One of the downsides of my job (other than getting locked in the interior staircase at 11 pm on a Thursday night — more on that later) is that I don’t have time to write. The frequency (or lack thereof) with which I update this blog hints at it, but I really just don’t have the time to write fiction anymore. And that’s something that I sorely miss.
I did, however, manage to get in almost a full day of writing on Sunday. I parked myself on the sundeck with my laptop and just wrote. It was awesome. I have to remember to do that more often.
I read Laura Miller’s article, Better Yet, DON’T Write That Novel, yesterday. I think it is safe to say that I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with her.
Just to get us all on the same page, Miller argues against NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an annual challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. She argues that it is a waste of time, and she implies that writing should be left to the professionals. (See, she is permitted to be a writer because she is published.)
I think her elitism is cringe-inducing, but the part that really upsets me is that she thinks NaNo is a waste of time. There are lots of things that are wastes of time. Watching reality television is a waste of time. Perusing funny videos of animals on the internet is a waste of time. Dissecting past relationships is a waste of time. Being creative is most certainly not.
NaNo is important because it helps people to get their stories out! Many creative people have stories inside them that need to come out, but real life gets in the way. NaNo encourages these people to carve out some time to write, and it frees them from feeling as though every word must be perfect in order to hit the page. Being granted this “permission” can make all the difference. The hardest part of writing is just getting the words on paper.
Miller argues that more people should spend time reading, and that’s true. People should unequivocally spend more time reading than they do. It’s a more engaging form of entertainment than watching television. However, people should not just consume other’s writing, but they should be encouraged to draw upon their own creativity and create their own. Miller calls reading “selfless” and writing “narcissistic,” but at the end of her piece she provides a link to purchase her own book.
The one point on which she and I share the same view is that writers should not submit unedited NaNo manuscripts to agents and publishers. One should always, always edit. I don’t think that I have to point out that 50,000 words cranked out in a feverish thirty day writing binge might need some editing.
But don’t worry about the editing right now! It’s still the beginning of November! Go forth and write!
As almost all of you know, I am forever working on my novel. I completed an 80,000 word manuscript this year, and I tried to market it as a young adult piece. I didn’t have much success with this, and I think one of my major stumbling points was in my marketing. The story deals with mature issues, but I had assumed I needed to sell it as a young adult piece because the characters were teenagers. I don’t think that’s true anymore – some of my favorite books, Prep and Special Topics in Calamity Physics have teenagers as the main characters – and so I’m currently working on revising my manuscript to appeal to an adult audience. It’s mostly about returning the story to where I thought it should be before I dulled down some of the sharp edges for young adults.
The process is a little agonizing, as I constantly whine to myself, but I already wrote this, and so I signed up for a fiction class to work on my craft. The class started last night, and I’m really excited about it. Not only will we be discussing key topics like character development and point of view (and, later, marketing our work!), we are going to workshop each other’s pieces. This is what I desperately need. I took a couple of creative writing courses in college, and the workshopping always improved my work. It helps to have another pair of critical, unbiased eyes on it. I tried to join a writers group here in New York, but there was a lot of NCIS fanfiction being presented, and it wasn’t helping me. I think this class will be different, though, and I’m really looking forward to it!