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What is a Nanowrimo novel?

A novel written during the National Novel Writing Month (November), where people are urged to set themselves goals, the lead one being to write 50k words in 30 days.

A lot of people look down on events such as Nanowrimo. They call the books or partial books written during that focused time “brain dumps” or far worse. There are even submission guidelines by editors and agents that specifically demand not to be sent your “Nanowrimo mess” as if November is the only time that one might be able to write a mess of a novel or that if a novel is written in a month it must therefore be, a mess.

Thing is…a month is an incredibly arbitrary span of time.

What is a month? It’s four weeks. It’s 28 to 31 days. It’s 672 to 744 hours. It’s 40, 320 to 44,640 minutes.

So, when you say you wrote a novel in a month, are you saying that you spent 40,000 minutes on that novel? Did you spend 700 hours on that novel? No, of course not! (i mean, unless you never sleep or do absolutely anything else during the month.)

So what does saying “I wrote this novel in a month” actually mean?? What does saying that you spent two years working on a novel mean??

Well, in fact, they could actually mean the exact same thing. Or, they could mean nothing at all.

If, say, a person decided to spend one month working a novel, by which they decided to spend a grand total of 4 hours each evening instead of watching TV or going out or reading or any other leisure activity, by the end of the month they will have written during a total of 120 hours during that month.

If, say, a person decided to write a novel and only spent 1 hour a week over the course of two years, they would have spent 104 hours during those two years.

So you see, having someone tell me how many months or years they spent working on something means absolutely nothing. What truly matters is how many actual minutes or hours were spent during all that amorphous time on the actual project. It doesn’t matter whether that time is spent close-knit, tightly together, or if that time was spread out, the novel will be written at the ability of the person writing it, wherever that person’s ability may be.

Something that took years to write isn’t automatically better than something that took months. And the contrary is also true, of course, but people already believe that something that only took months to write is somehow worse than something that took years. The idea being, of course, that one must needs slave over a project in order for it to be good. What’s interesting about that idea is that, as in my example above, the person who is spending months working on a project could easily be slaving more and spending more hours on something than the person who spent years on something similar.

The most important part about writing isn’t how many months or years it took you to complete. It’s how many hours you spent with butt in chair, fingers on keys, typing out the words. The less hours you spend, well, the less story you have.

Nanowrimo is merely a conduit, a focus for people in need of community, deadlines and motivations. Some of the people who use it are in desperate need of good writing habits. Some of them have good writing habits and just want to push themselves further. And some of them just want to be part of a community event.

Even if you can’t write a novel in a month or have no intention ever to do so, there are many other goals you could set yourself. Some people cut the word count in half, some do short story editions or editing editions. There’s a lot of possibility there. If you’ve headed into the trenches this month, I wish you all the luck in your goals!!