It’s become something of a tradition over the last few years for nerdfighter* bloggers to participate in twice yearly months of daily blogging, called BEDA for Blog Every Day August and Blog Every Day April. Last year I took the solemn oath of a BEDA blogger and put fingers to keys 29 days out of the month. In 2008, I also attempted to write 50,000 words of a manuscript during National Novel Writing Month and failed spectacularly*.
Fellow nerdfighter, friend, and all-around awesome blogger/vlogger Kayley recently blogged about how she’s not sure these kinds of organized month-long attempts at scheduled creativity really do us much good as writers or readers. In summary, Kayley concluded that BEDA and NaNoWriMo glorify quantity over quality, encourage mediocrity, and push people to create subpar blogs/stories just for the sake of making content. My friend Hayley (YouTuber, blogger, and consumer of burritos) also posted some worthwhile thoughts on the subject that you can read here. My knee-jerk reaction was to agree wholeheartedly with Kayley’s hypothesis, but when I stopped to think about what BEDA and NaNoWriMo ask of us, I realized that we’re placing two vastly different projects into one umbrella category.
BEDA and NaNoWriMo are similar, I think, only conceptually. Writing a 200-500 word blog every day with no boundaries or rules about content is vastly different from trying to write 50,000 words worth of a novel in 30 days. Both can be good exercises, if used correctly, or complete wastes of time.
BEDA forces writers to think of a new blogging topic to cover every day. Bloggers cheat themselves if they keep blogging about having nothing to say and, as Kayley observed, if you’re just going to cheat your way through BEDA, why bother? Free writing about having nothing to write is a fine exercise to get your fingers moving and words flowing, but it doesn’t often need to be posted on the internet. However, if you really challenge yourself to write a quality paragraph or two each day, you’ll start to find inspiration everywhere, start to see things in new ways. The ability to flex your creative mind like this is invaluable.
NaNoWriMo is a different monster. It exists to help people get ideas on paper, ideas that probably won’t ever venture further than their author’s word processor or perhaps the inbox of a trustworthy friend. I know several people who adore the NaNoWriMo process and use it as the opportunity to crank out a draft. The serious writers among them go back edit and heavily revise this draft before passing it along to a friend or writing buddy for feedback. I honestly think NaNoWriMo works for some people and not for others. If you’re the kind who needs to be motivated by a kind of game (if you write 50,000 words by the end of NaNo you “win”) or likes the challenge, awesome. But unlike BEDA, the art of novel writing requires planning, plot, character, and, story arc not to mention the ability to, like, move characters through situations and stories with strong, active sentence-level writing. The way NaNo is like, “Yeah! You can write a novel easy peasy in 30 days, even if you don’t know how to write!” is kind of silly. Some people can write strong novels in a month, I’m sure, but for most of us, our finished product is like to be a very long short story. In the case of NaNo, when you’re not actually writing material for anyone to read immediately, that’s fine. If it gets you writing, go for it. But just like you need the discipline to finish NaNoWriMo, you need the discipline to come back to your work, rewrite, and edit like crazy.
Which brings me to part 2.
**In my defense, I was taking 18 credit hours at school, working 30 hours per week, dancing 15 hours per week and planning a wedding. Also my story concept sucked.