Monday, November 8, 2010

Go, Go #NaNoWriMo

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.

Tough.

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.

But whatever.

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?

20 comments:

lilly said...

I agree. What's it to anybody if you want to write or not? At least NaNo participants are making a huge effort, are actually writing their own books, which is a lot nowadays considering all those 'bestsellers' on today's market that are not written by the people that get credit and the money.

bermudaonion said...

I agree with you. I don't think most people really think they'll write a finished novel in a month - they're just trying to hone their skills and get into good writing habits. I can't figure out why people have to be so judgmental about everything.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Totally agree with you also. I think it's very weird, the way people are attacking NaNo.

Zibilee said...

It makes me so mad when people rag on the participants of NaNoWriMo! It's such a cool thing to get motivated and write, and I think it should be applauded. Anything that gets people thinking and creating is awesome in my book. And I agree with Kathy as well. I don't think that participants are trying to sell these manuscripts as finished books when they are done. It's all about bolstering the creative process.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I was so disappointed to read Laura Miller's article -- I couldn't quite fathom the snarky conceitedness that was just dripping from her words. NaNoWriMo is solely about building the exercise of practiced writing, getting on a schedule and commitment, which is not what some people can get used to doing unless they sign up for a challenge such as this. And besides -- not every published author has been a perfect writer with fabulous stories from day one. Not to mention there are also a bevy of published books that the authors never did NaNoWriMo, but more than likely could have benefitted from it.

bibliophiliac said...

Kind of ironic, isn't it? Bookish people heaping scorn on people who want to....write books? My those attractive grapes are too high for me to reach. They must be...sour?

jewwishes said...

This is a great post, on a subject that often causes disagreements.

Who cares, what of it!! If someone wants to write, so be it, let them. If the motivation lies in the NaNo project, let them begin.

Most people are involved to lay the groundwork, what's wrong with that?

Ghhhhhchhhhhhhh.

Blodeuedd said...

How uncool! Can't they see how people actually push themselves in Nano, to try for 50 000 takes time and effort. I am proud to say I am going for it, if I only could stop go back and revise all the time. but then that is good too :)

Kate said...

How rude some people are!

It seems to me that one of the draws to NaNo is participating in something as a community - one common goal all centered around the love of writing. Also, I agree with bermudaonion - I'm sure many participants are not expecting to come away with a completed novel, but with refined skills and habits.

Who is anybody to judge that? What's the point of being so discouraging?

Eva said...

Definitely weird! Kind of reminds me of when meat-eaters get all cranky because I'm a vegetarian. ;)

So have fun writing and ignore the naysayers!

contemplatrix said...

bravo, Marie!

and ditto to what everyone said.


~L

Karenlibrarian said...

It never ceases to amaze me how negative people can be -- what's wrong with encouraging people to write and do something creative, as opposed to something passive like watching TV or surfing the web? Laura Miller probably dislikes book bloggers as well -- maybe we clog up the internet with our crappy writing too.

Erin said...

Wow. How can anyone be so negative about something as benign as NaNo? That's ridiculous. I think it's great that people find NaNo inspiring, or fun, or whatever else motivates them to participate.

You've written a very eloquent response. Kudos.

Bellezza said...

The Lace Reader came today, and I thank you very much for sending it to me. Off topic, of course, like one of my students.

Bookin' It said...

My favorite part of the article: "It was yet another depressing sign that the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading are being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing."--HUH? Does Laura realize that if there were no "narcissistic" writers, there would be no books to read?
I'm not doing Nano because I write everyday anyway. I hope Laura realizes that the writers she deems "worthy" start out like all the rest of us - unpublished.
Enjoy writing, Marie!

Vasilly said...

This is a great post. It amazes me that someone as accomplished as Miller would take the time to write such a hateful article.

stacybuckeye said...

I didn't know people were so harsh. You'd think anything that got people writing would be a good thing and encouraged.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Well said! I completely agree. My brother in law did it last year and a friend is doing it this year. They were both really excited to do it and get their creative juices flowing. If it produces something amazing, GREAT! if it produces crap, well, so what? It's an event, a creative outlet. There's no reason to discourage.

I would think it would be fun to see what pops up. There are jewels everywhere, waiting to be discovered. And there is crap that has already been published...but I won't mention any names. :)

Bookin' It said...

You should check out this column (NaNoWriMo Pep Talk) written by John Green, a YA author I really enjoy: http://www.nanowrimo.org/node/3882883.

Kathleen said...

I couldn't agree more! Why would anyone want to discourage someone from pursuing a dream?