An Avalanche of Ideas

This has been a banner year for writing.

Since the beginning of November alone I’ve written more than 40,000 new words on my current novel project, Plummet, as well as re-outlined another major novel project, Throwing Rocks at God. Both, I believe, are immensely marketable in their respective genres (fantasy and mainstream).

When I think of how productive and creative I’ve been, I silently thank my Muse for being present and so generous.

On a related note, people ask why I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, and why I tend not to discuss my opinion of it publicly.  But I’m ready to reveal my reasons now…

Having written drafts of more than 27 novels, I feel that I have firsthand knowledge of what it takes to write a story, make it interesting, and use all the tools in my writerly toolbox to make it engaging, interesting and readable.  I feel that NaNoWriMo might give the uninitiated the false impression that it’s “easy” to pound out 50,000 words and call themselves writers.  I like that it gives more people the initiative to do what it takes to make it that far, as so many aspiring and serious writers have difficulty doing even that.  To be able to sustain that over a lifelong career is a much different matter.

My friends sometimes argue that NaNoWriMo gives people the courage to write where they might’ve been resistant before.  If it works in that way, I say “Great!”  Thus far, I don’t see that effect.  How many novels begun during the craziness that is NaNoWriMo actually see publication?  What happens to all those millions of novel beginnings?  Not one of the people I know who’ve participated have ever followed through on that project.

Zip, zero, Robert DeNiro, to quote a friend.

I have an interview request out to Chris Baty, creator of NaNoWriMo.  I have not yet heard back from him or “his people,” but you can be sure that I will ask some of the questions that arise for me when – and if – he accepts the request.

If you’re serious about writing, don’t use a gimmick to learn your craft.

10 thoughts on “An Avalanche of Ideas

  1. I only learned of it this year and was thinking about participating, but decided against it because November is an especially busy month for me. Add to that the fact there’s no way I can just sit down and make myself write and you’ve got a bad combination. I’m sure you know that my writing comes in spurts and I don’t think in straight lines. Therefore, my longer stories start out as jigsaw puzzles and I have to fit all the pieces together to produce a finished product.
    I started my novel six or seven months ago. The first chapter flew out of me like any other short story, but when I hit the 7,500 word mark I got stuck. In that time I’ve made it to just over 8,000. But when it starts flowing again I may pump out another 20,000 – that’s just the way it works with me.
    27 novels – impressive!

  2. John – I’ve been following your ordeal with writer’s block through your blog and would think that NaNoWriMo would be anathema to you for that reason. As for my process: sometimes the stories come in huge info-dumps as well, but I’ve worked very hard to temper that phenomena so that I’m not inundated some days and dry on others.

  3. Have you heard of Benjamin Solah? John Pender knows him. Anyway he did the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word project. But he cut and pasted stuff from his own short stories and the internet just to finish the project in time. So it’s good advice from you Christian as John may be tempted to do likewise.

  4. First off, I want to say that next to December, November is the worst month of the year for busyness if you host Thanksgiving and have houseguests. For that reason alone I will never participate.

    I feel the contest is designed for the competitive types who want to be publicly accountable for their word count. These things ring “Weight Watchers” to me. Some people do better if they must report to someone their progress. I’m a bit reclusive in both my writing and any weight loss program I may start. But for others I can see how this would benefit them to get a jump start on a novel (or diet). And if it were held on any other month I might even try it just once to say I did it. Not Weight Watchers though–that cost money.

  5. Hey, congrats on having that muse on steroids–isn’t it amazing when you get the gift of a novel that almost seems to write itself?

    I’ve heard from agents that very few NaNo novels ever see print. But on the other hand, I know writers who loved the experience. I think for people who’ve always wanted to write a novel, and need some kind of push to get going, it’s can be useful.

    And we all need to write that first “practice” novel that never sees print, and if you can get the thing done in a month, why not? (Unless you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner.)

  6. Tricia – I agree. If one requires external motivation (and potential guilt-tripping) then that’s the program for them. But as for getting a jumpstart on a story, I’m not sure I can agree with that, for YOU know as well as any true writer what goes in to learning the craft: many, many hours of writing and rewriting, as well as practice, trial and error…not to mention reading books on style and craft and voice and learning the tenets of grammar and proper sentence construction… My gawd, the list is very long. A project like NaNoWriMo just doesn’t present the TRUE nature of writing. But maybe it’ll serve to turn-off those who are doing it merely for a lark.

  7. Christian & Co.: All great comments! And I agree…but let’s not forget one (dare I say très important?) thing: the nature of play. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. There needn’t be any one reason why anyone do anything, and we shouldn’t hammer (pick your verb) others for doing anything they’re doing (short of any form of harm) for whatever reasons they chose. As stated, some need a little public accountability while others do not. Perhaps some just like the challenge. And what is the true nature of writing? I don’t know that I want to be the one to pin that to any wall…except that the true nature of anything is in the very act of the thing being defined. The nature of writing is writing itself. Period. Why try to force-fit it into any other definitive “hole”? Just let it be. In all its forms. Enjoy it in its mere expression—whatever form that takes. Marvel in its form and function. At the fact that everyday words can still be reshuffled into the fascinating creativity that takes wing from so many different wordslingers. The point is, ultimately published or not, these people are writing. It’s something they love, obviously enjoy, so why subject them to another’s view of why they should or shouldn’t be doing it? Granted, Christian, you’re just expressing your view, because you’ve been asked, and you and everyone else are entitled to your opinions. So, for whatever reason people choose to enter NaNoWriMo, contests, or whatever, let that be up to each individual and their nature of play, sense of competition, or otherwise. It’s fine to speculate, and have an opinion…but let’s not take ourselves too seriously and allow the nature of play to manifest itself in whatever way it choses. In each individual.

  8. Frank – thank you for your comment. I would, however, respectfully differ with your viewpoint. When you post on another’s blog, Christian, you’re just expressing your view, because you’ve been asked, and you and everyone else are entitled to your opinions, you are in fact diminishing and attempting to invalidate the opinions of the blog owner (me) and those who’ve commented thus far. By my statement that I disagree with what I PERCEIVE to be the ideals behind NaNoWriMo in no way is my attempt to pigeonhole the act of writing for anyone. I believe that you have misunderstood the original post. I invite you to go back and re-read it.

  9. As you stated, I ask the we respectfully agree to disagree, Christian. You said your piece, I said mine. I re-read as you requested. If someone (including you) feels I invalidated their opinions, I apologize—that was never my intent.

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