by Janis Patterson
Yes, the dreaded month of November has stomped onto our calendars again, darn it. No, I’m not talking about the approaching gluttony of Thanksgiving or the terrifyingly few weekends left until Christmas, though both are swiftly oncoming realities.
I’m talking about the annual National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo or even NaNo, where for years now people have been encouraged to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. It is called an exercise in accountability, or a time of group encouragement, or any number of other pleasant and positive euphemisms. While I can see that both the former can be regarded as sort of desirable for writers, what disturbs me is the number of absolute tyros who will regard this as their ticket to literary fame and fortune.
Perhaps a few of them will learn what plain old hard work it is to string 50,000 +/- words into a cohesive story and there is a lot more to creating salable stories than just writing down the requisite number of words… but most of them won’t. They’ll pound out the words in a blaze of literary fervor, many truly believing that their prose is both deathless and special. Most of it will not be.
And to this point that’s fine. It’s supposed to be a learning experience. What bugs me is that most of the tyros won’t learn from it. Many of them will take their ‘masterpieces’ and send them off to agents and publishers and wait impatiently for large contracts. Many of those manuscripts will not be edited or, on some sad occasions, not even be read through. Then, when the inevitable rejections occur, said novices will declare that the publishing world does not recognize their genius and will self-publish.
I do wish that there were some sort of law forbidding any non-professional writer to submit a manuscript done for NaNo. It would be so much kinder to everyone involved. Writing is just about the only profession where someone with no training or education in the field and no discernable skills in grammar, punctuation or story structure wakes up one morning and decides he is going to write a novel, then is surprised when the rest of the world does not acclaim the genius of his work. But hey – he wanted to write a novel so he did. I guess we should all be grateful he didn’t wake up, decide he wanted to be a brain surgeon or aerospace engineer and act in the same way.
And that’s my opinion of those who have a skewed and unreasonable view of NaNo. What about the working professional writer?
Properly used, NaNo can be a marvelous tool of discipline and accountability. I’ve worked under various writing contracts for the majority of my adult life, but as I get older I have noticed that I am not only slowing down, I am becoming much more easily distracted. For example, while in Egypt a couple of weeks ago – after vowing I wouldn’t do another book set in Egypt – I got the idea for a wonderful mystery and began writing it. Normally a couple of years ago I would have had the first draft already finished. It isn’t.
I’ve never done NaNo, so this year – since I have no overhanging contracts or deadlines at the moment – I decided to try it. It’s a wonderful thing. Every day I have to post to a certain site (this NaNo is being facilitated by one of my writers’ groups) how many words I have done that day. Sometimes it is embarrassing. Sometimes – when I exceed my allotted number by a respectable amount – it is a source of pride. I like it. Accountability is a good, positive thing.
Some say that NaNo is at its heart a learning experience. I can agree with that, and can also agree that we should never stop learning.
REFRIGERATOR UPDATE – I told you about my woes of buying a new refrigerator. All we want is a very simple refrigerator – French door, bottom freezer and ice/water on the outside of the door. And white. White was the problem; white is not standard any more, nor even available on most models. It has to be special ordered.
So we ordered it the day after we returned from Egypt and were told we could have it some three weeks later on 23 October. On 22 October I called Lowe’s and asked for a time frame for delivery; between 8-12 on the 24th, I was told. Well, October 24th came and went with no refrigerator, so I called and after being routed through two idiots who knew nothing finally got a hold of a manager, who after some investigation told me the refrigerator was not only not in Dallas, it was still at the factory and had not even been finished.
WHAT IS SO DIFFICULT ABOUT PUTTING A PLAIN WHITE FINISH ON A VERY STANDARD MODEL?
With admirable self-restraint I asked why Lowe’s had not told me the truth and had not told me a real date for delivery instead of giving me a big chunk of blue sky. I also asked why no one had had the courtesy to call and say the refrigerator was not even in Dallas yet. (Needless to say, the refrigerator was fully paid for on the day we ordered it.) The man had the good grace to be embarrassed and said he didn’t know. Then he gave me the delivery date of 25 November. I asked him if that was any more true than the first date had been. He didn’t answer.
So – heed my sad little tale and be very careful where you buy a refrigerator or any other appliance unless you will let the store dictate what you will receive.