NaNoWriMo: Quantity over Quality?
Paige Insalaco considers whether the NaNoWriMo challenge prompts writers to forgo good writing as they push for the word count
November is now upon us and that means it’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. For anyone unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge taking place every November where the aim is to write a 50,000- word novel in just 30 days. The challenge has garnered much attention and popularity in recent years, especially taking off in spheres such as ‘AuthorTube’. Amateur authors have experienced great success with NaNoWriMo over the years, with best- selling books such as Erin Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’ and Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’ starting as NanoWriMo attempts. Naturally, the success of such books has encouraged more and more people to attempt the challenge, leading to much criticism, particularly from the publishing community.
Most of the criticism from the publishing industry stems from the fact that inboxes become inundated with unedited and potentially unfinished manuscripts in December and January. The general consensus is that writing a novel is a long and arduous process that should not be reduced to just a month. As the challenge requires an author to average 1667 words per day, many writers will fill their writing with long flowery descriptions and prose that otherwise wouldn’t have been there and will just be edited out later. This creates an issue of quantity over quality and leads many to just think ‘what’s the point?’ However, the point of NaNoWriMo is not to produce a piece of work that gets published, it just provides writers with a starting point and a community within which to write a first draft. Many cite the challenge as a time to quiet their inner critic and just get something down on the page. Writers taking part in the challenge can go to meet ups in their area to participate in the community and NaNoWriMo have set up a programme for young writers in order to encourage creativity in a younger audience and allow those wishing to participate in the community, a safe space to do so. Thus, the challenge doesn’t exist to allow everyone who takes part an opportunity to get published, it’s simply an opportunity to encourage creative writing in a fun and challenging way.
Other criticism for NanoWriMo is that the challenge encourages an author to start a new project every time they participate. Having to write 50,000 words in a month, some argue, is not conducive to projects that have already been started. Therefore, the challenge encourages authors to start new projects and most will probably never finish them. However, the 50,000 words is not a hard limit, and authors can be as flexible with it as they wish. Thus, some could work on half-finished projects if they wanted to. Rachel Appiah, who frequently takes part in the challenge argues that “NaNoWriMo provides an opportunity to start, so another time you can finish,” highlighting what is at the core of the challenge. Whilst many may hold contempt towards the speed writing challenge, it provides people not only with a creative outlet but with a way to make progress on their goals.