NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 2

Is NaNoWriMo evil, as suggested recently by Laura Miller in Salon? (Well, she didn’t use the word evil, exactly, but close.) We asked The Spectacle writers for their thoughts:

Does NaNo encourage the wrong folks to write (crap)?

Kari: There are a lot of people who want to write, or who joke about writing, “the great American novel.” I think it’s fine if non-writers want to jump in the fray. If anything, it will (hopefully) give them more respect for authors and how difficult our job can be. Plus, maybe a few will discover they really can write and that they love it. Why couldn’t NaNo result in the discovery of the Next Great Writer?

PJ: I would not encourage a non-writer to try it. It’s aimed at people who have already tried their hand at writing and have worked through lots of the basics. There are too many things to be learned in writing a first novel. That’s not to say there won’t be exceptions to this for some non-writers, but this won’t be the general case.

Parker: I wouldn’t encourage non-writers to try it. I don’t care to torture newbies this way.

Linda Joy: I’m all for freedom of choice. It can be a great exercise for new writers and a focused challenge for experienced writers. Why would anyone want to do it if they aren’t a writer? Writing is hard work. I recently explained what it was like to stress over 8 pages a day to a non-writing friend: “Imagine you’re concentrating on something really hard, struggling to remember or come up with an idea — then imagine doing it all day while staring at a computer screen.

Thinking hard is HARD work.  And embarking on NaNoWriMo without any writing skills is like going on a journey blindfolded. I’d rather travel with a map.

Greg: I believe everyone has a novel in them, struggling to get out. Tell me I’m naive, or idealistic, or just trying to justify the voices in my head that keep screaming for me to “write, write, write,” but I’m absolutely certain we’re all born with an innate urge to tell stories. Even if it’s not well written — first attempts rarely are — and even if nobody else will ever read it, dumping that novel out of your brain and onto paper or a computer screen will help to keep you sane.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than 30 days to complete a draft or if your story ends up shorter than 50,000 words. If the NaNo rules don’t suit your work style, make up your own set of rules.

Joni: Greg is naive, or idealistic, or just trying to justify the voices in his head. (Just doing what you said to do, Greg!) I guess I’m too tired of hearing from nonwriters (and, usually, nonREADERS) who have “a great story idea” and are sure they could whip out a bestseller — just as soon as they can get around to jotting it down — to have much support for non-writers lured by NaNo. On one hand, as Kari notes, maybe it helps them appreciate some of the work that goes into a book. On the other, it reinforces the impression that anyone can do it in a few weeks and that it’s nothing like a full-time job or takes any persistence, talent, or skill. On the other other hand, I loved WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (a NaNo book), so clearly good stuff can come of it.

Which leads us to tomorrow’s question. In the meantime, have you known anyone who participated in NaNo who wasn’t already writing anyway?


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2 responses to “NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 2

  1. We have a lot of high school students who do NaNo in our area. It’s a great way to get them to express their creativity. It’s also a great introduction to the world of writing. Whether they become authors or not isn’t really the point. It’s the same as people taking a class in oil painting or weaving or any other creative endeavor. Very few of them will become professionals in that field, but all of them will live a richer life because they’ve touched their inner creativity.

    For that reason alone, I recommend NaNo to anyone who wants to find out what being a writer is all about.

    • I can totally see why it would be great for young writers, especially — excitement, camaraderie… and probably not so much of the pressure that a lot of adult participants put on themselves. Thanks, J!

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