This year’s National Novel Writing Month has drummed up more ire than usual, more cries of complaint and annoyance from established writers who apparently see the act of several hundred thousand people trying to write 50,000 words in one month somehow threatening or personally offensive, as if these less-than-stellar manuscripts are going to glut the way for the “good” writers who are working so hard to get published. (And no, I’m not linking to these rants; they don’t deserve that).
I read these various diatribes and thought: where’d all these fearful curmudgeons come from? The “established” writers, the “serious” writers (of which there are many participating in Nanowrimo) will continue to be established and serious. They will write every day of the year, they will revise until their work stands up and sings Opera while juggling flaming swords and chewing gum. The only difference in November, as far as I can tell, is that several hundred thousand people aren’t watching TV, playing their X-boxes, or being slaves to their iPads nearly as often. And maybe a handful of these people are also discovering that the voices/family/social pressures/small elves that live in their heads, which have kept them from realizing and or working on their talent, are full of crap and that they should give more energy to this endeavor. Or maybe some people will realize that writing is fun, and a good thing to remember to teach your kids to do so they don’t grow up into mindless zombies who can only speak in text-ism gibberish. All of that seems like an inherently good thing to me.
I’m almost 35K into my project. And yes, most of it is unusable dreck that would make anyone question the MFA I received in literature/writing. So what’s the point, you say, other than unbridled creativity? I’ve actually discovered some benefit from slamming out words without a whole lot of direction. I’ve got the bones of a really good novel in here somewhere. Yes, they’ve been dismembered and scattered as though by a large carnivore across a wild landscape, but I know what they are and how to retrieve them. I’ve got characters who are cock-eyed and unrealized, but I know exactly what self-help program they’re going to need to make them come to life. In other words, I got to the place in less than a month that it usually takes me three to four times that long to arrive at. All the scenes will need to be rewritten, and a whole lot more of them, too, but they add up to a different kind of outline, one that breathes, one where I can see the props and the sets and hear the chatter of the actors as I walk through it, imagining the show I’m going to put on, and know pretty well how it needs to play out. And that was totally worth the finger spasms and gluteal cramps, the dry-eyed exhaustion and giddy sense of self-importance followed by crushing despair that comes with writing fiction at such a rapid pace.