I had never heard of “National Novel Writing Month” until a very strongly-worded jab against its participants came through on one of my RSS feeds. So I went to have a look at the NaNoWriMo web site to see what it was all about. Basically, the idea is to encourage writers to bang out a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. As the web site says, “You will be writing a lot of crap”, but is that a bad thing?
When I first started scribbling I could write a 100,000 word book in about eight months. More recently, it’s taken me a couple of years to produce a book of that length. The difference? Now I spend a heck of a lot more time going back and editing than I did at first. But I think in order to get to that point, I first had to go through the mad rush to produce something. Looking back now, the original drafts of the stuff I wrote in eight months tends to read like, well, crap. That’s why “Three Detectives” will never see the light of day, except perhaps as a curiosity. That’s why I had to spend four or five months re-editing “Long Before Dawn” before putting it out. (I didn’t spend quite that much time on “Dragon Stones”, but that was a more recent book, which means I had already put a lot of time into editing it after the first draft was finished.)
I don’t make any proprietary claim on the term “writer”. I still think of myself as one, even though I’ve never made much money at it (my computer job is what pays the bills), and even though all I’ve been writing lately are the misadventures of an amusingly ill-informed dog. No doubt the literary purists would regard Dennis’s Diary of Destruction with scorn, but I’m quite sure that Dennis has more readers than my books ever did, and I get the satisfaction of having actual people look at what I produce. Right now, that’s more than enough to keep me going. (And in case anyone doubts how hard I worked at getting my stuff published, just refer to my You Suck tag. Trust me, I’ve not even begun to approach having posted 1% of the rejection letters in my file.)
I certainly don’t see any harm in NaNoWriMo. Given that it’s been months since I actually did any editing on my latest book, I won’t be participating, but I don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to attack those who do. Someone’s effort to produce a finished novel, under whatever sort of conditions, doesn’t devalue anyone else’s work. (The publishing world is already awash in slush.) Anything that gets people writing is a good thing, in my opinion; it encourages thinking, and we certainly need more of that these days. So carry on, everyone. I’ll see you in the bookstore.