They come out of the woodwork this time of year, don't they? Far too many (by which I mean 'more than zero') novelist bloggers put out posts saying that NaNo encourages bad writing, mocks the serious business of prose fiction, creates false expectations, blah blah blah.
I think NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty puts it quite nicely in his history of NaNo on the official website:
The only word in there I disagree with is the 'rightly' before 'horrified professional writers'. I've certainly seen writers, both professional and amateur, actually arguing that writing shouldn't be fun. This is apparently because writing should always be hard work.
"Fun was a revelation. Novel-writing, we had discovered, was just like watching TV. You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple hours. And a story spins itself out in front of you.
I think the scene—full of smack-talk and muffin crumbs on our keyboards—would have rightly horrified professional writers. We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party."
These people fail to understand not only fun and hard work, but also writing itself. Yes, writing should be hard, but as the linked post implies, rather like a penis, writing is most fun when it is hard.
And on a more serious note, yes there are times when writing is a slog, when you have to force yourself to crank out another 200 words and it takes an hour or more, but none of this means that writing should never be fun.
Personally, the times when I've worked hardest (and, I should make clear, focussed hardest on the work) at my writing have been the most fun. That's because when I'm working hardest at my writing, I'm being distracted by less and less other stuff, and thus I'm immersing myself much more fully in my stories and their worlds.
And I think immersion is the uniting drive among writers. At base, we're all people who want to live with fictional characters and in fictional worlds (or fictional versions of our own world, which are much the same thing) for part of our lives. In fact, I think it's not just a desire but a need - nothing else explains the devotion that we put into our creations.
Whatever its faults, NaNo is great for immersion. To succeed at NaNo, you need to completely disappear into your own world, to spend your days wrapped up in your characters so that whenever you can grab some keyboard time, they're ready to answer and perform. It forces you to ignore distractions, and thus keeps your writing flowing much more freely.
I actually think that I turn out better first drafts during NaNo than at other times of the year. Why? Because I don't stop every twenty minutes to check Facebook or Twitter, get distracted by something on there and then have to write myself back into the action when I actually get back to writing. Scenes and characterisation flow much better in that kind of context.
All of this is to say nothing of side benefits of NaNo like the opportunity to meet other writers. My long-suffering and saintly beta reader Lynne Hunt is a NaNo buddy, as are a number of my closest friends.
I'm not writing this post because I think NaNo needs defending in and of itself. It's a good time, and substantially less harmful than pretty much any other kind of month-long bender. That needs no defending. But someone seriously needs to shut up the kind of whingy, miserable, short-sighted bloggers who bring up meaningless irrelevancies like the fact that a novel is longer than 50,000 words, or NaNo encouraging bad writing.
NaNo is the most intoxicatingly pure form of the writerly experience that there is. It's not about the result - no first draft is ever much cop - it's about that experience. It's not about what being a career novelist is like, it's about what writing can be like.