megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
megwrites ([personal profile] megwrites) wrote2010-11-07 15:14

One further note on NaNoWriMo

Now that I've done my defending of NaNoWriMo, I wanted to make sure I noted something.

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing, and this is not an anti-NaNo post. If anything this is a post from a long time NaNo fan and participant to those NaNo writers who may, like me, be seeking professional publication some time in the future.

If you're not one of those people, roll on by. Because this does not apply to you, and may you write like no one has written before.




I'm not going to give the "a novel written in a month will of course be crappy" lecture. I don't know how fast you can write. I know people (published ones) who can tap out a 100,000 word novel in LESS than a month. I know people who would take a year to get to 50k if left to their own devices.

So fuck anyone telling you novels should take only a certain amount of time. Well, anyone who hasn't offered you a paying contract. In fact, if anyone tells you you're writing too fast or too slow, explain the fee you'll be charging for writing differently and ask if they're willing to pay that. If not, see above: fuck them.

That said, as someone who's done this month-long frenzy of fictional fun since 2003 AND has sought publication (but not yet achieved it)? I hope you'll keep a basic fact in mind.

NaNoWriMo is a creative, writing-based event. It's about writing. If you produce written words, you have succeeded. And a completely non-sarcastic and genuine hurrah for you! I know for a lot of you, it's nothing less than a Herculean task just to get those 1667 words per day, because you've got a lot going on. So yay! I'm proud of you (for real).

Professional publishing is a business venture above all else. It isn't about just having creative works available, it's about having the most sellable works. Not necessarily the best written or daring or original - but the ones that will make the most money.

When you seek publication you're basically becoming a small, independent business trying to partner up with a much larger business. It's not romantic or pretty. It's commercial and ugly and all about the Benjamins.

Publishing is profit-driven, and the U.S. industry can only described as a collapsing clusterfuck. Why and what that means is a whole other post. No, it isn't dying, but it's going through a damn painful mutation at the moment. It's also skewed, wildly unfair, and often unfathomable. It rises and falls on unpredictable factors.

So, this is my advice, you brave and intrepid NaNo novelists. Once you've completed this work you're doing turn the creative self off and look at your work with cold, harsh, utterly merciless business-like eyes.

And if the switch in your brain doesn't work so quickly, do yourself a favor. Give yourself December (and maybe January and February) off. At least from this project. Write other things or edit other things or go on a December-long knitting marathon. Whatever.

But give yourself that time to come down from the high heights of November. Then look at your manuscript through more objective eyes. Look at it as a business venture, a financial decision. Then shred it like a dog with a chew toy.

You know that inner editor that you locked in a closet in November? Let them out and put them in the driver's seat. Inner editors and critics, too, have their time and place. Not as fun, but it's what helps you hone your story and make it even better. It will also help you make better decisions about when (or if) what you wrote is ready to be sent into the world.

And if it isn't? Don't despair, don't feel you've wasted your time. All writing is worth it, if only for the educational experience. And professional publication isn't everything. It's nice, but it gets overrated. It's a lot of things, but here's what it isn't:

- A sign that you're really a Great Writer. Lots of crappy, horrible books get published every year. Way of the world. Great is for your readers to decide.

- A path to instant fame and fortune. Statistically speaking, you're doing a knock out job if you make it to midlist and can stay there and tap out a modest living that will allow you take only a part-time job, providing you have a partner with a much better income and not too many expenses (medical, mortgage, pets, kids who endanger your blood pressure, etc).

- Early retirement, so you'll never have to worry about work again.

- Validation of your worth as a human being.

Professional publication is like opening a franchise. Applying to, say, an Olive Garden to open a franchise with your business plan being "but, I really love salad and ate one in less than a minute once" is what going to an agent or editor with only "but I love this story and I wrote it in a month" is like.

I've played this game a couple of times, and here's the basic principle. You have to go to an agent and/or editor with more than your love and high hopes. You have to be able to say, in the best possible terms, "This is why lots and lots of people will pay to read this book" - and you have to have a book that makes them believe that claim. At the very least. You also have to stand above the other very worthy books vying for limited spots.

So if making it to the bookshelves and e-readers of the world is part of your PERSONAL definition of success, I wish you luck. But I also wish you the clarity to do the things that will help you get that success. Which includes looking at your work and see it's flaws and shortcomings so you can polish it into the best possible story. Revision is not a sign that your first draft failed, it's a sign that you're not done telling an awesome story.

Just remember that November doesn't last forever, and that after it's over, you owe it to yourself and all your days of hard work to go back over your story, with a clearer head, and make sure you've really written your best, to give yourself the best odds at success you can.

So by all means, write like you've never written before this November. Write like you just INVENTED the novel, have a blast doing it, and know that no matter what, if it makes you happy, if you tell a story you believe in, it is worth your while. Even if nobody else in the world ever reads it.