Sunday, September 29, 2013

In Defense of Nanowrimo

I've been reading a blog called The Literary Mercenary for a while now, and normally I think it's interesting and I tend to agree with a lot of what he writes. However, he recently wrote a post about Nanowrimo which was generally really negative about the whole concept.  I was going to write a comment about why I disagreed with him, but then I realized that I needed more space to fully articulate what I had to say.

As some of you know, during the summer I participated in Camp Nanowrimo, which is basically Nanowrimo in July.  I enjoyed the experience, I thought that it was useful and I think that my writing benefitted from it.  I don't agree with the idea that people who've never done it before have to be "warned" about it.

His main issue seems to be with the word count; he says that 50,000 words is an arbitrary number, and that most people just end up writing words for the sake of getting the word count.  I take issues with this on a number of levels.  Firstly, yes, 50,000 words is arbitrary, but it's not ridiculously arbitrary.  Most novels do come in at around the 50,000 word mark, and many have much more.  The Great Gatsby is generally seen as a relatively short novel, and it has about 47,000 words.  Secondly, at least in Camp Nanowrimo, they have introduced a new facility which allows you to chose your own word count goal.  Finally, I think that there are benefits to having to reach a certain word count, even if it is a tad arbitrary.  I'm a perfectionist, and I could probably spend the rest of my life on the rough draft of a novel, and it still wouldn't be good enough for me.  So, for people like me, it's actually helpful to have a sense that you just have to put words on paper; it doesn't matter if they're perfect, just as long as they exist.

He also takes issue with the fact that Nanowrimo doesn't give you time to go back and edit your work. Now, while they don't really advertise the fact that much, Nanowrimo is really supposed to be just a rough draft.  If the novel is good, then you can go back and edit it, and if it's not, then it's not a complete disaster; you've only spent a month on it as opposed to half a year.

The other issue he has is with the "spirit" of Nanowrimo.  He claims that people feel that Nanowrimo is a way to churn out a novel to earn some quick cash.  Although I've personally never experienced this, I am willing to accept that this attitude exists.  However, I think he is wrong to suggest that this is an outlook that Nanowrimo encourages.  I have never found anyone from the organization suggesting that novel-writing is lucrative or easy.  If some individuals have latched on to this idea form who knows where, then that's bad, but Nanowrimo isn't responsible.  If anything, it does the opposite.  Anyone who starts out thinking that this is going to be a walk in the park is going to be sorely disappointed.

Finally, he claims that Nanowrimo doesn't make you a better writer.  Everyone's different, my personal experience is that it has improved my writing.  The novel I wrote this year is significantly better than the one I wrote last year.  Novel writing (like most other things) is something that you need to practice to get better at.  Writing short stories and poetry isn't automatically going to make you a good novelist; they are different art forms.  Nanowrimo provides you with an opportunity to get that practice.

Nanowrimo isn't perfect; but it isn't the bucket of excrement that he claims it is.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Book Cover Manifesto

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I talk a lot about book covers.  During the year or so that I've been blogging, I have:

  1. Ranted about the Bell Jar cover
  2. Ranted about book covers that try to piggy-back on the success of a certain teenage vampire romance series
  3. Talked about how, even though it might not be the best idea in real life, judging a book by it's cover can be a good idea

However, I have recently realized that my thoughts on the topic are scattered, and occasionally contradictory.  This is partially due to the fact that my opinions about the topic have changed in the last year.  I've also generally brought it up in relation to something else.  So I've been largely skirting around it, and this probably makes things unclear.

So, I decided to write one post that would try and set down in clear terms what I think about this topic; a sort of Book Cover Manifesto.