Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bad NaNoWriMo

It’s November and some writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo. I had intended to skip writing about NaNoWriMo because I figured that just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean others can’t find it useful. Then I started hearing a few murmurings within the ranks. You probably know by now that I’m talking about the Laura Miller article in which she called it a waste of time and energy. While I’ve got no problem with people writing a novel in a month, some of what she has said highlights some of what I see as being wrong with the publishing industry.

One of the things that NaNoWriMo encourages is for anyone to write a book. That sounds like a good idea on the surface, but many of the people writing books have no business writing books. Many of our colleagues are unlearned and ignorant. All they will ever produce through NaNoWriMo or otherwise are illiterate rantings. They do not read, but they choose to write because they believe that they can correct this problem they see in the publishing industry—namely that there aren’t any good books being written.

NaNoWriMo can’t help but encourage that kind of writer. The belief is that the way to write a book is to encourage people to write every day. That will certainly produce the 50,000 words needed to say you’ve written a novel, but it assumes that writing is typing works into the computer. It doesn’t encourage thinking time. It doesn’t encourage outlining. It doesn’t encourage anything except producing words. If that’s all it takes to write a novel, I can give you a computer program that will write a novel and it will only take a matter of minutes.

NaNoWriMo is good at creating junk and I’m afraid that most of the authors out there don’t care. I think that what most authors want is to have their name on a book. They will gladly do all the religious stuff required to achieve that, but they sacrifice quality in their quest. Just look at the places authors hang out on the Internet. When you visit the blogs of publishers and agents you see that they have thousands of followers. They didn’t have to do much to get those followers, they just had to hang out a sign an talk the religion of publishing. Follow the rules. Put this in your query letter. Establish a platform. But visit the blog of a the well known authors and you won’t find nearly the following. I believe that is because authors don’t see them as a means of achieving publication and they aren’t really interested in what these authors have to say about how to write better. Even on my own blog, the most popular posts deal with how to get a manuscript published, not with how to improve the manuscript.

I don’t know that I can say that NaNoWriMo is causing all of this, but it isn’t helping. If you’re thinking of submitting a manuscript to an agent, I don’t recommend doing it next month because all those folks who used NaNoWriMo as a means to write that novel they’ve been meaning to write will be inundating slush piles throughout the industry. But then, maybe NaNoWriMo isn’t such a bad thing after all; it’s a good excuse for the rest of us to take a break.