If you read Salon and love Laura Miller like I do, you’ve probably already read this piece she wrote yesterday about the downside to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which I (and many of you) are participating. Okay, to say she isn’t a fan is an oversimplification, but she echoes many of the comments made on our original story from Monday. Is a month devoted to a marathon writing experiment really promoting good writing? Does this build writers or does it give the less-than-talented novelists out there the idea that they could and should be sending out their mediocre stories for publication?
My thoughts on the subject (which I’m sure anyone who ever said “I work in book publishing” at a party can relate to) is that everyone thinks they have a book in them. What they don’t realize is that writing a book is a helluva big job. It’s actual WORK. So, why not give them one month to try their hand at it and, perhaps, ultimately realize it isn’t something they can or should do? For those of us who have written before, it’s a great opportunity to get back into the swing of writing fiction on a daily basis (even if this novel amounts to nothing–many professional writers talk about how they throw out much or all of the first draft anyway).
One of the points Miller makes in her piece is that NaNoWriMo participating writers don’t do necessary revisions and just send their unrevised manuscripts out to agents on December 1st. Well, honestly, the lack of revisions is true of MANY writers. And, the professionalism with which writers handle themselves doesn’t actually have anything to do with writing talent. I have worked with plenty of very talented, critically-acclaimed, and even award-winning writers that lack much of the professionalism I’ve seen in debut novelists with no experience or connection to publishing.
Speaking for those of us on the receiving end of many of these novels, I think the most important thing to stress to writers engaging in NaNoWriMo is to make sure that when you do send to agents, you have read through your book critically and made all of the necessary changes. It’s also helpful to provide a hook that makes your novel stand out among the crowd, a well thought-out platform, and a realistic comparison to a novel or two that are out.
P.S. For those following my progress on my own novel, I didn’t write the full 1700 words yesterday or today…I’ve been busy. Anyone else struggling to meet the word goal and looking forward to Saturday to make up the difference?