megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
[personal profile] megwrites
So, best of nanowrimo is a thing on Tumblr, and yanno what? It makes me more than a little queasy to have people's posts taken and reposted (probably without their knowledge or consent) just so that others can have laughs at their expense.

I'm not of the Nelson Muntz school of how to look at other people's failures. Especially when it comes to writing.



Writing is fucking hard, folks, and you have to write about a bajillion words of crap until you get good at it. Some people can write fifty bajillion words of crap and still not get there. People develop as writers at different speeds and in different ways. A lot of these people are probably only on their first or second novels. For them, NaNoWriMo is probably a much bigger deal.

More than that, these writers are people. Human beings. With feelings.

I'm not saying that all of these writers who have been lampooned for daring not to be perfect (or even daring to have a failure or two) where others could see them are good writers. I'm not saying you have to like it or think the prose they're writing is good. You don't. Bad is bad. Sometimes a piece of writing is just lousy. It happens. Sometimes it even gets published.

But save that the writer is putting something out there that is actively hurtful (that is - racist or sexist or trans hating or anti-GLBQ or what not), I don't get why making an entire Tumblr blog dedicated to laughing at them, Nelson Muntz style without feedback, without anything to help them, is really going to accomplish. Besides making a lot of people who probably have never tried NaNoWriMo, who aren't even writers feel very superior and good about themselves because they never wrote anything that bad and of course they could write so much better. They just don't write because they don't want to.

Like I said. Writing is fucking hard. You try it. No, really. You try to write a novel in a month. Try to write a novel in two months. Three. Hell, I'll even give you a calendar year. Take a year and write a novel and we'll see how brilliant and flawless your first draft comes out. We'll see how many of your favorite lines or ideas are just original wonders of literature. Because chances are that even if you're really talented it's gonna come out with mistakes and typos and prose that gets excessive and all sorts of goodies that you'll have to go back and trim, delete, correct, or otherwise rewrite. You might even end up having to rewrite the entire damn thing because your first product turns out to be a great big blob of plotless wonderment.

Maybe I'm excessively tenderhearted, but at least a couple of those entries struck me as being from writers who are very young (maybe not even 18 or at least right at 18) and many struck me as being from writers who are very new to this writing thing. And such writers seem to me as being NOT the ones who deserve to have people basically rolling down the window and throwing soda cans at them from their car and chuckling as they speed by in an internet sense of doing such a thing.

Not when there are piles about fifty miles deep of bad books that have been published which could be discussed, critiqued, and talked about. At least pick on someone who got paid for what they did, who had editors and copyeditors working with them.

After all, what does this kind of thing accomplish? Does it give these writers a way to understand WHAT isn't working about their writing? No. Does it somehow start a conversation about how they can improve? No.

Constructive criticism can come in a lot of forms. Some of them can seem rather harsh, but it doesn't mean that they aren't constructive. I point you to a review such as this one here (h/t to Requires Hate). It isn't sweetness and light. It doesn't spare any feelings, but it also isn't nothing but someone laughing and pointing. Why? Because there's something for the author to actually listen to and think about.

Constructive criticism can often come from a place of anger. Letting someone know that something is not okay because it's offends and further marginalizes entire swaths of human beings is in and of itself a constructive act. Letting someone know that their writing hurt you because it made fun of or furthered harmful tropes about people like you - even if you do so with many curse words and don't give a fuck about whether you're "educating" - is also constructive criticism in it's way. Because you're still giving the writer a reason. Racism is a reason. Sexism is a reason. Ciscentrism and heterosexism are very valid reasons why a piece of writing is wrong and bad.

But the difference is that at least stating "this is racist" is giving the writer something to go on. It may mean they have to do research for themselves (hell, they should do research for themselves)

So what is that this tumblr blog is giving anyone to think about? Okay, maybe it's saying, "Your writing is bad". Well, that's not helpful. More than that, it's doing it in a rather mean kind of way.

What it does is have complete strangers take bits and pieces of someone else's work, repost it without knowledge or consent (and if you don't know me, I am a stickler for consent and wanting to know that consent was given for pictures taken or reposts of this nature) and make sure that actual human beings get lampooned with no chance to have anything to listen to except the howling cackle of other human beings who want to feel superior and better-than-thou without having to try and risk any failure themselves?

In short: either give constructive criticism that helps a writer get better or move the fuck on without being rude and rather creepy about it.

Date: 2012-11-16 01:46 pm (UTC)
yifu: (sasha)
From: [personal profile] yifu
This is the first time I've heard of that Tumblr account. It seems like a schadenfreude-fest which started at all because deriding bad writing is currently trending, in Twitterspeak. And often WriMos are perfectly aware that their writing (for NaNo, that is) sucks but they're cool with it. Maybe less so with having strangers point and laugh at that same writing.

Date: 2012-11-16 01:56 pm (UTC)
cat_rood: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cat_rood
... Wow that tumblr is beyond skeevy. Yes, it does make me wonder if the people who are being posted about know it. I mean, it's one thing to post their comments, but to add screen names makes me really uncomfortable.

Also, wow that review and the writing. Just wow.

Date: 2012-11-16 03:14 pm (UTC)
ithiliana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ithiliana
Yes, yes, a million times yes, from a creative writing teacher, somebody who has produced and seen the ton of bad writing that everybody does at the start. I HATE this sort of thing--from the Mary Sue mocking communities I remember hearing about back in the day, to similar things in other fandom(s), often by people who couldn't do any better and don't even realize it (if they can and could do better, then they shouldn't be wasting their time like this).

It's hard to do constructive criticism (and sometimes, I vent privately to a friend or even in a locked post about teh horror that I see in my students' writing--and the fact that I deal with students' writing all the time and do, really, try to be constructive (while knowing I can and do fail), makes me less inclined to want to do, or see, this sort of shit on the internet. I feel the same way about some of the other mocking efforts (posting pictures of people going into Wal-Mart and mocking their appearance being a big one).

(Now, I admit I love Manboobz which posts misogynistic crap from MRAs and others and mocks them--and actually the bad troll writing often helps me be a lot kinder to my students' writing beause, whoa, their stuff is better than that).

Sturgeon's law.

And yes, if you want to publicly mock bad writing, go after the crap that gets published (or spewed out by politicians), i.e. hit UP, not down.

Date: 2012-11-16 03:33 pm (UTC)
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
So much of this criticism seems to come from a standpoint of not just "your writing is bad," but -- "If you think you have something worthwhile to say, you are foolish and wrong. If you think you could have a creative idea, you are foolish and wrong. If you dare to think that other people might be interested in what you think, you are foolish and wrong."

That's not a countercultural message. You don't get to position yourself as a brave truth-teller for saying that. That's the message of our entire consumerist culture that would rather people kept watching TV instead of trying to make something for themselves. ("Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock," as the Arcade Fire song says.)

So, yeah, it made me pretty angry.

Date: 2012-11-16 05:53 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I enjoy the NaNoisms forum on the NaNoWriMo site, because it's people sharing their own hilarious failures knowing how bad they are. I'm afraid to click that link because I know the sort of thing that's going to be there and that makes me sick.

Date: 2012-11-16 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bigbrasskey
Thank you.

Date: 2012-11-16 07:15 pm (UTC)
zvi: self-portrait: short, fat, black dyke in bunny slippers (Default)
From: [personal profile] zvi
?? This tumblr doesn't seem to be in any way intended to communicate back to the nanowrimo writers in question. I don't see how a srs bzns critique tumblr would be any more helpful for the original writers if the critiques therein weren't communicated to them.

OTOH, I think that aiming critiques at people doing nanowrimo is a terrible idea, because it contravenes the point of the experience, which is to write quickly, which, for most people, means writing without editing, reflecting, assessing what you're writing.

I mean, your basic complaint seems to amount to, "Some people are pointing out specific words written (or plotting, from what I see in the tumblr itself) during nanowrimo are terrible" and my basic reaction to that (and, I would hope the reaction of anyone who had bothered to learn anything about the history and purpose of nanowrimo) would be, "Yes, writing produced during nanowrimo may well suck, that is a predicted effect of participating in nanowrimo."

Your larger complaint seems to amount to, "If you can't say anything nice/useful, shut up." But if people want to talk among themselves about things third parties have publicly said or done, I don't see that that is a reasonable demand. Large swathes of humanity like to talk about the things that human beings do. Human beings who don't want their actions discussed should act secretly, because humanity at large is not going to enter into a conspiracy to either (a) pretend the action never occurred or (b) only give the reaction desired by the first actor. Seriously, if one can't take the thought of one's first million words of crap being called crap by strangers on the internet, don't publish it on the internet where strangers can read it.

Date: 2012-11-16 07:29 pm (UTC)
wisdomeagle: (Ducky)
From: [personal profile] wisdomeagle
I had a semi-related conversation with a member of my family the other day (hint: it was the member of my family who hasn't actually done NaNo). He'd read a very brief excerpt of someone else's current NaNo, and went (not to the NaNo-er in question at least) and cut it down by a third because it was full of repetitions and redundancies. (BECAUSE NANO.) And then went HE could never do NaNo because he wants all the things he writes to be perfect.

... He said a lot of times, "I get that's not the point of NaNo," but I don't think he actually got that 1 draft, however rough > 0 drafts. Hence NaNo. SIGH.

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