was even published. She can finish a book just fine.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the true purpose of NaNoWriMo is to give a sense of camaraderie and community to writers for the purpose of getting folks who may not otherwise meet their dream of “writing a novel someday” a better crack at it. That some folks have actually gone on to publish their “NaNo novels”, that pros like me and Beth participate — that’s all nice and all, but that’s not the reason for the season, so to speak.
Beth’s breadth of experience in writing, editing, and publishing novels means she’s got a pretty good idea of what is and what is not working. She’s much better at knowing that than someone who has never even written a novel. Beth’s reliance on her writing income to keep a roof over head means she has a vested interest NOT in getting a little icon on her website, but instead writing a novel that she can sell for money.
Winning NaNoWriMo is fun, sure. It’s also fun for me to stand in my living room and do pirouettes with my two year old. We cal ourselves ballerinas and we twirl and we arc our arms over our heads and we have a grand old time. However, I do not expect an actual ballerina, a ballerina who makes money from her dancing, to go along with my rules of “pirouetting.” If she was doing the sort of sloppy work my two year old and I am, I’d totally expect her to stop herself and figure out her technique and start all over.
Because Q and I have completely different goals in our dancing sessions than the ballerina does. For me, I know I’m never going to be a pro dancer. But I love to dance, and I have a lot of fun doing it. So from time to time, I get up and I twirl with my toddler and have a blast.
Now, Q, I don’t know how she feels about going pro. I do know she loves to dance. (Last week, during her school’s Halloween parade, Q was doing her thing and her teacher said, “Looks like Q’s got her dance on,” and I said, “When does Q ever have her dance off?” Answer: never.) Point is, this may be Q’s first little baby steps toward a life as a professional dancer. (In which case, she’s probably better off not copying her mommy.) And if it is, then these are important steps for her to take too, and even if they aren’t technically perfect or even all that good looking, they are instilling in her a belief that she can dance, and more, that she loves dancing. So for her, right now, it’s less important that she has the technique down than the pro, even if, someday, she wants to be a pro. Because that’s not where she’s at right now.