In response to Jenna St. Hilaire, On Writing Crap.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about crappy writing:
That turned out pretty good! I should maybe make some crappy Xeroxes of that thing and sell it over at Bubs’s. Or at least some snooty independent record store.
Not really. But a Strong Bad quote was inevitable at some point in this discussion, so I figured we might as well start now.
It’s more interesting to read Jenna St. Hilaire’s eloquent defence of writing crap. She raises the intriguing point that we, who by and large share a similar writing philosophy, should have such very different reactions to the phenomenon of NaNoWriMo, the headlong race against the month to complete a 50k word novel before November ends. Jenna runs straight at NaNoWriMo every year. She’s drafted at least one novel-length manuscript that way. I think about it, and run the other way, shrieking, ‘Wolf!’
I haven’t completed a novel manuscript.
or, different is good—right?
As a runner and friend of marathoners, I appreciate the spirit of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month for the unaware. I was thinking about that this morning, actually, as I ran along the harbour, under the sunrise over the sea, in Scotland (yes, that really happened to me today—and about a couple times each week).
Jenna St. Hilaire, a loyal NaNoWriMer, made the observation yesterday that ‘there’s a real value in the simple act of challenging yourself.’ The self-discipline and resulting reward of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month, from scratch, is well worth the sweat and the clenching neck muscles and the rhythmic muttering ‘i-HATE-mylife, i-HATE-mylife,’ which, coincidentally, is the exact same reason most people I know run marathons—with a few mad exceptions who like running marathons, and who can be likened to Real Authors.
I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Because challenging myself to push my limits and do break out of the comfortable and feel exhilarated afterwards is why I run. Not why I write.
When you’re not just procrastinating on writing for nanaowrimo, but procrastinating by writing about nanowrimo, and then procrastinating on that–you know you’ve got something bad.
The novelist is a mad animal, however we care to look at it. Stare at a screen, or a blank page if you’re progressive, scribble and type and hem and curse and type some more. Agonize because you don’t know what imaginary people are going to do fifty pages later. Swear a bit more, stare out the window, scribble something that sounds nothing like what you intended.
Repeat until you’ve got a book full of scribbles. Or a doc full of types, if you’re retro.
Isn’t this fun?
My notes for today’s post look a bit terrible. The blogger, apparently, is a bit of mad animal too. Or at least uninspired.
I have a reference to discussing ‘lessons learned’ and musing on ‘where to go from here’. Meaning of course, the last day of the 2009 Nanowrimo experience. Novelists may write in other months, but November alone is the National Novel Writing Month.
No, I don’t think I won nanowrimo. It’s not midnight yet, of course, but here’s the stats for your own judgment:
But some are. (Like that guy looking for the A key.)
‘Beware the ides of November,’ the loremaster neglected to say to his student.
The student, thus uninformed, crashed horribly into November 13th. He had nothing more to say, and he said it. Loudly, distinctly, for all the world to hear.
He predictably became a bestseller.
I am not that guy. Not yet, at any rate. But I have proven to my own satisfaction that I can write 1000 words in an hour. And, having proven, I haven’t. In proof of my not proving my proof, here’s the latest Word Count for my spectacular stab at a 60k word November:
My independent progressive version of nanowrimo began the way Eliot said the world would end–not with a bang, but a whimper.
so it goes
I mean, simply, that it didn’t live up to the hype. The reckless energy, the sense of ecstatic release at finally actually writing, the long hours struggling to meet a word count, the frenetic writing madness, vast amounts of caffeine and insomnia–all these things were strangely absent from my life.
At least, as absent as they ever are. Which isn’t very.
I discovered, with some disappointment, that I slightly overestimated my powers of productivity. Apparently I’ve accustomed myself to a writing stints of 1000-1500 words. My chapters tend to be about that long as well.
I also discovered, with some glee, the reckless, inordinate, numinous way that fantasy writing gets into the blood. There’s a subtle independence to story, that draws life from the writer-self. Or, more correctly, the intersection of the writer-self and the individual moments, the fusion of thought and setting.
Which is a clever way of admitting I didn’t outline first. Continue reading