Wednesday, November 3, 2010
NaNo: Oh No? Oh YES!
"So you have creative aspirations, huh? Well, DON'T."
At least, that's what Laura Miller of Salon.com would like you to believe.
A friend linked this article on her Facebook page this morning. Basically, Ms. Miller takes it upon herself to deride all participants in National Novel Writing Month as delusional time-wasters who believe that penning a first draft makes them J.K. Rowling.
You know what, Laura?
Kiss my NaNoWriMo'ing ass.
Below is the (very polite, for me) devil's advocate comment I posted on my friend's page:
Wow. That's a lot of vitriol. Just to play devil's advocate, I did do NaNo last year, and am doing it again. I'm stil rewriting my project from last year, and will keep doing so until I feel it's good enough to submit to agents (which, initially, I did earlier this year, but not without editing and rewriting first). Like I did last year, I outlined this year's project, did character sketches and plot summaries, and spent months thinking about my plot and characters (all of which are allowed within NaNo guidelines).
Before NaNo, I had written two novel-length manuscripts. I have a blog and write for a film website. I've also spent time at an arts colony, an opportunity that was very competitive to get. I read constantly, and I've never understood so called "writers" who say they don't read. Writers read, that's that.
However, I also have a full-time-plus job, and before I did NaNo, my last manuscript's first draft took eight months to complete. As it happens, November is also when things slow down a bit at my workplace, so it gives me more time and energy into getting out a first draft, which I will subsequently rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite.
The point of a first draft is to exist. It should never be submitted to someone for representation or publication as is. There will always be people who don't understand that. However, there are plenty of us who do, and who will keep working on our novels for months to come.
The author of this column has a right to her opinion, of course, and it's true that this writing approach is not for everyone. I just feel it generalized a bit, as not everyone has all the time in the world to write, and it CAN be productive to churn something out in a month and work from there.
Plus, if someone's going to plunk out a crappy novel instead of watching a million hours of TV, why not let them?
Now, here's where I let shit get real:
Really, Laura Miller? Really? You're going to take a ton of people the world over--serious writers with our eye on publishing, folks who want to give writing a shot, lit lovers all--and tell us NOT to take part in an activity we choose to do on our own, that no one's forcing YOUR uppity ass into? Really?
Because it's soooo bad for someone to think outside the box. God forbid they like to read and want to take a stab at making something of their own. No way should anyone who feels a little bored or unfulfilled or depressed channel their negative energy into something positive. Never should someone use their typing fingers for anything other than operating a remote control.
Three and a half years ago, I distinctly remember saying to my mother: "I'm a 27-year-old temp. Who cares what I think about anything?"
Then I went with a friend to our alma mater's production of Cinderella. It wasn't great. But it made me remember an idea I'd had years ago. About the backstage drama at a community theatre production of that very show.
The next morning, I woke up and reached for my laptop. I wrote a seven-page story, that eventually became a 120-page novel. Several months later I showed it to Bob, aka The Friend Who Doesn't Tell You What You Want to Hear, But What You Need to Hear.
He said, "It's good. You should keep writing."
A year and a half later, I took my first long-term fiction writing class. Maybe two or three of us wanted to publish eventually. The rest were there because (cover your ears, Laura), they liked reading and writing. They thought it was FUN. And you know what? We all read and wrote and listened and gave feedback and laughed and made friends and generally had an awesome time. And we learned stuff.
I know, I know: such a waste of time! Think of all the shitty TV I DIDN'T watch!
In between 2007 and now, I've written three manuscripts. I started a blog. I've been an artist in residence. I've also made a ton of friends, real and virtual, that have made me laugh and made me learn.
I'm still trying to get published. I don't have an agent yet. My NaNo from last year is still a work in progress. Will I ever get that elusive book deal? I don't know.
Will I ever regret writing?
To get the bad taste of Ms. Miller's article out of your mouth, I offer you a quote from the filmmakers of Up, which won big at the Oscars earlier this year:
"You want to be creative? Get out there and do it! It's not a waste of time."
That's what I'm talking about.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have two angsty 70's music-loving teenagers in my head, who need my attention.