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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why The NaNoWriMo Hate?

I stumbled on this while googling articles on wuxia, of all things:

The thing that made McCloud's challenge interesting is that it stemmed exactly from a deep and abiding love of the medium and a desire to see more work in it. As for National Novel Writing Month, they seem to care more about making you feel good than about anything having remotely to do with storytelling. And you'll excuse me if I find that just a little depressing.
-- Why I Hate National Novel Writing Month, and Why You Should Too [Wet Asphalt]

Regulars should know already that NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to people to try and write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Some people apparently get offended by this. Eric is one of those people.

Later on, after some bashing on being elitist, he rephrases his statement as "NaNoWriMo trivializes novel writing" and later "'Trying your hand' at writing fiction and writing a whole novel (in a month, no less) are not quite the same thing. I stand by what I've already said."

What's sad about this anti-NaNoism is how completely ignorant it really is of NaNo and the people who participate in it. Guys like Eric (and I ranted about another similar one on the Sunset blog) just hear about the contest and read the FAQ and dismiss it as belittling the art form. They are almost universally English geeks of some variety and generally lit snobs at that.

Thing is - Eric's "clarifications" on his points make it so obvious that he himself misses the point of NaNoWriMo almost completely. There's little comparison to NaNo and say - actually writing a novel. NaNoers are generally quite aware of this. If Eric would just dig a little deeper into the FAQ, he'd see:

How do you define "novel?" Does fan fiction count? What if I want to write interconnected short stories rather than a novel? What if my story is largely autobiographical, or is based on a real person? Can I still write it in November?
We define a novel as "a lengthy work of fiction." Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you're writing falls under the heading of "novel." In short: If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too.

In other words - NaNo defines "novel" as "that thing you're trying to write." A lot of people engage in lengthy works of fan fiction. Some are trying first drafts. And yes, some are trying to actually get a novel done. The construct of "writing a novel" in NaNo terms isn't supposed to be a microcosmic version of professional novel writing - it's just a way of encaspulating one month of writing in a generic way. You want to write a "novel" of poetry? Go at it.

So to clarify for guys like Eric - they could have called it National Write 50,000 Words Month ... but it just doesn't sell as well. However, nobody is threatening your cherished notion of a novel or it's lofty place as a literary form. They're just trying to get people to have an excuse to write.

Simply put - anything that gets a large group of people writing anything is a good thing. Especially in this day and age of e-mails and instant messaging ... writing is getting to be taken for granted. The best advice I've ever gotten from both of the best writing teachers I've ever known is ... just write. Writing is an exercise and if you don't keep up a regiment ... you'll loose it. If NaNoWriMo is that month long fitness exercise non-writers need to keep their pen muscles in shape ... all power to it.



Anonymous said...

Wow - I had no idea some people hated NaNoWriMo.

I can't see their point of view at all.

Josh said...

Same here. And yet, every November...

It's sad is that it often comes from people who really enjoy literature but have some elitist bug. It's someone who wants to tell a group of people that they are "writing for the wrong reasons" - a nonsensical concept to the bone.