#NaNoWriMo isn’t necessary, but so what?

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Culture writer Claire Fallon for the Huffington Post has written a bit of a hit piece on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  It’s titled Just Because You Love Books, Doesn’t Mean You Have To Write One, and it essentially calls the event unnecessary at best and harmful to the publishing industry at worst. To which I say, “Huh?”

Here’s an excerpt from Fallon’s article:

Besides, the whole set-up of the event seems primed to exacerbate the most irritating aspects of creative culture today. The worship of “makers” over “consumers,” even though the production of ever-growing piles of novels is meaningless without engaged, thoughtful readers; the special-snowflake-ism of “The world needs your novel,” when most of us can’t and won’t produce novels that will affect the world or even be read; the commodification of aspirational creativity, as with enormously expensive arts or creative writing degrees that offer no benefit to most graduates; the emphasis on stats over substance.

Fallon doesn’t have a very clear understanding of the purpose of NaNoWriMo.  Participants don’t emerge from their writing caves at the end of the 30-day challenge with a completed manuscript. Those who manage to crank out 50,000 words simply have a very ugly first draft (or partial first draft) that is due for a substantial rewrite or two or three.  In fact, I wrote about this very thing for the CreateSpace community blog.  Here’s a taste:

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing the perfect manuscript in 30 days. It’s about writing a first draft, and what have I told you about first drafts? They’re supposed to be bad – bad to the point of being embarrassing. Don’t waste your time during NaNoWriMo carefully crafting a first draft that you will be ready to publish as soon as the event is done. Write a sloppy, ugly, I-hope-nobody-sees-this first draft. You will have plenty of time to get the manuscript into shape when you rewrite it.

I don’t know why Fallon seems to not want people to take part in the challenge. One might call it an arbitrary and contrarian point of view. Her main objection is that not everyone should write a book because the world doesn’t need everyone writing a book. If you’re writing a book to “affect the world or even be read” I agree with her. You shouldn’t write a book because you’re in it for the wrong reason. That’s not what artists do. You write a book to explore your own curiosity. The only world you should affect is the world your characters occupy. If you allow yourself to be influenced by how much your book will be appreciated and who will appreciate it, you’ll end up with a book that’s not worth reading.

Take part in NaNoWriMo, and don’t do it to “affect the world.” Do it to satisfy your own creativity. Be unnecessary.

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