NaNoWriMo: Halfway point

It's the 16th.  We're halfway to the end of NaNo.  Halfway done with the time limit, anyway.  Halfway done with the novel...?  Not so much.  That's OK.  Lat year I was 25,000 words behind, and finished just over 25k words on the last day.  I can do that again in a pinch, right?  Right??? Ugh.  Not if I can avoid it.  Feeling of insane accomplishment aside, that was one heck of a writing day.

But then again, why bother?  As some people have been fond of pointing out this year, is there really any value in spending a month of your life working on a novel?  Most NaNo novels are pretty bad when they're done.  Most never get revised, or read, and certainly not published.  Why bother?

OK, I can agree that NaNo is not for everyone.  It's not.  Just like running the Boston Marathon, swimming the English Channel, or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes is not for everyone.  But Ms. Miller (the author of the article I linked to above) stepped a bit beyond "not for me" and started bashing the whole thing, which I think is poor taste at best, and most likely just showboating a hot topic to boost her hit count. Plus, her bullet points are a tad on the ridiculous side...  So I thought something of a rebuttal was in order.

"I am not the first person to point out that "writing a lot of crap" doesn't sound like a particularly fruitful way to spend an entire month, even if it is November." Two points: one - unless you're willing to write a number of really crappy novels, most people will never achieve the skills to craft good ones. And two, I cannot count the number of novelists who use precisely the NaNo format of "write madly, then revise the mess you made into a novel afterward" as their main mode of generating new novels - and selling them.

"Why does giving yourself permission to write a lot of crap so often seem to segue into the insistence that other people read it?" It doesn't. Most NaNo novels are never submitted, never read by anyone except the author and perhaps a few friends. That's not really the point, for most participants.

"Nothing about NaNoWriMo suggests that it's likely to produce more novels I'd want to read." Guess she doesn't read much. Near as I can tell, about half the novels out there in B&N are written in a similar manner.

"The last thing the world needs is more bad books." Really. The very LAST thing the world needs? The worst thing that can happen is encouraging a bunch of people with mediocre writing skills to work for a month at improving those skills, to boost their creative minds, and to increase their love of the written word? I would have thought war, pestilence, famine, and death were much worse, but I guess not to Ms. Miller. ;)

"But even if every one of these 30-day novelists prudently slipped his or her manuscript into a drawer, all the time, energy and resources that go into the enterprise strike me as misplaced." Because it is so much better to spend that energy reading pointless bits of writing like her blog. Or watching bad reality shows on TV. Right.

"It was yet another depressing sign that the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading are being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing." Pretty obvious the young lady has not given this much thought. Bookstores would not do this unless they saw a benefit. Wonder what the benefit might be from having a number of avid literature fans hanging out in their store? Heck, wonder what the benefit might be to the book industry in general to encourage a love of words? Food for thought.

"I say "commerce" because far more money can be made out of people who want to write novels than out of people who want to read them. And an astonishing number of individuals who want to do the former will confess to never doing the latter." Fascinating. Now, I'm a state "ML" - municipal liaison - for NaNo, first time this year. So I volunteer to help get things like a kick-off and write-ins organized. As a result, I meet a lot of people involved. I have *never* met one who was not an avid reader. I am left to wonder if she's actually ever met someone doing NaNoWriMo.  Or any other writer, for that matter.

"Frankly, there are already more than enough novels out there -- more than those of us who still read novels could ever get around to poking our noses into, even when it's our job to do so." Really, this has got to be one of the silliest lines she wrote. I guess we can all hang up our word processors now, right? If there's more than enough novels out there, why are we writing more? Are there enough paintings, music, other works of art too? Have we reached the peak of human culture for all time? I think not.

"Yet while there's no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books." Which is why, of course, even though we're in the middle of the worst financial mess since the Depression, publishing is still doing better than virtually every other industry in the country, right? Because no one is reading?

"but it's the readers who are fragile, a truly endangered species" Not sure where she is drawing this conclusion from. There are more people reading more books right now than there have ever been before at any time in human history.  By raw numbers or by percent of the population.

"Rather than squandering our applause on writers -- who, let's face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not -- why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers?" No one is asking for her applause. And if she wants to found a non-profit group to support readers, I think that sounds great. Having one does not prevent the other any more than having the Boston Marathon stops folks from attending the New York Philharmonic.

Long story short, I find her logic terribly flawed, her data woefully inaccurate, and her conclusions unjustified and borderline libelous. But of course, she intended her writing to come across that way. But, there's probably no better way to ensure hits on her website (and therefore dollars in her pocket) than to insult writing in the middle of November.

Ms. Miller aside, I hope everyone out there working on their November Novels continues their work.  Keep writing.  Keep the work going.  Keep pushing a little bit each day.

Now excuse me, I have some word count to go catch up on...!