Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Nanowrimo is Ridiculous

Nanowrimo is a word which you never hear until the last week in October, when all your friends suddenly begin throwing it around with startling alacrity. You google it, and find that it means National Novel Writing Month. You are confused. You are even more confused that this epic wordathon take place during November, a month that responsible people generally begin planning their holidays and celebrating Thanksgiving and getting their work done so that they can celebrate said holidays. 

In other words, I'm far too busy to write a novel. It might be better if it took place during another month, say August, when the news is at its slowest. In August, everyone's bored out of their minds. They need an activity which keeps them indoors and out of the oppressive heat. But the geniuses behind Nanowrimo didn't really think it through, and picked November because November starts with NO and goes in Nanowrimo.

Nevertheless, none of these things surprise you as much as the idea that people you never knew had any desire to write a book are suddenly all convinced that they could be the next EL James. 

I say EL James, because very few of the books which have ever emerged from this marathon writing month have ever actually been deemed much good. Or, let's say they're good, but they're not exactly the kind that the New Yorker takes seriously unless it's featured in the Borowitz Report. Like Water for Elephants, a story so compelling, that when they made it into a film, they decided to cast Edward Cullen as its star. If this doesn't say something about your story, I don't know what does. 

None of these would be authors ever seemed to have a bent for writing fiction before, so at first you merely read their twitter updates and Facebook updates with something akin to quiet amusement. The amusement is tinged with annoyance as November grows closer each and every day, and you see much wailing, angst, and general gnashing of teeth as the reality of the thousands of words dawn on them. 

You see promoted tweets in your timeline, giving such gems of advice to vanquish writer's block. Some of these are practical suggestions, like killing off a character every time you get stuck in your narrative. Some of these are psychopathic suggestions, like switching from first to third person narratives without warning, in order to either disturb your reader or give them a headache, I hardly know which.  

November progresses. You begin receiving strange and random Facebook messages which make no sense from people at times when normal human beings are generally asleep. Your twitter timeline is awash with people wailing about how editing should count as much as writing. Their wailing segues into resignation, and then quiet condemnation of any month long celebration in which people are supposed to turn word counts into something halfway readable. They all decide to skip Thanksgiving celebrations with their families in favor of catching up to the word count that they lost way back on the third of November, and you take great delight in Instagramming your Thanksgiving dinner and happy face and posting it to every social media outlet you use, knowing that it will rankle their little word hungry souls. 

They are right to wail, because they are suffering, but they are gravely mistaken about what all this suffering is for. It’s not suffering for art. Suffering for your art means that you are starving in an attic and will be immortalized by Puccini as soon as you die. 

Nanowrimo is suffering for money. Everyone's heard the stories of the authors whose November scribblings turned into legitimate books, like the aforementioned Water for Elephants or the Night Circus. Neither of these books were very good, but they at least made considerable amounts of money, especially considering that no one gets rich off of writing anymore. They made this money because thousands of the other people who fancy that they’ll write books in the month of November buy them to try and find out how to do it.  

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