Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NaNoTeens versus THE WORLD

For this Wednesday's post, I went undercover to stake out the teens who participate in NaNoWrimo (and if you don't know what that is, please take a gander here. And also? How do you not know what NaNoWriMo is?!?!). You see, NaNo wasn't around when I was in high school. As much as I love to NaNo, I'll be perfectly honest and say there's no way in stinky Hell I would've been able to handle writing 50K with all the extracurriculars I had under my belt (MIND OUT OF THE GUTTERS, FOLKS), plus I worked a full-time job.

Teens are busy, people. BUSY. So that begs the question…

Who are these teens that spit freely in the face of November? Where do they find time to torture their characters and/or make them fall in love whilst writing school essays, studying for exams, and otherwise being a teen with friends and/or ninjas? And has anyone worked in a unicycle-riding monkey into their novel yet? Because I'm stuck.

To find the answers to these things, I went incognito to the only place where loose lips sinkships about all things NaNo -- the FORUMS. More specifically, THE TEEN FORUMS.

This is not a place where you flit about frivolously, my friends. What I realized, as I trolled through some 500+ teen threads, was that NaNoTeens are passionate, determined, focused, and possibly crazy. But then again, aren't we all? ;) And one thing really stuck out to me…there seemed to be a quiet battle going on. Two of them, actually. Topics that dominated the threads over and over. I give you:

Parents vs. NaNo


School vs. NaNo

It makes sense that the biggest roadblocks for a teen to win NaNo would be the things that are most unavoidable. And what do teens do when faced with adversity? They talk about it anonymously. This is where my work begins…

Parents vs. NaNo
Parental support. This was quite a trendy topic! For many teens, parental approval is super important. For others, not so much. The support (and non-support, in some cases) really went across the board, so I lumped all parents into one of five groups*:

1)SuperSupportive – everything from letting normal chores slide for the month, to rewarding NaNoTeens for mini word count milestones.
2)PassivelySupportive – feigning support while simultaneously forgetting what NaNo is five minutes later and/or putting the kibosh on writing if grades start to slip.
3) Don't Understand It/Don't Care
4) Don't Know About It
5) No Way Jose – thinks NaNo is a complete waste of time and/or stupid. The droopiest flower in the bouquet.

The results* were as follows (sampled from 44 NaNoTeen comments):
The No Way Jose group was in the majority and, I don't know fellow spies, this just seems so so sad to me. Apparently a lot of teen writers aren't feeling the support at home and I can't help but wonder how many dreams will ultimately be crushed because of it. I wish I could send fairy writing dust to those NaNoTeens so they don't give up. But I know no fairies and I'm pretty sure I'd land in jail if I sent any kind of powdery substance in the mail. So if there are any NaNoTeens reading this and you're not getting the NaNo love at home, please accept this *Secret Spy Fist Bump* as a nudge to keep going!

School vs. NaNo
The other intell I collected revealed just how sneaky some NaNoTeens are when it comes to making their word count.

#1 time and/or place where teens write? SCHOOL. During class. During study period. During lunch. Between periods. On the bus. It's fantastic all the nuggets of time teens will find when they're dedicated to their art.

From the above options, there's one place where it seems most writing is done: In Class. A favorite way to get the words in is while teachers are lecturing and students are "taking notes," and there were quite a few NaNoTeens with their own little laundry list for ways to avoid detection. Spies-in-the-Making?

Favorite classes to write in: English, Creative Writing, History

Hardest class to write in: Math/Geometry (Heh. I bet Agent A is pretty darn happy to hear this!)

Best classes to brainstorm/outline in: Physics, History

Best Undercover SpyTools to Use in School: Notebook, Laptop (Ok, I had NO IDEA so many kids are allowed to bring laptops to school these days. Man on FIRE I wish I was a teen now!), iPhone (smartphones), iPad

Most Supportive Teacher Types: English teachers :)

So there you have it. NaNo ends Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. It's not enough to give you a complete and polished novel, but it IS enough to give you a literary launching pad. Maybe it's just me, but I get major spybumps when I realize just how many teens are passionate about writing, so passionate they'll even forego social activities, chores, and SLEEP. But it made me even happier to see a vast majority of teens would quickly give up NaNo-ing if their grades suffered because of it. See? Even when chasing a dream or a challenge, there are some priorities you just can't overlook.
Other sites to check out if you're a NaNoTeen: The NaNoWriMoYoung Writers Program. Chock full of helpful resources, pep talks from notable children's authors, an Educators' Page, and your very own secret forums that you have to be a teen to enter.

If you're a teen and you're NaNo-ing this month, OR if you're a NaNoer writing about teens, then we have a special contest JUST FOR YOU. Leave a comment below with your NaNoWriMo name to be entered to win some fabulous critiques from the YA Confidential Operatives!

10-page critique from Agent Cutta Mutha
10-page critique from Agent Special K
10-page critique from Agent Fem Fatale
10-page critique from Agent Homey C
10-page critique from Agent Saradise
10-page critique from Agent A
10-page critique from Agent The Black Wiggle

Here are the rules:

*You must be a teen (up to age 19) writing any genre OR an adult writing YA
*You must be an official NaNoWriMo participant
*You'll need to leave your NaNoWriMo name in the comments so we can cross-reference at the NaNo site (please make sure your NaNo user info is up to date, including your novel's genre)
*And if you want, help us get to 500 followers by spreading the word!

The five random winners will be announced on December 1! You'll have until the end of the year to turn in your pages -- just in time for you to WIN NaNo AND do an obligatory read-through of your shiny novel.

Good luck and Happy NaNo-ing!

*Disclaimer! Disclaimer! I am in no way a statistician or applied demographer or the like. I merely trolled the NaNo teen forums and did a cursory analysis of those threads where these topics were brought up and then calculated the percentages from those who answered said threads. This is not a complete study or a reflection of all teens who write or all teens who participate in NaNo. The End.


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