Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Climb the NaNoWriMo Mountain

To Climb the NaNoWriMo Mountain

ToTheTop3Okay. I know a lot of you are heads-down in the midst of NaNoWriMo. Others have decided to pass. Either way is fine with me. Apparently, it’s not fine with everyone.

Laura Miller, senior “writer” at (yeah, I meant the quotes), who admittedly “as someone who doesn’t write novels” has this to say among other things:

…far more money can be made out of people who want to write novels than out of people who want to read them.

…why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? [emphasis mine]

But even if every one of these 30-day novelists prudently slipped his or her manuscript into a drawer, all the time, energy and resources that go into the enterprise strike me as misplaced.

(read it all here)

Okay, first point…writers are poor. They aren’t the world’s greatest demographic. I’m pretty sure writers don’t target other writers for their books. (just critique ;)

Second point…you mean like book tours, speaking engagements, posters in supermarkets, which all generally cost more than the book takes in? Okay, quick fact check. I did a local search on for local writing clubs. It found 43. Now for local reading clubs. 126. Look! 3 times as many results! Hey, let’s check Google. Writing Club: 46M. Book Club: 199M. Also…Google has a whole frickin’ app called “Books.” Where’s the Google writing app? (Oh yeah, Docs…but it’s blank until you write something).

Lastly…“misplaced”?? WTF? Why do anything then? Why plant a garden if it dies in the fall? Why finish a jigsaw puzzle if you just break it up and put it back? Why have kids if they just grow up and have their own families? Why breathe in if you’re going to breathe it out again?

People like Laura Miller don’t “get it.” They don’t have the spark of creativity, so they can’t appreciate it in others. Why build crap? Why write 50,000+ words that you will just throw away? What if Picasso stopped after his first crappy painting? What if Mozart stopped after his first off-key note? Yeah, are all 170,000 participants in NaNoWriMo the next Mark Twain? No. But…yes. They are. They are the seeds of something greater, that when cultivated may grow into a story for the ages. Sure, maybe you wrote 50,000 words of crap, and tossed it away, deleted the file, whatever. But you are not the same person you were before. You’ve changed. You’ve learned. The next 50,000 will be better. The next 50,000 better still.

A couple years ago I spent all my free time training for a summit climb of Mount Rainier. Every weekend was a massive hike. Every day another workout. For 8 months. And then, when all was said and done, I didn’t make it all the way to the top due to altitude sickness. Was all that time wasted? Was the money I spent on gear and training and the expedition misplaced? What do I have to show for it? Well…I have nothing. BUT. I climbed to 11,000 feet. That’s 11,000 feet more than most people have ever climbed. Will my NaNoWriMo novels ever be published? Or will they fall short? Am I just wasting my time, pretending that I am something I’m not? Are we all just wasting our time?

Here’s the thing. No one writes because they are forced to. People write because they’re driven to write, to say the things that no one else can. Here’s one last thing Laura Miller said, and it’s something you should all think about:

Frankly, there are already more than enough novels out there

Maybe. But there’s a problem. You see, there’s one book missing. One book that really connects with you on a personal level, one book that changes things, one book that tells the perfect story.

Yours. And you’re the only one who can write it.

Now get writing!


  1. If she really thinks all the books that she'd ever want to read have already been written, she's not a reader. If she's this hostile to people who want to write, she's not a reader.

  2. O.o There are more than enough novels out there? What if they'd declared a moratorium on novels in the 1600's? Or the 1920's? What a narrow-minded view of the world! I wonder if she's also not interested in traveling because it's still dirt under her feet. What a sad way to look at things.
    Can you tell you hit one of my buttons, Andrew? ;)
    Btw, you forgot to include housework...and laundry...and dishes. They'll all just get dirty again, so why clean them?

  3. I typed out a whole response expressing my annoyance and how much I agree, but it got lost.

  4. Brilliant post. I'm linking to it from my blog, because I couldn't say it better myself.

  5. This is fantastic. I also wrote a diatribe to her. I haven't gotten so riled up since last night's election returns, which admittedly isn't saying much. But still. Grr.

    She really outed herself as a Grade A A-Hole with this one.

  6. I never saw the point of Nano, either. I always figured that a person who wants to write will write. So why am I doing nano this year? Partly because I need to get back into the habit of writing, but mostly because there is a vague chance that by doing the words without counting the worth, just by chance, something wonderful might show up. And if it doesn't, so what?

  7. @Jordan: She's an elitist poser who's never written one worthy thing in her life.

    @Laura: Shh! Great, you've ruined my secret to my "superfast" laundry technique.

    @Venessa: No problem. I bet it was great.

    @Ian: Thanks. Some people, especially journalist types, don't really get what writing fiction is all about and why some people are so compelled to do it.

    @Allison: Great Diatribe! I don't get why people think reading and writing are the same thing. Do you want to know what makes me feel like shit? Reading. Because when I'm reading, I think one of two things:
    1) This is so awesome that I'll never be able to write like this.
    2) If this crappy shit is publishable, so is my stuff. And I write way better.
    Anyways, that's my little diatribe.

    @Pat: That's the spirit! I think you finally "get" it! I'm writing a contemporary mystery. No SF/F at all. Not even historical. I'll give a month to it and see what I come up with. And if it sucks, so what? I've learned about mystery writing technique and written in a different style.

    No writing is ever "misplaced" effort. Everything we write teaches us about ourselves and the craft.

  8. Well said!!!

    Would she really rather have all of us NaNo-ers out here vie for her job as a "serious" writer instead? :)

  9. Definately well said!

    What a weird thing to say...there's enough novels out there... she can't have thought too much about that before writing it.

  10. Quite frankly, I don't understand the crack about there being too many novels out there. A brief review of Myspace Music would hint that maybe there are more musicians and bands that the world would ever need, but no one would dream of telling them to give up.

    For some reason, people think it's ok to tell writers not to bother, when they'd never dream of saying the same thing to anyone else. And how will anyone know that their book is no good unless they write the damn thing in the first place?


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