The Journey to NaNoWriMo 2013: The Social Impact of NaNoWriMo

I'm close friends with one of the NaNoWriMo.org forum moderators. For the sake of anonymity, I hereby dub her Mod Lady. I've known Mod Lady for a long time, and she's shared with me a bunch of insights on the reality of the NaNoWriMo forums.

We talk about these things, sometimes. As a Municipal Liaison, I see some of this stuff in my forums, and it always makes me wince when it happens.

NaNoWriMo can bring out a lot of good things in people. It can be used to teach good habits. It can be a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. It can also bring out the worst parts of people, too. I would be a bloody liar if I tried to paint NaNoWriMo as this perfect event. It's not. There's as much bad as good, and I think preparing for the social elements of the month of November is an important part of preparation.

A lot of writers are social creatures, which is funny, since a lot of writers I know are introverts. Maybe we just feel like we have to catch up on lost time every now and then, and other writers know what it's like.

Most of us come into the month of November with a lot of motivation, a lot of dreams, and a lot of hope. The reality of what they're trying to do usually hits within the first week.

Cue the tinkling of glass. That's kind of what I imagine shattering expectations sound like. It's around this time that it starts really hitting people that writing a novel is a lot of work.

This doesn't necessarily bring out the best in people. It does turn the forums into a bit of a war ground, however. Frustration and deadlines are a pretty volatile mix, and NaNoWriMo is an entire month of deadlines.

Things can get ugly fast.

Things can get ugly even before November, when newly-fledged writers try to figure out how to go about writing a book.

Some people try to find someone who will write their book for them — they aren't interested in the journey. They just want a book with their ideas written. They aren't interested in putting in the work, they just want the end results. And the assumed fame they'll get from having written a book.

Some people retreat back into the introverted shells, struggling to do their own thing on their own. They're up for the challenge, even if they're behind and struggling. These folks don't bother anyone, and often don't frequent the forums at all. When they do come out, however, it's creates the perfect conditions for depression and angst. I've dealt with depression before, and it's a very, very unpleasant thing. Misery loves company, and that company often results in the feelings of depression intensifying.

It can get ugly fast.

Some people skate through the entire month, serving as inexhaustible cheerleaders. I typically fall into this category. (I just hide when I'm feeling angsty.)

I usually wait for the last two weeks to start my NaNo. I think the members of my region like watching me suffer, so I deliver. But, they also see me working hard to catch up, and that makes them work harder. Lead by example — even if it's a two-week-late example, playing catch up.

You know, like the majority of participants.

My point here is simple: Every cliche and stereotype of person you can imagine comes haunting the NaNoWriMo forums during November.

Prepare yourself to deal with the social ramifications of this challenge. Unless you completely avoid the forums, you will deal with it in some form of another.

What kind of person will you present yourself as?

How much time will you spend talking to people instead of writing your novel?

Therein is the trap, and the problem. The fact there are so many like-minded individuals around brings out the social butterfly in us, even among us big, hairy months. Some of us are even Luna moths, big, beautiful, and only a little bit hairy. We are drawn to the flame of life and conversation.

We can easily get burned by it.

Make a game plan for your writing. Socializing on the forums is a great way to get ideas and help others out with their novel. But, at the same time, it's extremely easy to get caught in the trap of talking instead of writing.

How you handle November is entirely up to you, but consider your own novel. Helping others is great, but you need the time to work on your story. You need the time to write.

Writing on the forums isn't writing. It's talking. Socializing. Playing with others.

This November, think about the consequences of socialization instead of writing.

For the rest of October, go ahead. Get your feet wet. Talk to those like-minded people. Just watch out for those who would suck you into their trolling, their flame wars, and their heated discussions.

They rarely do any good. Leave the mess for the moderators to mop up, and leave the in-fighting to those who aren't serious about writing their novel. Try not to get caught in the trap of talking instead of doing.

Connect with those who work well with you, and want you to succeed at writing your novel.

Go write.

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