November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Funny enough, by the end of this month I’ll be close to finishing my own first novel. That’s about all I have in common with NaNoWriMo writers. I’m sure none of them, like me, hate NaNoWriMo.
For those of you new to NaNoWriMo, the premise is simple: write with wild, fervent abandon for a month until you have a 50,000 word piece, otherwise known as a novel. The organizers say NaNoWriMo is “for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved it is for any and every one of us who have a story.”
This event draws big crowds to the computer, to write, hack and slash their way to 50k. Again, from the NaNoWriMo site:
In 2010, we had over 200,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
I hate them. Not just the 30,000 that reached 50k, the other 170,000 that tried as well.
I’m sure some of you out there, especially NaNoWriMo participants, are looking at me like the Grinch that Stole QWERTY Keyboards. But it’s legitimate beef. Unlike the organizers of this carpal tunnel inducing contest, I’m looking at the fallout of NaNoWriMo.
At the time of this blog, with over a week left to November, the collective word count of NaNoWriMo writers is at 2,082,336,904. Spelling that out, that’s over two billion and eighty-two million words from any and everybody with the intent and an Internet connection, all aimed at being novels. If all those words came from individuals at the 50k mark, then we’d already have 41,646 new novels.
What do you suppose happens to those new novels after all the auto mechanics and out-of-work actors and middle school English teachers finish writing them? I doubt any of them say “I just wrote my first novel, I’ll let it stay buried in the deepest, darkest reaches of my hard drive never to see the light of day.”
I’m sure a good many of them say “Man, that was great. Now I’m going to clean this up, add depth and description, close those plot holes, and use the most evocative language I can to bring what I was trying to say to the surface and make this the best work I can. It may take another seven drafts, but I did it once, I can do it again… and this time with care!”
But let’s face it. If you were going to write a novel with care and skill, you would have written it without the urgings of NaNoWriMo. You wouldn’t have cared about the time and work you would’ve needed to write that novel that you thought fleetingly about. You would’ve sat your ass down and toughed it out.
Only instead of toughing it out, you wrote like a madman speeding through a sleepy town, with townswomen clutching their babies, cars crashing behind you, old guys in slippers shaking their fists in the air in frustration, kids screaming “cool” as they look at your fingers fly.
Make no mistake. Even the organizers of NaNoWriMo will tell you. Unless you’re some kind of writing genius savant, what you created is an abomination. Nothing short of torture to those who unwittingly read this thing.
Look at your achievement. You spent a whole month, 30 days of your life, writing a novel. A NOVEL! You can’t keep that buried on your hard drive. You think it’s a great story, and it needs to be shared with the world.
But let’s face it, if you were too lazy to take the time to write it right the first time, you’ll likely be too lazy to write it right for a second or third draft. Hell, you may not even have the skills to write powerfully and you don’t know it and don’t care enough to investigate whether you cut the mustard. And you don’t have to. Because you don’t even have to shop that ugly baby around for a publisher. You can just e-publish yourself for absolutely no money down.
So, after months of work writing and editing and going over the finer points of plot and character, I finally finish my own first novel. I’m not Tom Clancy. I could invite everyone who’s ever heard of me by name to a house party and wouldn’t have to move any furniture to accommodate my guests. So when my no name ass goes to shop around my novel, I have to contend with the possibility that the publisher will think “I’ve never heard of this clown… must be another NaNoWriMo writer who doesn’t think his baby is ugly.”
And who knows, maybe I’ll decide to self-publish. E-publishing is getting more and more inviting as technology decreases the need for major publishing houses. I can do that, and keep more of my total overall profits. Only now I gotta compete with a sea of jerks who were too lazy or unskilled or both to do it right the first time.
That’s why I hate NaNoWriMo. Not because of the organization’s goal, to get those that want to write finally writing… it’s because a Mongol horde’s worth of undisciplined people have spawned a legion of ugly babies that will bawl for attention in the traditional and e-publishing sites, drowning out the cries of my own cute, well dressed baby.
They say everyone has a song in their heart. You don’t see National Album Cutting Month… at least 12 tracks of your hottest homemade verses. Maybe it’s because we all recognize some songs need to die in the shower where you sang them… not be made available for immediate purchase and download on iTunes. All the proof you need of that is on American Idol. Only difference is that the e-publishing world doesn’t have Simon Cowell to give it to these folks straight.