The Trouble with NaNo

Nope, not bashing NaNo. Just talking writing process, and how mine doesn’t align well with NaNo. Your mileage is welcome to vary.
Each year I participate in NaNo mainly for the comradery. With a secondary of amassing a big old pile of words. Notice I said big old pile, and not exquisite or swoon-worthy or incomparable. Because, let’s face it, NaNo doesn’t leave time for pretty.
Which is part of its value. Teaching a writer to out-type clunky prose, plot holes and sputtering transitions. You can’t edit a blank page. Write that shitty first draft. Etc. Etc. I get it, and it’s great that other writers get a boost from it.
I don’t. I get my writing kicks from crafting a dead-on description, an apt af metaphor. I like glooming onto itty bitty details and giving them GIANT THEMATIC RESONANCE. I like whirlwind plots and razor sharp verbs. I want nouns so fucking concrete they’ll outlast the ruins of the Roman Colosseum.
Writing like that doesn’t come during NaNo. A sentence or two, sure. The muses can be generous. But, for me, NaNo is throwing 50,000 strands of spaghetti at the wall. Yeah, some sticks. But I’m always wading through a lot of spaghetti at the end of the day and wondering if the wallpaper is salvageable.
So, some of things I’ve done to make NaNo a more valuable experience for me:
-zero-ing drafting. NaNo is a time for ideas + energy. Any and Everything goes in NaNo. It’s okay to write myself in a corner. It’s okay to follow the weakest, frailest plot lines. It’s okay to concoct solutions involving hot air balloons, the heroine competing in the Running of the Bulls, or using lipstick to fix an ailing spacecraft.
During NaNo, I don’t write a novel. I write a huge packet of ideas. I’ll write a scene six different ways, just to see which has most interesting outcome. I’ll write a scene and list out 20 possible next scenes and write the three most outrageous—invariably they turn out more rollicking and tempest-tossed than the usual suspects.
-palette cleansing. I usually write second world fantasy with a non-modern setting. For NaNo, I’ll sometimes go for a slang-filled, 5g connected current timeline story. This gives my brain a month of beach time before it’s back to the plague mines.
-other projects. I’m not an overachiever by any measurement. But I’ve found that working on my ongoing projects as a “reward” for hitting my 1667 words for NaNo is a carrot I’ll chase. If it works, don’t fix it.

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