i thought every month was novel-writing month

I just read this article, which takes a dim view of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

First off, I've never participated in NaNoWRiMo, and I've never had any desire to. It does not, as the Quakers say, speak to my condition. But I think it's a fine idea for people who want it, though I will admit that I don't really understand why it needs a staff, sponsors, and a fundraising gala. It seems like something that could be organized quite nicely with a blog, a wiki, and a Facebook account. All of which are, at this point, pretty much free.

And I also don't understand why the article seems to say that the "need" for more writers is in opposition to the "need" for more readers. Can't we want more of both? Sounds to me like a professional writer who doesn't want all the amateurs flocking in. A phenomenon which, as an amateur myself, I don't see as a problem.

But I think the article misses a really important point, because NaNoWriMo reminds me of 24-hour comics. When I was involved in mini-comics, many years ago, there was a fad of 24-hour comics (started, according to wikipedia, by Scott McCloud, which I had managed to forget).

A bunch of comic creators got together in a room, with ample caffeine on hand, and each created a complete 24-page comic book in 24 hours. They weren't allowed to do any prep ahead of time, they had to start from nothing.

(I'm not linking to the Wikipedia article on 24-hour comics because I'm annoyed that it refers to the comic creators as "he.")

Like NaNoWriMo, 24-hour comics could break people out of procrastination and endless redrawing, but also, at least as importantly, it made writing and drawing comics, ordinarily a solitary activity, into a social event. There may have been people who did 24-hour comics by themselves, but everybody I knew did them with other artists, like a 24-hour party.

This seems to be what NaNoWriMo does (though online, not in person – this is the 21st century after all). It makes novel writing a social thing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

As for the article's horror at all the unprofessional NaNoWriMo manuscripts which will be tossed over various transoms in December, my advice to those soon-to-be-frustrated rejectees is (obviously) this: publish online (either on a web page or via print-on-demand – or both).

(Also, when I was a young squirt, novels were expected to be at least 80,000 words – at least that's what I was taught. So, I was surprised at NaNoWriMo's minimum of 50,000 words, but Wikipedia tells me that 50,000 is the generally accepted minimum these days.

Well, I certainly wouldn't expect anybody to produce 80,000 words in a month. Also, I will point out that, by either standard, A Sane Woman doesn't make it, since it's just 45,485 words. U-town, on the other hand, is well over any reasonable word count minimum for a novel. I will have to count them at some point, but it has to be well over 100,000 words.

Later: It turns out that U-town is around 170,715 words long. So, that's more than enough for a novel, no matter how you define the term.

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2 Responses to i thought every month was novel-writing month

  1. Maggie says:

    I think one of the best things about NaNo is that it can help new writers to get in the habit of writing every day. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when NaNo ends, it’s just the beginning of the writing process… then they have all those revisions to go through until what they have is good enough to be shown online, to publishers, or anywhere.

    • My father, who wrote plays, often said that anybody can write a good first act. The difficult part is writing a good play. Writing a novel is not exactly the same thing, but the “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” rule still applies. When the first draft is done, then you roll up your sleeves and get to the real work.

      And this is true even when you publish serially, as I often do. Each chapter, or part of a chapter, goes through a lot of revisions before it get posted.

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