In defense of NaNoWriMo and #amwriting

With the approach of NaNoWriMo in T-minus 10 days, I have seen many #NaNoWriMo and #NaNoPrep hashtags among the people I follow on Twitter, as well as the ever-present #amwriting.

And with the approach of NaNoWriMo comes the relatively recent tradition of bloggers espousing their hatred of NaNoWriMo, its participants and the hordes of aspiring “wannabe” writers flooding Twitter. They argue the notion of the masses writing a novel each November trivializes novel writing for “real” writers (or, as one blogger defined it, writers who get paid for their writing). They also take issue with the high volume of Twitter users who identify themselves as writers in their bios.

Group No. 1 (the WriMos and hashtaggers) doesn’t bother me — probably because I am one of them. Each year since 2009, I have participated in NaNoWriMo. In the times I get around to tweeting about something other than the prep football fans’ choice awards my newspaper is running, I slip in a tweet about NaNoWriMo or writing in general.

Group No. 2 (the angry bloggers) leaves me exiting blogs with a sigh. Rather than engage in the comments section, I resign myself to the knowledge that the blogger and I will never see eye-to-eye about NaNoWriMo and #amwriting.

In Defense of NaNoWriMo

I write year-round, but each November I look forward to a monthlong challenge devoted to my craft. It’s a fun challenge with a simple aim: to get people writing.

I was raised under an editor whose mantra is, “Make the world write.” That notion was a rallying point for me. Writing is therapeutic. Storytelling is important. People putting their stories into words matters.

Plenty of bloggers are quick to snub the idea that everyone has a story to tell, but I stand by my editor’s belief that everyone does, indeed, have a story to tell. At our newspaper, he and my husband (a reporter) implemented a feature called Life Story. My husband chooses a person from the obituaries each week and writes exactly what the name suggests: their life story. Each and every person has been fascinating, no matter how plain they seem at face value.

Their lives are incredible stories. Each person’s life is a story, and within each person are interesting stories, both fiction and nonfiction. (Some stories are a blend of both: embellished autobiography.) If only everyone took the time during NaNoWriMo to write those stories down.

Not every written word is publishable, nor is it meant to be. NaNoWriMo is simply an opportunity to encourage people to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It’s like trying to shoot 50 or 75 free-throws in one minute. It’s fun. It’s practice. It’s a challenge. Nothing more.

That is not the least bit trivializing to published authors. Thousands of people writing novels for NaNoWriMo is no more trivializing to professional writers than children at a park shooting hoops is trivializing to NBA athletes.

I have NaNoWriMo projects that turned out to be nothing but writing practice. (That’s important for writers of any level, be they novices or veterans. The unpublished words are just as vital as the unpublished words — they are the hours of practice we put in before the big game. Even LeBron James has to show up for practice.)

The concession I will make to the anti-NaNoWriMo bloggers is when Dec. 1 rolls around and participants push unedited e-books into the market. Saturating the market with unpolished writing does no one a favor. Authors owe it to themselves and to readers to publish their books after revision, editing, and polishing.

In Defense of #amwriting and Other Writing Hashtags

When I see complaints on social media and in blogs about writing tweets and hashtags, I can’t help but wonder, why not just block those hashtags?

Ta-da! Problem solved!

Except the problem isn’t solved in the minds of those who hate the hashtags. It’s not seeing the hashtags that offends them. It is the fact those hashtags even exist.

I am a shameless #amwriting hashtagger. When I first discovered it about two years ago (when I finally started using Twitter regularly), I was excited to find an easy way to connect with other writers.

The majority of people who use #amwriting seem to be novice or intermediate-level writers, which is fine by me. (I consider myself in the intermediate range — I write a weekly column, occasionally freelance articles, and am releasing a self-published book in December.) I like following the tag to browse the content and links fellow writers share, whether it be book design tips from, comic strips about the writing process, articles from Writer’s Digest, or anecdotes of their own writing experiences.

The #amwriting personal anecdotes seem to be under particular fire from the hashtag’s haters. While nonwriters might find them tedious or dull, I find them communal and entertaining. As a fellow writer, I can relate to the anecdotes. It’s nice to know others  can share my experiences and dilemmas. And it’s nice when others are there to support each other in victories and disappointments.

#amwriting is a community. It’s a way for writers to interact, support each other, and relate. For those who use it, the hashtag functions as a virtual writing group with thousands of members. For those who have no use for it … well, there’s the obvious option of blocking it.

After all, it’s easier for one person to avoid and ignore content (s)he dislikes than to demand thousands of people censor themselves for his/her benefit. Particularly when the content is as harmless as #amwriting. To my experience, the writing community is supportive and embracing — given the rise of cyberbullying and the usual vitriol to be found on social media, a community like #amwriting users seems to be nothing to gripe about.

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6 Responses to In defense of NaNoWriMo and #amwriting

  1. Fredrik Kayser says:

    People usually have a lot to say about NaNo and #amwriting, sadly, often in the negative. Even though I don’t participate in NaNo each year I kind of like the atmosphere. It’s as if there is a lot more creativity out there in the “ether” just waiting to be tapped into. Realistically though, as you also mentioned, more often than not it amounts to writing practice. 🙂


    • I like that you mentioned the creativity. One plus to NaNoWriMo is that it encourages people to flex their creativity. I love the idea of NaNoWriMo attracting hundreds who are not writers by trade or who have never written because it encourages them to try something new and creative. I can’t dislike an annual project that pushes people toward imagination and creativity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Desi Valentine says:

    Reblogged this on Write Home Sometime and commented:
    “The concession I will make to the anti-NaNoWriMo bloggers is when Dec. 1 rolls around and participants push unedited e-books into the market. Saturating the market with unpolished writing does no one a favor. Authors owe it to themselves and to readers to publish their books after revision, editing, and polishing.” Amen, people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. devonchez says:

    Reblogged this on Writing in the Mile High City and commented:
    I, too have seen so much crap thrown around about NanoWriMo. There’s no reason.


  4. Derek Murphy says:

    This is great Julie – I just wrote an article with the same title but didn’t bother to check who had written on it before. It’s important for authors to feel like they have permission to be excited about their writing, without naysayers bringing them down.


    • I believe everyone should write, without fear of anyone trivializing their work or efforts. As my former managing editor likes to say, “Make the world write!” (He also likes to hand back our writing and say, “Make me cry, dammit!” But that’s a topic for another day.)

      I browsed your website and was especially excited to find my way to your free downloads. A portion of my weekend is now reserved to read through your books. Advice (especially free advice) on indie publishing/marketing is always much appreciated!


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