So it's November, and that means one thing for a lot of folks interested in books and literature- it means it's time for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It's the time when would-be writers everywhere put their fingers to the keyboard and try to pound out a fifty-thousand word book in the span of 30 days.
It shocks me sometimes, the amount of negativity heaped on NaNo writers. One guy I know openly mocked me last year when I said I was participating, in effect saying that everyone who merely participates in NaNo is the same as, you know, this one girl he knew, who bound her manuscript at the end of the month and then walked around with it and touted herself as a published writer. Um, no. First of all, while I do think that people who think their NaNo novels are ready for the big time just because they met the word count are seriously misguided, we don't all think like that. Even if I did, it's my problem, not yours. And that girl wrote a book, polished or not. That's more than I've done.
Writer and columnist Laura Miller, who I really respect and whose columns I usually enjoy, took time out of her schedule to bag on NaNo writers, echoing my friend's disdain and all but lumping us all together as lazy, slipshod nerds who otherwise lack the motivation to be real writers, since real writers, by implication, don't need NaNo to find the wherewithall to write- and real writers revise, which she says most NaNo writers don't. Not only that, but according to Miller, NaNo's progeny are cluttering up the literary world and making editors and agents shiver in their boots over the prospect of all those terrible books surely on their way.
If someone has a dream to write a book, I would never- never-discourage him or her from giving it a go, even if he or she wanted to participate in NaNo. And I would never paint every NaNo writer with that same, condescending brush. It's probably true that many NaNo writers don't revise, but maybe writing this book means the next one will be better- and, maybe some will get the bug and buckle down and really make something good. And if not, they're still trying. They're putting themselves out there, giving themselves a really ambitious goal and a lot of them meet that goal. How can you tell someone not to try? What gives someone the right? In some cases I think it's a case of sour grapes. I couldn't do it so I'm going to try to drag you down to my level. In some cases (and this may be the case with Miller- I don't know her so it's hard to say) it sounds like dreck fatigue- I'm tired of reading bad manuscripts and NaNo produces bad manuscripts, therefore NaNo must be stopped. Which I think is an unfortunate conclusion to draw.
What's it to you, really, if I want to try to write a book? If a community event like NaNoWriMo helps me or someone else get started, what's it to you? True, I didn't finish last year's NaNo project but I've been writing steadily since then and now I'm up to over 40,000 words on my current project- and I'm not participating in NaNo this year, just for the record. I'm just writing. What do you gain by discouraging me?