Well, maybe not quite…though there was certainly an online brouhaha when Laura Miller, a columnist at Salon.com, voiced her opinion that the November ‘write a novel in a month’ project was a ‘waste of time and energy ‘ (click here to view her article).
Miller’s view on the whole NaNoWriMo phenomenon was that it just gave a lot of people an excuse to write a load of crap that would morph into ‘slapdash’ novels adding to slush piles everywhere.
Unsurprisingly Miller became the target of online vitriol/bile/horror for daring to to diss NaNoWriMo but many of her points remain, nonetheless, totally valid. Now before I become the object of a flamewar, let me preface this by saying I think NaNoWriMo is a great way for people to motivate themselves to get a first draft finished. I’ve even contemplated doing it myself but I have to confess the fear of letting volume alone dictate my writing was too worrisome (and the mere thought of it, exhausting!). However, if we boil Miller’s objections down they actually seem pretty uncontroversial:
First, she worries that if the focus of NaNoWriMo is merely on tapping out a bad first draft (and, lets face it, all first drafts are terrible!) then would-be writers may be mistaken in believing that the endless grind of revising and editing is not required – hence her concern over all the hastily put together manuscripts subsequently invading agents desks in December.
Second she argues that the ‘selfless art of reading is being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing’ and worries that, while there is no shortage of people eager to write, there is, however, an acute shortage of people eager to read. Can’t say I can argue with that, as almost everyone I meet these days tells me they want to write a book but few, if any, can find the time to actually read.
In Laura Miller’s view, true writers would be pounding their keyboards whether or not NaNoWriMo existed and that we should be focusing our support on getting people motivated to become avid readers rather than would-be writers. Given the amount of money spent on the whole ‘how-to’ write industry it is depressing to realize just how much of Laura’s article rings true.
So what is your opinion of NaNoWriMo – just an excuse to pound out 50,000 words of crap or a valuable tool to nurture the next great American novel? Is our culture so focused on self-expression that we have forgotten the one thing all books need – readers?!