There’s No Handholding in Writing

The one thing that annoys me about NaNoWriMo is the vocal majority that advertise that they need help. Not just help, but constant hold-holding and confidence boosting. “Help me write this scene”, “Help me make my word count”, “I just want someone to email me everyday”… it just goes on.

Most of the forums are filled with people looking for hand-holding. Writers who seem to have missed the concept of problem-solving. Go into any forum on the NaNoWriMo website and the top ten posts will be people essentially asking you to do their writing for them.

It’s not just that they want the internet to name their character, they want full character development and a fully-fleshed out plot.

There are two reasons for this:

1. They were primarily fanfic authors

The beauty about fanfiction is that the characters are already drafted. Often there are visual and auditory aids to help you learn to tailor and pace conversations to individual characters. You can describe them effortlessly because it’s not only in your head, it’s also on the screen. Having external references that writers can consistently refer to (films, books, wikis) takes most of the beginning leg work out of planning a novel.

Fanfiction is primarily episodic, which can cause a bit of a shock when fanfic writers try to plan out an original novel. I’ve seen tons of posts where people have written 70% of their plot in the first 20K. I have a feeling this is because they forgetting the need to establish characterization and setting. It’s something that gets taken for granted when you’re used to writing for an audience that know just as much about the your setting as you do.

2. People Forget Writing is a Skill

I think a lot of people tend to view writing as something romantic. Something that is only done in fits of inspiration over coffee and cigarettes. Where writing a novel is easy because you already have such wonderful ideas and you know it’ll be published the moment you finish writing.

Writing can be a romantic experience (there’s passion and anger and tears) but the idea of constant slogging – that writer’s block isn’t a good excuse for not writing – isn’t something that’s brought up. I think what happens is a lot of the NaNo participants hit a hurdle in their writing. Maybe they don’t like the plot, maybe they can’t describe the main setting, maybe they just can’t write another word they have “writer’s block”.

Because they have expectations that the writing process would be easier and because “writer’s block” is such a good excuse, they turn to the internet to do the heavy lifting for them.

Personally, “writer’s block” is a pretty bullshit term. It’s a fancy word for fear. Writer’s fear that what they’re writing is crap, which translates to them being crap. It’s not true. There’s nothing wrong with writing 6000 words and only keeping 1000. People use “writer’s block” as an excuse to stop trying, to give up on the hard parts of writing because it’s no longer romantic, no longer fun.

Part of why NaNoWriMo is so interesting is because it encourages people to write whether they want to or not. To, ideally, learn how to pace plot and learn how to write through the boring stuff.

Writing is a skill that doesn’t stop on the first draft. You have to rewrite and redraft a few times as well as rely on peer reviews before you should even consider publishing. It’s not a fun, easy process. If it was there would be many more NaNoWriMo winners and especially more NaNoWriMo published authors.