Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Response to NaNo's Detractors

... with emphasis on Jeff DeRego’s 6-minute explanation recently aired on The Writing Show, specifically.

This is the second year I’ve participated in this “event” and also the second year I’ve written about the anti-NaNo sentiment that crops up every November. Perhaps this year I should have simply avoided the negative press and gone about my business, but when I found a short file on my iPod under The Writing Show’s folder titled “I’m No Fan O’ NaNoWriMo” I gave it a listen despite the feeling of irritation that immediately made its presence known.

I think the point that most people who disapprove of the concept either don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge is this - NaNo is, above anything else, a social activity, something meant to be fun and lighthearted and silly. Where are all these people who are writing drivel and taking it seriously? I see children and adults who have a natural love of books trying their hand in an enjoyable and harmless activity, something to do just to say they’ve done it and then move on. How many of these people take their unedited “manuscripts” and make an attempt at shopping them around to various editors and publishers? Not many, I’d assume. So what if they have icons on their journals that proclaim them to be “authors”? I doubt that many of them fail to see how tongue-in-cheek it all is. Let them be ridiculous and have their fun. If they go so far as to take their finished piece to a self-publishing company, let them. They have to front the initial cost for the book anyway, so if they do end up failing terribly they won’t make a reattempt.

For the few of us who take this somewhat seriously, please, don’t assume that we don’t know the difference between a rough and a final draft. I spend most of my time reading as many books as I can and writing short fiction. It’s all I’ve ever sold. However, during this one month of the year, I put down other people’s work and I use these thirty days as an extended writing exercise. If I succeed, I have a full rough draft that I can set aside and come back to revise in a month’s time, and if I fail I’ve only wasted thirty days of my life. It’s enjoyable for me and it gives me the opportunity to turn off any automatic editor I have in the back of my mind. I’ve created some decent material this way, in amongst all the crap I will have to excise when I go back through and tighten up the story. I’ve already made checklists of things I want to do in the second draft, aspects of the story I’d like to explore and things that need to be cut. I know that I haven’t written a salable novel quite yet and I’m more than willing to do the rest of the work necessary, which is why I find myself slightly insulted when people claim that NaNo serves no purpose.

There are some points well made in this podcast, and in the arguments of others. I’m sure there are people out there who fail to make the fifty thousand word count and give up, but these are also the people I suspect would give up at the first non-reassuring rejection slip they receive. I’m sure there are also a few people who consider themselves to be master wordsmiths at the end of the month, as well. It no doubt happens. How many of them are actually going to go on and become published, though?

I’m sure a lot of garbage is generated during November, but that’s not the point. The point is that people who love other people’s fiction are coming together to have fun, BS a bit and write little bits of fluff that may or may not have a future in a better, much more polished form. That’s all it is, not some soul-crushing machine bent on distorting people’s views of the publishing industry, or a network of brain-dead “wannabes” looking to steal your jobs or publishing contracts with barely readable verbal vomit.

Those of us who value hard work and dedication will continue writing and those of us who don’t will return to our normal lives come December first. Don’t worry about it so much.

1 comment:

Claire said...

As a fellow NaNoer, first of all, I completely agree with everything you say.

I hadn't heard this rant until seeing your link to it, but a couple of additional things struck me listening to it.

First off all, he seems to suggest that writing towards an "arbitrary" deadline is counterproductive, and something to be avoided... but that's something that probably 99.99% percent of published authors have to do at some point in their careers.

Also, from his description of the way to write well, I inferred that he tends to do quite a bit of editing as he goes. Certainly, different things work for different people, but most writing advice I've come across is to finish something first, and then go back and edit--which is precisely the point of NaNoWriMo.

He also suggested that people who want to write who fail NaNoWriMo are likely to give up. Not true--I didn't win until my fourth year participating.

(I also felt he didn't give write-ins the credit they're due. It's true, you can't find them outside of NaNoWriMo, but in my opinion, I'd rather change things so that write-ins were more common outside the bounds of NaNoWriMo, rather than to say that because they're so NaNoWriMo specific, they're automatically useless. I love write-ins.)