It would seem that National Novel Writing Month began on the 31st for all the PR buzz and “planning prep” exercises. Anyway, today is officially the first day of the month-long phenomenon. So whether or not you participate in, or have even heard of, NANOWRIMO what do you think?
What I think is pretty cool:
(1) Challenge: Everyone who wants to connect with a challenge, should do it. It’s admirable that so many want to take on something that feels ambitious. Should anyone have questioned whether or not I ran a marathon? Wasn’t I just trying to survive? Wasn’t it clearly more than my body was up for in a single event? Isn’t that the spirit by which we accept challenge? Tip#1 is to read the 30 tips from last year. I do recommend checking them out. Some are fun, some are funny.
(2) Focus: As a creative focus or goal-centered approach to a process that is purported to take years by many–but certainly not necessarily by all, and not by all types of novels.
(3) Exercise: Specifically, as a type of creative exercise known in especially shorter forms of art as “immersions.” Immersions can be anything. My brother and I ran ourselves through a number of songwriting immersions some four years ago as we were developing content for our band project, One Shoe Untied. It worked to generate lots of content to fidget with later. I loved it. I found, too, that “immersions” translated well into the creative writing class. In the first place, you didn’t call them “exercises.” I hated the very word “exercise” when I was in a creative writing class, so I could identify with their resistance to do them in class for a variety of reasons. But immersions? The whole concept and experience is different. Also, as BookGoodies suggests, the experience can help one grow as a writer because it takes you out of the rigidity of worrying over every word. You just let yourself get into a flow and edit later.
(4) Awareness and Exposure to a varied and difficult writing form: Does it hurt the industry of novels for more novels to be attempted collectively during the month of November? I wonder how it would hurt the buying/selling in the long run? In the short term I can imagine a lot of editors and agents getting swoons in submissions from clearly un-prepared manuscripts and writers, especially considering the current marketplace conditions.
(5) Community: Writing can be an extremely isolating experience, especially for those who want to write but never formed that kind of community.
What’s wrong with it?
A lot of people delude themselves about what really fantastic writing really takes. It’s not like writing is somehow different from any other art form in this way. There are so many levels of craft, ambition, experience, in short–depth–that one just can barely understand even with what feels like a degree of expertise. The only real concept of what could truly be wrong with it runs along the neverending argument of how to define when and if there is too much “bad stuff” out there. Even then, it seems like this is a good problem ultimately for the consumer, and a difficult one for the generally underpaid editors of the world dealing with the deluge. An interesting and current debate on the subject as it relates to contemporary poetry, featuring a bell curve graph and everything!, can be found at Bark. But really I want the above question to cut both ways. In the end, what is wrong with it?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.