ICYMI, November, along with being the moustachio’d “Movember” for prostate cancer, is also the month designated as National Novel Writing Month, cleverly acronyzed to NaNoWriMo. In this creative writing contest, writers (and most especially non-writers) are encouraged to write a fifty-thousand-word novel between November 1st and November 31st.
It’s a big ole thing, with a logo and a hashtag or two, even a whole cottage industry that grows up around the many writers who strike gold and need professional editing and cover design and social media platform building and business cards, custom bookmarks and coffee mugs. The amateur graphic designer in me should salivate all through NaNoWriMo. But, I have hated it ever since I first heard of it. Well, I used to.
Why I hated. It’s tough to really hone your craft as a writer. There are big things like story arc, character development, the interplay between text and subtext, on and on… and then a bunch of people who post shots of their step tracker screen after every jog decide that it would be fun to write a bunch of words each day and post word counts. I really felt like it cheapened what we do.
And the cottage industry I was talking about, the editors, good and bad, the artisinal marketplace of all things “author” – I used to feel that this scene swung on a pendulum between indulgent and predatory.
But, as much shade as I’ve just thrown on NaNoWriMo, I have to come clean in the fact that I no longer hate it. Yes, there is a predatory nature to some of the “services” offered to newbie writers, but, to be fair, there’s just as many parasites latching on to writers from December through October. So, you know, welcome to the jungle, baby.
And oh my holy God, people aren’t taking High Literature seriously! Shit, I got a story coming out about a guy eating folks. Maybe I‘m not taking high literature seriously. And I get that a lot of NaNoWriMo people are going to self publish, and fill the limited World Attention Span with white noise and crap prose. They’re going to make it worse than it is now? Really? I can still find hot reads, can’t you?
So no, I’m not a hater of NaNoWriMo. Most people will not succeed. That’s true any time you pick up a pen (or keyboard) to write. Having a logo and a word count goal doesn’t make the mojo, but if it gives you a reason to dig that mojo out of the bag, all the more power to you. Some people find their voice, and go on to really kick ass.
I won’t be doing it, in case you wanted to know (for the one of you that wants to know.) Not a protest, I’m not better than it, I just know that I do novels in the spring, and short stories around the holidays. I will, I think, try to write something every day – a story, blog post, interview, ransom note, drunk text, whatever.
And to those of you doing NaNoWriMo, veteran writer or dabbler, just know that literature, in all of its forms, speaks through the ages in a way that a lot of artistic expression can’t. It is timeless in that it can transmit an idea even as the world that idea is wrapped in warps and twists.
And have fun.