NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month- is very prescriptive in its scope. Firstly, it has to fall within the bounds of the month of November, a shortish month many complain, and also a month with a major U.S. holiday, which many more complain about, and a cranking up holiday shopping season to boot. You can register BEFORE November, but you cannot enter a word count until midnight local time on November 1st. Seriously, they release the word count functions on midnight one time zone at a time as the Earth rotates itself into the official Novel Writing Month of November.
NaNoWriMo is for NEW material, a new novel just waiting for November to come around to come springing out of head and hands in one explosive, 50,000-word release.
NaNoWriMo forbids the inner editor. You are supposed to just draft because editing and revising might silence the inner creative who just wants to tell the tale.
I am cheating on NaNoWriMo, most people do. Firstly, I started this novel a while back and had 25,000ish words already drafted (as I've stated before). So it's not new material. I did not, however, enter those previously drafted words into my official NaNoWriMo word count. That would be really cheating rather than somewhat cheating. I know of writers who do that, who come in on the end of the first day with 20,000-30,000 word word counts. Not necessarily asshole hacks, but actual bona fide published authors with novels out by reputable, established publishers.
I am also cheating by editing and revising as I go. It's not stopped my drafting process, but rather promotes it by giving me little post-draft nuggets of gold that carry me over into the next day's drafting.
So, I'm cheating. There's my confession. Here's my caveat...
Whenever I hear prescriptive ways of writing I always have a STFU response. I think the strongest, and perhaps even the first of these, came when I read Robert Olen Butler's _From Where You Dream_ in which he states, "...It is crucial that you write everyday.." He goes onto to say, "But if you take two days off and you're on very thin ice. If you let three or four days go by it's as if you've never written a word in your entire life." This is, of course, bullshit and from a man with multiple failed marriages (all of which- four- ended up in divorce and were likely less than successful during their duration given the bizarre and acrimonious split of his last) and one kid (who likely was mostly raised by one of his ex-wives). Since I began writing again when I had twin infants and was pregnant with a third, since I've completed so much and also taught myself the majority of the craft I have learned, since I now homeschool and wear so, so many time consuming hats, I can give ROB a hearty STFU about his writing consistency prescription. I don't write everyday. However, I try to write more often than not because I believe regular writing rather than occasional writing grows writing muscles. I, also, live in reality and not some ivory tower of academia or some sort of construct of the artistic life. I also get the flu.
My mop-the-floor word count successes during the first week of NaNoWriMo (I was far exceeding the 1667 per day word count goal and not losing- not only NOT LOSING, but kicking some serious literary wording ass- language), then went silent when I got the flu. I am coming out of it after losing all those days of drafting delight, my word count looks so mediocre and unsuccessful. Those, however, are NaNoWriMo's prescriptive parameters.
A lot of people look down on the event. Most of them literary fiction folk who tend to look down on most everything. I do, however, see their point. They say things like, "Every month is national novel writing month." True that novel writing isn't about word count. It starts off that way for the beginning writer and I think NaNoWriMo gives a great deal of people something to show for their effort. It's the finish line of a long race. I was like that at the beginning of my novel writing. It was all about the word count. Eventually it was about finishing the arc of the narrative and that felt less like a sprint (which is what NaNoWriMo is anyway, a literary sprint) than about getting to the finishing point. Most NaNoWriMo participants, I assume, "win" with their 50,000th or so word. Finishing a novel, however, actually bringing the plot line to its end point, is only accomplished by 90% of people who begin writing novels, or so I've been told. Well, I did that and I succeeded with a failed novel. Then I went into training to finish a successful novel and that took years, far longer than a 50,000-word drafting sprint, far longer than simply finishing a narrative.
As of this writing over a billion and a half words have been written by NaNoWriMo participants. 1,500,000,000+. Wow! I don't say that out of awe, but out of reserved experience. Word counts don't mean jack without the necessary grunt work that comes after. This is probably what the literary snobs are getting after. I am participating because it was convenient for me, because I had finished my other novel, but also because I promised myself (and then later an agent) that I wouldn't submit one novel to literary agents until I had at least 50,000 words of the next drafted. I had this notion in my mind as I have been watching the career trajectories of so many writers of my generation. A poorly selling or poorly received first novel can kill a career; then the subsequent too-long in coming second novel can bury it.
It's November 17th. I have only 14 days to write a little less than 35,000 words to win NaNoWriMo. In addition to cheating on NaNoWriMo, I am also failing. Failing with a seemingly successful novel. So much for prescriptions.