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Is writing an addiction? And the truth about NaNoWriMo

It's November. Which mean NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month is here. Around the world writers are busy building up a bank account of words. The aim is to get a 50,000 word first draft completed in one month. It's highly doable. I've written and edited a 120,00 word novel in 4 months and the same principles apply. Actually there is only one principle. Write like zombies are banging down your door and you absolutely refuse to die without having written a novel.

I don't participate in NaNoWriMo. I write everyday anyway and I don't need to add another deadline. My current writing schedule is this: get busy writing for four months, take one month off. During that four months, I am like an addict. During my one month off, I 'm thinking about writing. So I'm basically still like an addict.

During my four month writing period I slink away to the office to do another 500 words while hubby's out the back mowing the lawn. I join him on the sofa and there's nothing on TV I want to watch so I slink away to the office to do another 500 words. He gets in the shower ahead of me and I slink away into the office to quickly check Twitter or Facebook.

According to other writers, this is what is expected if you wish to complete a novel in less than 10 years. According to non writers, this is an addiction. According to NaNoWriMo -  National Novel Writing Month - if you want to reach your target of 50,000 words for your first draft, then you need to slink away and write 500 words at every available opportunity, during lunch breaks, while someone is cooking dinner - if you can find this someone, brush your teeth with one hand and type with the other.

Forget eating. That's another 500 words.
Forget socialising with friends. Maybe another 1,000.
Forget hygiene. That's an opportunity to write more words.
Forget work ethic - that last half hour of the day when you should be working, write another 500 words.
Forget your appearance. Those ten minutes combing your hair - you got it. Another 500 words.

This is addiction behaviour. Gamblers, drinkers, drug takers, gamers suffer from it. But it's okay because I'm a writer. Or is it? There's no Writers Anonymous. " Hello. My name is ___. I'm addicted to writing. Nobody reads my books but I keep banging away at the keyboard anyway."

“My day feels incomplete when I don’t write,” said Gilmore Tamny, author of the serialized novel “My Days With Millicent.”I do it by sort of taking the romance out of writing by making it a very ordinary part of the day.”

Some people view NaNoWriMo as a waste of time and energy. I do believe it's a great way to get into the habit of writing everyday. But don't forget the all important premise behind NaNoWriMo - you are writing  FIRST DRAFT. When you have finished, it will not be publishable. GUARANTEED. It will not be readable. GUARANTEED.

But it will be workable. If you're willing to put in the work. Sadly, most novice writers don't realise what sort of work is involved. I didn't. That took a few years. Hopefully the apprenticeship is over. So if you are participating in NaNoWriMo -absolutely DO NOT submit your first draft.

Nobody should ever submit a first draft. All first drafts are rubbish. At a recent writers workshop, one writer asked me if I ever looked back at my first drafts. (She said she did, fondly). I replied that to do would be akin to scraping back the paint to look at the undercoat.

Publishers and agents do not want to read first drafts.

“Submitting novels in Nov or Dec?” tweeted one agent, “Leave NaNoWriMo out of the cover letter … or make it clear that it was LAST year’s NaNo.” Another wrote, “Worst queries I ever received as an agent always started with ‘I’ve just finished writing my NaNoWriMo novel and …’”

I wholeheartedly agree with an article in Salon when she writes: " ...I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say..."

It's a valid point. We keep churning our novels that nobody reads or nobody buys. She writes that we should thank the readers for reading our books, not the writers who write them. I agree on this point too. What's the point of writing if nobody will read it? I often thank my readers - all ten of them. (she jokes, but it's not far off it though I have sales reports that prove I have at least a few dozen readers).

Which leads me to my original questions? Is writing an addiction? Well, it has to be. There are more writers than there are readers. And yet we still do it.

National Novel Writing Month


D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. The Bird With The Broken Wing reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Feedback reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings and the book trailer which features an original song performed by the author appeared on USA Today website. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.

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