Taking NaNoWriMo with a grain of salt.

| Friday, November 5, 2010
Today's Tune: Beat It (cover)

Two NaNo-themed posts in the first week? SHOCKING, I'M SURE.

So there was this Salon article essentially about how NaNoWriMo is a complete waste of time at which I rolled my eyes a little, though some of the points were valid. Let's break it down, shall we?

Writing = narcissistic, reading = selfless. Writers will write with or without encouragement; readers need to be the ones applauded.

Not sure I totally follow this line of logic. I suppose there is a nugget of truth in the fact that writing is always intricately tied to the author's ego, so okay. But reading is selfless? Erm. I guess if you subscribe to the idea that people are giving up their money and time to read, you could make this stretch. Ultimately, however, they're paying for and (hopefully) enjoying entertainment. When did enjoying art or entertainment become a selfless act?

I am under no illusions that without readers/consumers, there would be no more books. That is unarguably true. And some writers can be self-aggrandizing a-holes, no doubt. But I think most authors are thankful for the audience they have, and they continue to write through thick and thin for themselves AND that audience. Writing, really writing, is hard. Heartbreaking. Cruel. Most of us do it because we love it.

Writing has become a commercial thing - there's more money to be made from aspiring authors than people who read.

This point isn't lost on me. There IS a rather large market out there for people who want to write. There are people out there who cash in on this idea that anyone can write a book - people who will plump up the dreams of would-be authors, promise them the moon, and then leave them devastated when nothing comes of it. But NaNo isn't part of this problem. NaNo is about companionship, competition, exercising writing muscles, and good old-fashioned fun.

There may be people who take it the wrong way and assume writing 50,000 words means insta-publication, but the majority of us are not that naive. We'll take it for what it is - a way to get the juices flowing and pump something out that may or may not be worth revising into something that doesn't suck.

Agents and editors are DREADING the coming months and the deluge of NaNovels.

Eh. I read a lot of editor and agent blogs and subscribe to their twitter accounts, too. Yes, many have mentioned that they know the NaNovels are coming. But the idea that this is that much different than usual? Bah. The slush pile isn't new. Most of the blogs/tweets I read are mildly apprehensive, but not overly annoyed or filled with dread.

Want to know what's going to happen to the unpolished NaNovels that end up in agent inboxes next month? The same thing that happens to unpolished manuscripts every other month. In the (in)famous words of one Janet Reid: "This is a form rejection."

The world doesn't need more bad books, there are too many books and not enough readers, there are too many people who want to write but not read, etc.

This isn't news. The very nature of publishing dictates that only a fraction of novels ever written are published, and even fewer are successful. Regarding the bad books... hm. If this is referring to bad manuscripts? Most of those go unpublished. Some seem to slip through, but they're rare. If it is referring to published books, well, even the "bad" books have their place.

I'll admit, I'm a little bit of a literature snob. I don't much enjoy the poorly-written-but-high-concept stuff that always seems to appear on bestseller lists. But here's the thing: they often appear on the bestseller lists. All art cannot be created equal. If everything were a masterwork, nothing would be a masterwork. "Bad" books help keep the industry afloat, and there can be no good without the bad.

As to the last point, yes. There are a lot of people out there who seem to think writing is unconnected to reading. This is a viewpoint I don't much understand - how can one expect others to read work when they're unwilling to read the work of others? And that's not even touching on the fact that people who don't read don't generally write very well because they aren't familiar with their own genre.

Writing "crap" is a complete waste of time, energy, and resources.

This is one point I will 100% completely disagree with. I hate to break this to everyone, but first drafts are almost always complete crap, no matter who's writing them. Learning how to write means you will suck. This idea that even good (even GREAT) writers can pull flawless fiction from their mind on the first try is bunk. NaNo doesn't encourage you to keep the crap. It encourages you to revise the crap.

True, the article touched on this, but it ignores the fact that people who ignore that advice? They're the people who write manuscripts without doing any research anyway. If one chooses to miss the point of drafting --> revision --> novel, they're going to miss it regardless of how they came about completing that first draft. People are inherently lazy. This is not news. Hell, I'm lazy. I should be working on my own NaNo right now, but I'm blogging instead.

Speaking of which... back to the Word document for me.

8 comments:

{ fairyhedgehog } at: November 5, 2010 at 8:41 AM said...

I hate to break this to everyone, but first drafts are almost always complete crap, no matter who's writing them. Learning how to write means you will suck.

I totally agree. Someone should explain this to her!

{ E.J. Wesley } at: November 5, 2010 at 11:16 AM said...

Are you putting words on paper/screen? = NOT. A. WASTE. OF. TIME.

{ Magan } at: November 5, 2010 at 11:30 AM said...

I think Nano is a very good thing. (Oh funny because I first heard about it from this girl named Steph). It atleast forces you to get pen to paper or hands to keyboard. Okay, sure, that first draft is probably crap, but that's what editing is for!

{ Old Kitty } at: November 5, 2010 at 1:04 PM said...

I say ignore adversity! So long as you're having fun and enjoying the process! :-)

Good luck with your nano writing!!

take care
x

{ Brad Jaeger } at: November 5, 2010 at 1:47 PM said...

Ignore it. It's Salon, not Time Magazine :p

Fuck them :)

{ Kate } at: November 9, 2010 at 11:48 PM said...

Thanks for the link. One one level, I don't disagree with Laura Miller; from an outside perspective NaNo is a waste of time. It doesn't benefit non-participants, and it doesn't benefit the vast majority of participants in a way that non-participants can see. It really is quite utterly selfish (though self-aggrandizing might be going too far), but so what? I'll write, paint, sing, and otherwise create because it makes me happy, and I because I think actively creating is at least as important as passively consuming. And this is where I absolutely disagree with Miller. As a group, of course novelists need more readers. But that doesn't make sacrificing writing time in favor of reading noble any more than sacrificing exercise in favor of eating at McDonald's.

{ Eeleen Lee } at: November 13, 2010 at 7:52 AM said...

You've made some great points, I just blogged abotu Nanowrimo backlash here:

http://eeleenwrites.blogspot.com/2010/11/dont-knock-nanowrimo.html

This is from my other blog.

{ Hannah Mariska } at: November 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM said...

this is great (your points of course! not the articles!)

if you don't write the crap stuff first, when will you learn to write the better stuff...?

challenges like this are suited to everyone. theres no need to rip something that is still a useful process for others. bah!

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