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NaNoWriMo Etiquette – Six Things

Etiquette_Header Allo! My name is Errol! I call myself NaNoWriMo’s biggest fanboy, which is presumptuous, yes, but I can’t help myself. NaNo excites me to no end. It is where I first met Debs, and because of that, this band came to be. For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a challenge to write fifty thousand words in the month of November. There are a number of posts out there about NaNo and we’ve done numerous videos and songs about it, so why this post?

I could plan for my novel, or do NaNoToons... but no, I'll just blog instead.
I could plan for my novel, or do NaNoToons… but no, I’ll just blog instead.

The more cynical of you would say, “to get more hits on your site, you self-serving narcissist.” And I’m not going to deny that either. I’m an entertainer, a creative, and if people enjoy the things that I make, then that makes me extremely happy! However, I do have a few things I wish to talk about and it’s NaNoWriMo etiquette. Look, it’s great to be excited about something. If you know me, I’m the loudest fanboy of NaNo and Totoro you will ever meet. I am excited about so many things my friends have threatened implementing volume control via duct tape.

Who wants to play "Pin the Muzzle?"
Who wants to play “Pin the Muzzle?”

But we Wrimos are getting a lot of pushback. Pushback from the populace, pushback from hipsters because we’re mainstream, pushback from publishers. And as a geek who is used to constraining myself in public so as not to completely drive away the masses from every nerd obsession I indulge myself in, I want to give a few tips on how to behave when you’re a frothing at the mouth NaNo fanatic.

1) Not Everyone Cares about your Novel

Look, your novel is awesome. You know it. I… uh… don’t know it. But the thing is, a lot of other people don’t want to know it. Now, I’m not trying to crush your inner child. I am crazy excited that you’re writing. I’m crazy excited I’m writing. Actually, if we’re all at a writing session, I’m probably socializing, but the sentiment is there.

This is the reception I get at writing sessions…

However, I just want you to stop and think about other people for a second. Here’s an example. I was at an Overnight Writing session. It was 4am. I had been drinking so much coffee I needed to pee every five minutes. My brain was not firing on all synapses and periodically I would blurt out animal noises. This guy comes up and starts chatting to me, and I to him. He then asks me to read his novel. I can barely do pattern recognition by this point, so I politely tell him I am too exhausted and my brain doesn’t work. He insists. I decline again, saying I am way too tired. He continues to push his novel and I continue to decline. Finally, by the end of it, he starts accusing me that I don’t care. And by then, he was right. Good grief, it was like constantly being asked out on a date, except for the fact that has never happened to me before in my life, so… who knows if it’s like that. Now, did this guy try and reciprocate by offering to read my novel? No. His main goal was to get me to read his unedited novel. And when I refused, he tried to guilt me into a pity read.

You know, I never got pity dates either.

Remember, in NaNoWriMo, we’re ALL writing a novel. I’m not saying don’t talk about your novel, not at all! However, think of other people when you try and promote yourself.

2) An Unedited Novel is Pretty Atrocious

At the end of NaNoWriMo, people push their unedited novels like parents push their firstborn child on Facebook. Just think of newborns. They’re not that pleasant. Their eyes can’t focus. They’re goopy. They grimace all the time. And they really are only loveable to 1% of your facebook feed.

Unless you spawn cats. Then that number jumps to 98%.

Publishers and editors hate NaNoWriMo because of the mountain of manuscripts they are assaulted with right after November. Of course, you may respond, “But it’s their job! Deal with it!” But why sink any chance of you being published? If you really want that thing on bookshelves, you need to put more effort into it than a month. Publishing a book requires work, revision, time, and other people. I don’t care how much of a savant you think you are; no one wants to wade through the first dump of a NaNo novel. When December comes, don’t send the novel off! Sit on it for a bit. Maybe go hang out with your family. Try and clean that goopy newborn you have after one month of neglect.

3) It’s OK if someone doesn’t want to NaNo

I get it. NaNoWriMo takes over my life in November. I wish to go to every writing session, every event, every social. I desperately want to go to Night of Writing Dangerously and sing songs at you people whether you like it or not. However, NaNo isn’t for everyone! And that’s OK. Not everyone needs to write in a month. A lot of people have different writing processes. And a corollary of this is that not everyone needs to come to events if they are doing NaNoWriMo. Some people may not look as enthusiastic, but that doesn’t mean they love NaNoWriMo less!

I am not like this. Not really. Ok, maybe a bit.
I am not like this. Not really. Ok, maybe a bit.

If people don’t wish to do NaNo, don’t make them! If they don’t want to come to events, don’t force them. And if someone doesn’t want to read your novel and I say “No” five times, that means “NO!” Ahem. Not, that I’m bitter about this. No no no… ^_^

4) Your life is hard. So is ours.

You will find this in the NaNoWriMo Chat FAQ and it’s good advice: excessive whinging is draining. And you know what we Wrimos are trying to do? WRITE a NOVEL!

Hold that thought until I finish another ten thousand words.

We’re writers, not counsellors! If you are sitting in a writing session, and along comes an Errol regaling you with tales of his sore ankle because he was stupid enough to jump out of a tree, how much writing do you think you will be able to do? NONE! Unless of course you are just transcribing his conversation because you need dialogue from a crazy man.

5) How to Talk about Wordcount

Wordcount is always a touchy issue. Some people love to hear about other’s wordcounts. Others will wish to stab you with mechanical pencils if you utter your wordcount one more time. So, what do you do? Don’t bring up your own. I challenged myself to write an obscene number of words in one day. I wanted to see if I could do it. I blogged and tweeted it to prove that I could do it. And then I never brought it up after that. (But other people did. That’s pretty cool!) Look, sometimes you want to talk about your wordcount, especially during a city-wide word war where your wordcount is part of something bigger than yourself. And sometimes you want to celebrate your words! That makes complete sense too! However, once again, listen to other people. During the third week of NaNo, things get a little tough and people go into a slump. Encourage people to write, but don’t do it by showing off what your wordcount is. wordcountwill This goes for almost all the tips here: if what you say is uplifting to someone else, go for it. If it only serves you, think twice before saying it.

6) Enjoy NaNo!

This last point isn’t really about etiquette and I don’t need to tell you this, because if you are doing NaNo you are probably enjoying it. However, I don’t want you to think that I expect people to be quiet about their NaNo joy! Not at all!

My family avoids me in November…

Everyone knows I NaNoWriMo. I shout the clarion call any moment that I can. Don’t let detractors get you down! I’ve been doing this since 2006 and it’s been a crazy journey every November. So go, enjoy NaNo with others. I know I will! ^_^   This article was edited by my friend Kari Maaren, an amazing geeky ukulele player. ^_^ And Amy helped with pictures! Thanks guys! If you wish to find me on Nano, you can view my user profile!

9 Responses to NaNoWriMo Etiquette – Six Things

  1. The real question we have is whether your knitting circle will become more of a writing circle during NaNo?

  2. You have a broken link where it says “user profile.”

    Ahh Nanowrimo! Thanks for the great guide! And I love the video. xD

  3. I shamelessly promote NaNo during October, and I do this for two reasons.
    Firstly, I want my friends to do NaNo with me! Also it’s so my friends and family know why I’m ripping my hair out and/or (but usually “and”) neglecting them.

    I want to add something to this list: Let your non-writer friends know you’re going to do NaNo.
    I’m really terrible for ignoring my friends during November. At least let your family and friends know WHY you’re neglecting them, or else you may find that everyone thinks that you’re crazy (which you probably are anyways, what sane person attempts writing a novel in a month!) and that you hate them (which I hope isn’t true).