Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

I meant to post this yesterday, but I got caught up in the excitement of the 1st of December and my car breaking down.

Now that November: Extreme Writing is all over and everyone is resting their aching hands in bowls of warm water, I thought I would revisit National Novel Writing Month in a slightly more positive light, and by positive I mean in the same strain as my previous blog which is collaboration, my friends!

So after writing about this a month or so ago I shopped around a few other blogs to see what other people had to say about the Big Month. What I learned was that  while aptly-named event does foster a lot of novels (of whatever quality), there are participants with slightly different agendas to smashing out a story as quickly as possible.  The NaNoWriMo forums contain extensive sections for poetry and screenplays, which didn’t settle my previous dispute much. But some people tackled the whole event in a different light: fellow gamer Dave Thompson blogged that he would be using the motivation to write some tabletop adventure material, and another face from the LARP field, Nataraptor, having used last year’s month to kick-start her planned novel writing, has been slowly copyediting since then, and planned to pick up the wordcount again this November.

And that’s not all! To further expand my horizons I decided to find a whole other perspective on the subject, and thus contacted Gavin Smith, author of Veteran, War in Heaven and upcoming The Age of Scorpio (out in April 2013), all from Gollancz. Despite his busy schedule and constant underlying disappointment in me, he very sportingly had this opinion to offer:

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“The NaNoWriMo is an excellent idea.  As a writer you can often feel like you’re working in a vacuum, I like that NaNoWriMo fosters a community, which in turn provides support and encouragement.  What it does best, however, is provide the impetus to get words down on paper.  Most people talk themselves out of writing, either they never quite get started or they give up halfway through because they get bored or convince themselves that what they have written is rubbish.  With the rather clever month deadline and the achievable word count, even for people with a full time job and families (though I appreciate it’s a lot more difficult in those circumstances), NaNoWriMo should help people overcome both the above problems.

What I would say is that many writers, myself included, hate what they are writing at the time they are writing.  Don’t try and fix things as you go, you can fix things when you’re finished, though when you return to what you’ve written you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that it is a work of genius (this is, of course, my working process).
In general I think people who want to write (and if you want to, why aren’t you?) have no reason not to try NaNoWriMo, and I don’t think they should limit it to just November.  Though obviously I’d prefer it if people steered clear of the genres I work in as I don’t need anymore competition.  In fact the main thing I dislike about NaNoWriMo is the dreadful contraction of its name.  I mean how is that supposed to foster good writing practice?  I’m tempted to submit a fifty thousand word novel using similar contractions which would read as one enormous word!”

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With this in mind, I am still not convinced that NaNoWriMo will ever be for me, at least not until I have a slightly less hectic lifestyle. But who knows – I have recently been toying with the idea of moving to Los Angeles to write my blockbuster screenplay, and that day might well fall in late-autumn. And in the meantime, we can all look forward to Gavin Smith’s next book, which I can only assume will be entitled GaSmiNeBo.

(In the meantime, to read more from Gavin Smith, keep an eye out for his collection of short stories set in the game universe of Crysis 3, coming out in February!)

I enjoy one of the Twitter users I follow, @FakeEditor, self-described as “A publishing industry insider who tells you the best way to be a successful writer! No, really!”, who co-posts with #FE2 about how their work, lives and endless Twilight-inspired submissions continue to make them reach for the tequila. My favourite time to read their tweets is November, specifically towards the end, when the submissions for National Novel Writing Month start to flood in.

I am in two minds about NaNoWriMo, as a writer who has never attempted it. On the one hand, I struggle with boundaries (in terms of plot and word count, that is) and timeframes, so giving oneself a very definite word count and deadline can be a great encouragement, in a world where nothing around you ever stops,  to just sit down and write. It teaches young, amateur writers to manage their time, to set daily targets, to support one another in their craft and, on top of all that, it has the potential to be very rewarding at the end, something which can be rare in the thankless world of trying to find a publisher.

However, it’s at that finding-a-publisher stage that I think NaNoWriMo falls down, as very aptly described last year by @FakeEditor with tweets such as “…if you’re already behind, just give up. We’ll have enough shitty novels to reject even without your masterpiece”, a whole month of ‘Fake NaNo tips’,’ and gratuitous use of the hashtag #thisiswhyIdrink. Timeframes are all very well, but the writing of anything, let alone a novel, requires several things: planning, writing, rewriting and editing, proofreading at least a hundred times, and preferably proofreading by a friend whose linguistic skills you trust. The deadlines surrounding NaNoWriMo, however, seem to end up as simply dividing the overall word count by the number of days in November. What one ends up with, at the end of the day, is a hurriedly-written, unedited, rush-planned and un-proofread 50,000 words: in short, an inaccurate picture of the life and craft of a writer.

Now, NaNoWriMo itself describes the project on its website as “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”, and maybe that’s how the whole thing should be viewed – pure abandon, writing for the sake of writing, learning the art of pumping out words until there are no more words at the bottom of the proverbial word well, grasping at least the primary aspect of being a writer, rather than the entire ordeal. Maybe it is helpful for aspiring writers to work this way, at least once a year, and apply what is learned to their actual career. It’s likely that many participants go back to the rewriting/editing/proofreading stages in mid-October. But if I have learned anything from @FakeEditor, it’s that there is a significant amount of participants who full-stop the final sentence, hit ‘save’ and immediately hit ‘send’ on the submission email. To me, the phrase “write a novel in a month” is less of an exciting, productive step on the way to literary success, and more like something paraphrased from a casual afternoon with Annie Wilkes.