Today is the day that most of the people who participated in the National Novel Writing Month word count fiasco can return to their normal lives. If you have been blissfully unaware of nanowrimo or nanomo or nanowri or nanowrinov as it is variously referred to in subliterate people’s online journals, I’ll explain it here. Essentially a bunch of strangers have a third party web site keep track of whether they write 50,000 words of drivel in a month. Of course, some people cheat and start writing early or use their text from the previous November, but most participants still do not achieve their goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in one month, specifically the month of November. Most participants have so little appreciation for the written word that they can’t even consistently abbreviate the name of the pseudo-contest they are participating in.

Here is an excerpt from the NaNoWriMo web site where they explain what their concept is, “Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap.

And this actually makes people want to participate. I love words. I write for a living and, in my spare time, I read and I write journals including SexyFandom. Yes, a professional writer sometimes needs to be able to keep track of how many words have been provided for the job. One of the reasons I enjoy doing SexyFandom so much is that I do not have the professional limitations I would on the job. Not only can I get into subject matter which I could not at work, but if I have ten words to say on a topic, I do not have to force out 1,000 more to meet some space requirement.

Many of my friends are writers, but it is specifically ones who are not who are giving excuses for messing up at work or forgetting social engagements by mentioning that they are writing in NaNoWriMo. They think writers will be extra-understanding of this. I am using the word friend rather generically here, as the NaNoWriMo acolytes I know are all people I know peripherally. They are trophy wives trying to prove they have a few brain cells now that they are getting older and less pretty. They are unemployed leech boyfriends who need to claim they are doing something besides shooting up and watching cartoons while their girl is at work. I am one of the most easy-going people ever born, but I find the whole National Novel Writing Month phenomenon a mockery of what it means to be a writer.

There is no market for 50,000 word novels. No real publisher will look at a novel that short, but it is too long to be published as a novella. It is pretty much the most useless length of story someone could train themselves to tell. Different word counts lend themselves to different sorts of stories, with different levels of complexity and character involvement. The 50,000 word length is what happens when a real writer gets stuck and has a story too complex for short fiction but not rich enough for an actual novel. A 50,000 word story is a tragedy which will never see the outside of the writer’s desk drawer. And NaNoWriMo is trying to teach people how to turn a passing interest in writing into a failure.

There is nothing wrong with writing only for yourself or for yourself and a few loved ones or for yourself and few drinking buddies. Writing to satisfy only your own passion in fine. Writing to only amuse a small group is fine. Writing a professional word count because the rent does not pay itself is fine. But forcing yourself to write crap for a month? That is just pathetic and the people encouraging this should be embarrassed.

There is also nothing wrong with loving books in general and novels in specific and not wanting to write one. Reading is a perfectly good pastime. Internet technology makes it really easy to keep a journal about whatever you actually do feel moved to write about. So maybe next November, fewer people will bring up the NaNoWriMo travesty. At least to me.

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Posted by on 12/1/2004. Filed under Books, IRL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
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