Defending NaNoWriMo – A Response to Laura Miller

I recently read an article on Salon.com entitled “Better Yet, DON’T Write that novel” and despite having never successfully taken part in NaNoWriMo, I actually have opinion on it. (Who’s surprised there? Seriously.)

You can find the article at:

http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/11/02/nanowrimo

In her rant she states that NaNoWriMo is a fountain of crap and results in thousands of garbage manuscripts being dumped on the doorsteps of every agent and publisher from here to Calcutta, and despite my complete belief that she may be right in that respect, that isn’t NaNoWriMo’s fault.

National Novel Writing Month was created for the sole purpose of inspiring creators who were otherwise having trouble with the gumption and dedication it takes to actually write (and complete) a novel. Support systems and group mentality are unbelievably helpful to those in any arena – be it weight loss or training for a marathon, having a group to fall back on for support and guidance is a blessing, no matter your pursuit.

Now, I will side with her on several points, because they are truly valid-

1) If you are a writer who doesn’t read, you’ve NO RIGHT to be writing, and especially no right to expect someone else to read your work. Reading is necessary. It makes for better writing and it creates the very industry that you are trying to break into.

2) Revision is absolutely key to creating worthwhile work. I’ve been in several writing classes where people announced that the mediocre tome they supplied us for workshop was just ‘farted out’ before class. What a surprise. This simply offends me. Don’t ask me to read your rough drafts. I have better things to do than coddle you and tell you how talented you are because your rough draft was Gold. You don’t fart diamonds. Whatever it is you are writing, no matter how good it is, can be made better with post work and should be made better before you ask me to even look at it. Period.

Now we go on to the gross oversight she made in her article.

She quotes a pep talk from NaNoWriMo.org about the idea that “yes, you will be writing a lot of crap,” in order to make her point that your 50,000 word a month goal has no purpose. She claims writing that much – or more importantly, writing that much ‘crap’ as she sees it, has no purpose. It certainly does have a purpose.

I will quote a fantastic writer’s movie I know and love – Wonderboys:

“You tell the ones that have it to keep at it. You tell the ones that don’t have it to keep at it because that’s the only way they’re going to get where they’re going.”

NaNoWriMo might be a time of year when a lot of mediocre writers produce a lot of mediocre crap, but the truth is, NaNoWriMo is a month-long stint where the average person lives the life of a writer. A real writer.

There are a lot of people out there writing a lot of crap during NaNoWriMo. In fact, there are a lot of people out there writing a lot of crap period – from the best-selling authors with miserable rough drafts to the emo tweens pumping out terrible poetry, everyone has the capacity to create crap, and a lot of it for that matter. That is what a writer must learn to allow themselves to do in order to ever finish the novel that will one day be something far better than crap.

The real shame here is that a lot of writers out there are not writing crap. Some of them are writing wonderful stories, but in the worst case scenario, they’re not writing a lot of wondeful stories because they’re simply not writing. Or worse, they’re never finishing these timeless works because they don’t have the momentum, inspiration, discipline, or perhaps the support they need to push through whatever it is that is holding them back. NaNoWriMo is a magnificent attempt to reach out to those writers as much as it is reaching to the crap producers.

A notable author wrote a book for writer’s that gave this simple rule if you truly want to be a writer:

Yes, read everyday, no excuses, but more importantly…

Write 2000 words every. single. day.

By that rule, real writers, the one’s following his advice and living that life year round will have produced 60,000 words during NaNoWriMo, whether they signed up on the website or not. (That’s a 10,000 word surplus to the NaNoWriMo goal, in case you’re one of those writing types who isn’t good at math.)

Still, Laura Miller is probably right. Writing that much in a short span of time really is just a crime. She did write one novel so far and the author who gave the advice to write 2000 words a day probably doesn’t have any clue what he’s talking about. He’s only Stephen King.

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3 thoughts on “Defending NaNoWriMo – A Response to Laura Miller

  1. Pingback: NaNoWriMo -The Final Stretch…and Yawn | At Her Desk

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