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October 31, 2007 3:57 PM   Subscribe

National Novel Writing Month (seen before) starts Nov. 1. The goal: complete a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, Nov. 30. If you'd like to start, or are otherwise working on a novel, Sean Lindsay and others would like you to please stop.

Looking back, the author of "101 Reasons to Stop Writing" sums up his blog's first year: "there are almost as many reasons to stop writing as there are bad writers who need to. When I began I had no idea if I could come up with one hundred and one reasons to stop writing, but now I wonder if I can restrict myself."
posted by kurumi (42 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh. That's a fun, snarky little site.
posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on October 31, 2007


With regard to the author of "101 Reasons to Stop Writing", my money is on "Never makes it to 101".
posted by clearlynuts at 4:14 PM on October 31, 2007


Meh. In all seriousness, though, I would like to publicly ask all those of my acquaintance who are participating in nanowrimo to please not send me their work until they've taken a second look at it. I was the lucky recipient of a friend's nanowrimo manuscript last December, and I found that this friend (who is normally a good writer) had written one of the worst things I have ever tried to process. Nanowrimo places great emphasis on getting "the words" down, and it is to a literary endeavor as a hotdog eating contest is to fine food. Just as it's impressive that a person can hit himself in the face with a brick until he passes out, it's impressive that someone can type 50,000 words in a month. It's a lot more impressive if someone writes 5000, though, if those words are the right ones. But if you really HAVE to do it, please...keep it to yourself. Your favorite nanowrimo novel sucks.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:18 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


I would like to publicly ask all those of my acquaintance who are participating in nanowrimo to please not send me their work until they've taken a second look at it.

People send out their NaNoWriMo stuff? Mine was so horrid, I wouldn't even share it with people who wanted to see it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:20 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that it's a fun exercise -- one of those "Man, I ran the boston marathon" kinds of things. Sure, you came in fifth-to-last, but it's something you know you conquered.

Doesn't mean that you're a precious snowflake, but then, snark is always easier than work.
posted by verb at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Kittens, I think the purpose is to open the floodgates and simply spew. Edit later. Just get the ideas out. I have hundreds of unfinished stories and novels because I was afraid to let something less than perfect escape my fingers. NaNo, in a way, is giving those of us who feel locked up in our ideas permission to just let it all out. It's OK if it sucks.

This is my first year seriously attempting NaNo. I've told a few friends about it, and will only pass the end product on to those who ask for it. Because I can guarantee that it will suck.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:27 PM on October 31, 2007


NaNo annoys me. Why not make a pledge to spend an hour every day (hell, you can even take weekends off) writing, and then another half-hour each day re-reading your stuff and cleaning it up. Seems like you'd get way more quantity and better quality that way.
posted by Brittanie at 4:33 PM on October 31, 2007


I completed NaNoWriMo last year and my novel:
(a) sold for $500,000 and has been a top seller in 14 territories; OR
(b) is a masterpiece that has had interest from a number of quality publishers; OR
(c) is sitting in my filing cabinet untouched since December 1, 2006.
posted by meech at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2007


Kittens, I think the purpose is to open the floodgates and simply spew. Edit later.

Oh, and I get that, believe me. What bothers me about nanowrimo is that people tend to let it deform their work. I'm sorry, but unless you're really, really good -- or really, really lucky -- the best case result is probably a springboard for a real novel. If you go into it knowing that, it might be an awesome, cathartic exercise. But TPS is right -- for the love of humanity, no one needs to see the results (at least not until you've reworked them into something fit for consumption).

I think the best possible outcome of nanowrimo is that people may trick themselves into writing every day...with any luck, abandoning the word count a week or so into the process, in favor of writing a book and not performing a stunt.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:45 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


In a lot of the creative writing seminars I've been in (not that many, but anyway), the "just write" thing is done in the first 1 or 2 sessions. You just put the pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and go. Much of the time they play some evocative or "inspiring" music or whatever. It lasts about 5 minutes. It can be an exciting and interesting exercise for a new writer.

NaNoWriMo is 30 days of it; for a lot of people it ends there, as well, which is definitely bad for the end product, and probably bad for the writer as well. I only know two people who have done NaNoWriMo, and neither of them have gone back over their work at all. Their novels stand as a sort of frozen puke-fountain of writing.

I won't slag on NaNoWriMo'ers moo much, because I have never written a novel, or even a story over 20 pages. But I like kittens' suggestion that a "real novel" could be chiseled from the puke fountain.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:52 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Heh, "moo much." I should favorite my own comment for that. Of course, I meant "too much."
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:55 PM on October 31, 2007


I will never show anyone my NaNoWriMo novel, but before NaNoWriMo, I was the promising young writer who can't get it together long enough to make something happen, and after NaNoWriMo I finished things, got an agent, sold.

I absolutely recommend doing NaNo. Yes, your novel will almost certainly be terrible. But committing to pounding out a lousy novel in a month turns off your inner editor, and your inner editor is what keeps most promising young writers from ever, you know, finishing anything.

/earnest
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:23 PM on October 31, 2007 [5 favorites]


It's not that different from cooking one Julia Child recipe a week, or reading the Encyclopedia Britannica, or other crazy human experiments. Most people do it for the fun and the chance to learn something about themselves, not necessarily so they can publish the Great American Thingamabob.

Let the frozen puke-fountains be! I wrote one in 2001 as part of Nanowrimo and although there was enough good stuff in there for me to think "well, someday I'll clean out the crap," I haven't done it yet. BUT it was an invaluable way for me to get going, to really come to terms with the fact (as opposed to the theory) that to write you actually need to WRITE something - maybe anything - and to shake off some of the dust from my not-so-mad-skillz. I got a lot out of it, and am going to do it again, starting tomorrow morning. Perhaps I will churn out another frozen puke-fountain, but it will be MY frozen puke-fountain! And I don't mind that moo much [sic]!

Best of luck to other writers out there...
posted by nkknkk at 5:25 PM on October 31, 2007


Looking back, the author of "101 Reasons to Stop Writing" sums up his blog's first year: "there are almost as many reasons to stop writing as there are bad writers who need to.

There's nothing wrong with bad writers writing. The real problem is bad writers expecting to get published. If someone's writing for fun and maybe giving copies to interested friends at most, then there's no harm at all (beats watching TV, at the very least). It's only when all the bad writers start cluttering the line-ups at book conventions and mass-mailing paper door-stoppers to every publisher and agent in town that the real problems start.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:26 PM on October 31, 2007


Well, my problem with writing is that I start to revise before I've even finished and then I re-revise and then I have a new idea and by this point I'm frustrated I've only written a few dozen pages (at most, usually far less) and I then quit for an extended period of time.

This kind of exercise will (I hope) free me from that. I fully anticipate it will take months to sort out the 50,000 words that I aspire to write this November. But first I've got to get the words out. And whether it's good? Who knows? But I have years of practice at revision and I've become pretty good at it.
posted by MasonDixon at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why not make a pledge to spend an hour every day (hell, you can even take weekends off) writing, and then another half-hour each day re-reading your stuff and cleaning it up. Seems like you'd get way more quantity and better quality that way.
I am not a writing professional (at least, not anymore) but I interviewed a fair number of writers about their work. Writers who'd done pretty well and moved books. The only person I ever spoke to who wrote novels the way you describe came from a journalism background, and was writing historical fiction. She was used to those rhythms and also had the luxury of mapping out a clearly bounded plot, with easy-to-identify landmarks, before she ever put pen to paper.

The people who spew and spew and think that their stuff is beautiful and precious and untouchable aren't going to get better by editing every day. They don't see the need to edit, and that's the problem.

The vast majority of beginning writers -- at least, the ones who will be any good, ever -- get more hung up on the self-editing, on the overthinking, on trying to produce a perfect page that they won't be embarrassed to show their friends, than they do on actually writing. Sometimes a mood or grim determination can power someone through a short story, but novel-length stuff can easily turn into two-chapter-long quagmire unless you learn to turn off the internal editor completely and just put material on the page. Without that, there IS nothing to edit.

Editing is something best done with a more-or-less-complete work. Writing an hour a day and then editing the next day is fine and good for very short fiction or essays. It's murder for novel-length work, though, where the biggest challenge isn't making a given page perfect but in maintaining the momentum to get through to the final chapter.
posted by verb at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


On preview, what MasonDixon said.
posted by verb at 5:42 PM on October 31, 2007


NaNo annoys me. Why not make a pledge to spend an hour every day (hell, you can even take weekends off) writing, and then another half-hour each day re-reading your stuff and cleaning it up. Seems like you'd get way more quantity and better quality that way.

Because editing is a completely different process from writing.

Also, what verb said.
posted by knave at 5:44 PM on October 31, 2007


I never said "edit."
posted by Brittanie at 5:49 PM on October 31, 2007


I just use an IBM Selectric without a correction ribbon to write. There's no going backwards and then I get the chance to go over every single word, passage, page, etc when I type it into Word (or Pages or whatever else). Good luck dealing with the inner editor when the inner lazy person doesn't want to put in a fresh sheet of paper until it's full.

I'm doing anti-NaNoWriMo of sorts. I'm going to dedicate a good chunk of my time to story structure, character background work and all the stuff I should do before I sit in front of the Selectric.

Then again, I've never written a Nanowrimo length anything, so we'll see.
posted by Gucky at 5:49 PM on October 31, 2007


My point is to make writing a routine, not an annual puke fountain. But it also doesn't do any good to produce reams and reams of work if you never go back and revisit that work to see what might be of value and what needs to be shelved.
posted by Brittanie at 5:51 PM on October 31, 2007


Much as I love the NaNoWriMo thing and am grateful to it for having helped me produce the one decent novel I have written so far (as yet unpublished but I'm working on that), I am reminded of the well-known author who was asked if he thought that modern writing courses stifled the voices of too many young writers. "It doesn't stifle enough of them," was his reply.
posted by motty at 5:54 PM on October 31, 2007


Oddly enough, I actually "finished" my NaNo novel - which is to say I went through the 50,000 words, then took another 12 months writing another 60,000 to get to the actual end of the novel. Then I never went back over it again. Sort of the same result, I guess.
posted by absalom at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2007


My point is to make writing a routine, not an annual puke fountain. But it also doesn't do any good to produce reams and reams of work if you never go back and revisit that work to see what might be of value and what needs to be shelved.
On that point, then, we can agree. The folks I know who've really gotten something out of NANOWRIMO saw the experience as a running-a-marathon sort of thing. Suddenly, gettign up in the morning and jogging for thirty minutes didn't seem quite as daunting, and they realized that they were capable of carrying through on something that had previously seemed impossibly distant.

Having spent a few years reviewing (shudder) almost every piece of fiction produced in the Christian publishing world, I definitely agree that there are plenty of authors who just shouldn't be authors.

I just have a really nasty reaction to folks like the writer of the blog linked above, who get their rocks making fun of people who participate in something fun and personally significant. One might just as easily say that he should get the hell off the internet -- as a blogger, he's nothing more than a wannabee editorialist whose work isn't good enough to make it to print.
posted by verb at 6:23 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, the lesson is: Unless you're instantly good at something, don't even bother.

A hack wants other hacks to stop hacking. Let me know when something funny happens.
posted by zerolives at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2007


But it also doesn't do any good to produce reams and reams of work if you never go back and revisit that work to see what might be of value and what needs to be shelved.

Says who? Says you, maybe. If someone wants to write 50,000 words that they never touch again just because they can, why do you care?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


I never said "edit."

Yeah, but when you re-read this tomorrow you'll wish you could edit it so that you did say it.
posted by mullacc at 7:08 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Surely DFW didn't do a thorough post-editing of Infinite Jest...?
posted by iamck at 7:51 PM on October 31, 2007


People send out their NaNoWriMo stuff?

Some of us go a step further and send it out while still writing it. :)
posted by dobbs at 8:32 PM on October 31, 2007


You're braver than I! My novel was dreck. And yet, still a lot of fun to write!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Self-discipline is self-discipline, whether you puke it all out in a month and edit it later, or you spend a year writing an hour each day. Some amount of kicking your own ass is involved either way, and if you achieve your goal of producing good work in the end, it shouldn't matter how it plays out on a calendar. And if your goal is to write 50,000 words and never look at them again, then good for you for doing that. You still had to make yourself sit down and do it.

I'm doing Nanowrimo precisely because I hope it'll help me turn off my internal editor, if not for always, then at least for thirty days. Ideally it'll serve as a free license to put everything on the page, no matter how bad it is at first. And I think I'll feel better knowing that a bunch of other people are doing the same thing.

(Frozen puke-fountain is my new favorite phrase.)

(And does this post really have no tags whatsoever, or am I seeing things?)
posted by bluishorange at 9:39 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, I guess tags go missing temporarily on preview. Nevermind.
posted by bluishorange at 9:40 PM on October 31, 2007


When is NaSTFUMo? I would encourage most of the internet to participate in that.
posted by kyleg at 9:41 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sean Lindsay is my new hero. Following his vision, I now resolve to post less on Metafilter.
posted by the number 17 at 1:31 AM on November 1, 2007


Heinlein’s 3 Rules of Writing

1) Write Something Every Day
2) Finish Everything You Write
3) Send Out Everything You Finish.

He makes it sound so easy...
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:54 AM on November 1, 2007


Barfing out 50,000 words is far, far from the problem. Being almost pathalogically self-involved, let me tell you, I could spend 50,000 words just on breakfast. In fact, that was the second novel I ever wrote.

It was called, "And then came the eggs." Because, you know, when the egss come that's when... well,

There is a terrific Ray Carver story I can't for the life of me remember (or find) the name of, but in it he describes his wife's efforts to become a writer. Her first, most favorite story, the one she finishes and thinks, "There, I'm on my way" Is called something like "The thing that ate Chicago" or something. It's, as I remember it, a brilliant depiction of the process of recognizing what does and does not work in fiction.
That process, learning how to edit, is invaluable and takes far far longer than any old month.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:47 AM on November 1, 2007


I think I know which MeFite named kittens for breakfast better not be talking about my NaNo novel from a few years ago! ;)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:47 AM on November 1, 2007


I used to be sort of anti-NaNoWriMo. It seemed like a lot egotistical people producing a whole lot of crap. But ever since I started to look at it as just an interesting creative writing exercise, I've really warmed to the idea. I'm almost tempted to do it myself, but I keep coming up with lame excuses for why I'm too busy or whatever. Hmm.
Best of luck to everyone participating this year.
posted by naoko at 6:53 AM on November 1, 2007


I'd actually be interested in something similar for computer programmers. No designing, no refactoring, no documenting. Just 30 days of raw coding..... readysetgo!
posted by butterstick at 10:00 AM on November 1, 2007


MeTa
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2007


I've always written for my own enjoyment. For years, I just fiddled around, not doing anything serious with my writing, despite encouragement from teachers, friends, family, what-have-you.

Then one day I stumbled across a glowing magazine review for a website where authors created erotic fantasies, custom-written for clients who paid well for the privilege.

The concept intrigued me enough that I looked the site up, hoping for some sexy light reading, but the poorly-written 'samples' on the site just irritated me. Half of the work wasn't even sexy, it was just...anatomical.

So I wrote the editor of the website to let her know she needed some better authors. She said she had plenty of writers on staff and wasn't looking to hire anyone, thanks so much for your interest. The concept of working for the site had never even occurred to me, but now I was riled up. I asked a male friend to fill out one of the site's request forms, wrote up my own erotic fantasy on the basis of his request, and sent it in, with a "this is how it should be done" cover letter.

The editor hired me on the basis of that story, and that's how I started my career as a published erotica author.

Sometimes, you just need the right push to get you started: a cause, a deadline, a contest. If NaNoWriMo does that for promising new authors, than more power to it.
posted by misha at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think I know which MeFite named kittens for breakfast better not be talking about my NaNo novel from a few years ago! ;)

Hey, I had no idea until right now that that WAS a nanowrimo novel. Good on you! (That the part I saw was considerably less than 50,000 words, though, tells me you decided to actually like, stop focusing on the word count and write it good, so I'm not sure it really counts.) No, this was...not written by you, believe me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:11 PM on November 1, 2007


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