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01 November 2003 @ 11:17 pm
National Novel Writing Month

Okay, disregarding the incredibly short-sighted name (they claim that InNoWriMo doesn't sound as cool), this seems to be a fairly worthwhile movement. Encourage the masses to get cracking and write "that novel", but more than that, to write it in a month.

I'd say that anyone who thinks they can write a decent novel in such a short time deserves the drivel that they get, but I'm sure that a work of genius could be cracked out in that time.

But my biggest problem here is from the website:

"National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

If you can complete a novel in that space of time, good luck to you! No problem so far.

"Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."

Well, it's starting to get a bit scary here, but so far it's just being inclusive. Anyone can participate is what they are saying here. Again, good luck to you. I wouldn't want to try and keep the art of writing solely in the hands of people who are actually good at it.

"Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

Quantity not quality? This is where they start to lose me. I truly believe that in the process of writing it is better to write crap than nothing at all, but you shouldn't be aiming to do so. For the love of all that is good and holy, take your time with your writing. If you write 50,000 words without a second thought as to what you are actually writing, you will end up with the most amazing pile of shit on the planet. Why would anyone want to spend a month making a manuscript that is completely unsalvageable.

"Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down."

Oh, dear. Time for a BIG reality check boys and girls. Writing a novel is probably just as much about the "endless tweaking and editing" than it is about the initial writing. And as I say, if you zoom through 50,000 words with the attitude that you'll "fix it later", you just won't have anything worth fixing.

My advice to anyone who wants to write a novel (not that I've finished my novel yet, so please, grain of salt...): Make every month NaNoWriMo. Spend a couple of hours a day, whatever you can spare on writing. I use the term "writing" loosely, as I refer to writing, re-reading and editing. Don't be afraid to tweak, don't be afraid to move on. Take it slowly, but don't procrastinate. Don't wait for "inspiration", write whatever comes to you, but don't be afraid to chuck out the crap. Writing a good novel is as much about what you leave out as what you put in.

But, don't listen to me. Churn out 50,000 words and be proud. I'm going back to pottering away on my novel.
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Jacobyak_boy on November 2nd, 2003 04:05 pm (UTC)
I agree in part. Free-writing, all out writing can be good to get the juices flowing. But, to write all-out for an entire month, so that the only writing you do is forward, forward, forward, don't stop to think for an entire month...

Stream-of-consciousness writing excercises are a useful tool to inspire you, but once you have a bit of inspiration you have to stop and think carefully about what you are crafting.

I find the notion that you can write a novel if you just "go for it" and type without stopping to think, vaguely offensive. If anyone can write a novel if they just stop worrying about it "being good", what the fuck am I doing at school?

It's not writing, it's typing. I already know how to type. I can type 50,000 words in a lot less than a month. I could write a 50,000 word "novel" in less than a month. I know I can, I don't have to prove that to myself or anyone. I'm only interested in writing a good, publishable novel.

I don't really have a problem with the NaNoWriMo concept as such, but the kind of things they say on the website I feel are de-valuing the written arts. A lot of work goes into a novel, and a novel isn't just about word-count. This website is teaching bad habits, that can be really hard to break.

One of the first things a budding writer should learn is that writing isn't about just sitting down and writing whatever pops into their head. Writing is about planning, patience and persistence. The NaNoWriMo website is breeding a whole bunch of aspiring writers with no concept of patience. "Must... write... fast..." "Writing... must... be... done... quickly..."

Good writing takes time and effort. And despite the fact that someone has said there is a NaNoEdMo, to edit these steaming piles of "novel", the process of writing doesn't work like that. It's not Write, then Edit - woohoo finished novel! The process is long and labourious, write, rewrite, edit, write, rewrite, edit, etc. I really feel that if people write non-stop for 50,000 words it is going to be almost impossible for them to edit and rewrite what they are left with. The start may very well bear no resemblance to the end!

Sure, I understand that most of the participants are just writing for a hobby, but I worry that others take this a little too seriously. I know of at least three students from our course who are participating. These people should know better! I'm not looking forward to Novel 2 class, when people present "workshopping" which consists of stream-of-consciousness rubbish that they whacked together in order to meet the NaNoWriMo deadline. I would much rather spend a week to write 500 carefully crafted words, than to write the same amount in less than a third of my day's writing.

1,666 words a day to reach the deadline. If you can carefully construct that many words every day, good luck to you. But if, as I suspect, you canonly zoom through them haphazardly, please don't ask me to read your "novel" at the end.

I have written around 5,000 words on my novel, and already this much has been through several major rewrites. I have changed names, I have changed speach patterns, I have changed character profiles, I have added details in the gaps, I have fixed continuity errors. If I had continued onward without ever looking back at the errors I had previously made, I can't imagine the mammoth task I would have had just to fix continuity! Imagine trying to correlate and edit all the different continuity errors, shifts of POV, technical glitches, typos, changes of tense, etc etc in a 50,000 word manuscript that hadn't even been read since it was begun, let alone edited. Pages and pages of errors. Where do you even begin?

If people want to participate, good luck to them. I'm just saying that the whole process should be taken with a grain of salt. I think it's a big waste of time.

I say again. Please, people, write. Write with passion, and write every day. Write for your own sake, and write for the sake of others. But, please, do it with dignity.
Robet Éivaayvah on November 3rd, 2003 07:45 pm (UTC)
I think the biggest benefit though, is to something a different way. By trying something, you learn the methods, and you learn the advantages/disadvantages of that method. I don't think that NaNoWriMo is something people should do every year (ewww), but for people who have trouble writing anything at all, it'd be good as a freeing experience.

Too much of anything is bad... it's possible to over-edit a work (I managed to do that sometimes... though technically, fixing it meant more editing).
Jacobyak_boy on November 4th, 2003 12:51 am (UTC)
I agree with everything you say.

I would re-iterate that I don't think writing a novel in a month is a good idea for a serious novelist (unless you are already famous enough that your fans would buy the contents of your napkin for $39.95), but may be a great way to get those that wouldn't otherwise write to do so.

What I lament is that people in our course are participating in NaNoWriMo, and being competitive about it, as if the fact that they wrote 8,000 words today makes them a good writer somehow.