Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WordNerdGirl vs. The Lit Critic (in defense of NaNoWriMo)

I originally logged on to write a brief post about NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month, which kicked off November 1st. (Bang out 50,000 words for the first draft of a novel in a month, which is a little over 1,600 words/day. If you're not familiar with it, check out A friend had emailed over Halloween weekend to ask if I was doing it. I hadn't planned on it but, still bummed out about my graduate school plans falling through (for an MFA in creative writing) and determined to follow through on my newly-adopted, improv-inspired "Yes, And..." writing philosophy, I decided to cheer him on (go Dave!) and do my own, unofficial version of NaNoWriMo... a Nano-NaNoWriMo, if you will: if I manage at least 500 words a day, I'll be happy. After two days, I have over 2,000 words, so for myself, I'm ahead of the game.
But, like I said, I originally wanted just to share that little snib, but this morning, Laura Miller at managed to annoy me again with this article (which means she's doing her job as a critic, I suppose). So, in true bloggy fashion, I'm going disagree. Or, if I want to increase readership of this blog, I guess I should be a little more extreme and flamey:


Okay, scratch that. Honestly, that's too extreme for my taste. How about...

Hey Lady, Chill out!

Nah... not enough 'zazz in that title. Oh wait, I know... we'll go with the superhero/comic book imagery:
Hey Lady, Chill out!

WordNerdGirl vs. The Lit Critic

I  like it. It oversimplifies the argument a la The Huffington Post, but doesn't get too personal. And I get to picture myself in a super-hero costume, which is just silly, like a lot of flamey blog wars. But I'm getting off track here...

Ms. Miller is arguing that NaNoWriMo is "a waste of time" and that people shouldn't encourage writers to write their stories. Instead, she says we should be encouraging readers to read, because they will demand good stories from writers. That just plain old doesn't make any sense, and completely misses the point of NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is about being creative, having fun and getting something you can work with down on the paper. How "good" it is doesn't matter when you're writing a first draft (and "good" is in the eye of the reader.) Sure, most of those writers may never get their story published, but so what, if they enjoy writing it?

Her main complaint seems to be that most NaNoWriMo participants don't go through the next (and necessary) step of editing and/or re-writing before sending in their submissions. Okay, fair enough. If you're serious about getting published, you have to do that work. Maybe NaNoWriMo should launch a rewriting initiative in February -- a ReWriNaNoWriMo, if you will, to encourage and guide writers who want to try to publish. But to complain because agents and publishers have to wade through a large slush pile of unsolicited, unedited manuscripts in the months after NaNoWriMo ends just sounds silly. If I'm not mistaken -- that's their job!

She also takes issue with the fact that NaNoWriMo encourages writers to seek encouragement. Again, that's just silly. Some of us need that encouragement, especially you're a writer (like me) who has the very bad habit of editing as we write, so much that we give up on our stories before they ever get past the first 30 pages; and especially if you're a writer (like me) who wanted to do something like an MFA in creative writing program, -- which would no doubt get the Literary Critic Seal of Approval -- but can't. If every writer approached writing the way she is suggesting, there would be very few stories for readers to read, because all the writers would be too busy second-guessing their stories, lest they be branded as "bad." And, as for all those readers who are being encouraged to read stories that those writers aren't writing, how is a reader supposed to know what stories are "good" or "bad" if they have nothing to compare?

So I am going to publish this post, eat my stuffed cabbage lunch, and get back to cranking out my unofficial nano-NaNoWriMo project of (at least) 500 words before the younger two kids wake up from their naps. My heroine needs to escape her kidnappers, which may sound like a bad story to some, but writing it is just fun for me.

*Referenced links: Better Yet, DON'T Write That Novel,, The Huffington Post, Salon

*In fairness, I adopted this format from for blog links after reading another column by Laura Miller, so she's not wrong all the time.

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