Every author knows that writing is about so much more than merely laying words down on a page. Most people with a minimal education can do that, and can even whack out a creditable paragraph or two. However, sustaining the momentum and carrying that vision through an entire story is quite another thing.
Over the years, I’ve seen disparaging articles where people have expressed their scorn and disdain of authors who participate in Nation Novel Writing Month, mocking the notion of a “competition.”
But these naysayers are overlooking one important point: to write a novel one must begin a novel and then complete it.
If it takes a special month of writing and a group frenzy to get some people fired up about an idea they’ve had rolling around in their heads, who am I to complain? I am a reader as much as I am an author, and I say the more, the merrier!
Take a look at some of the most well-known “NaNo Novels” of all time:
- Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. On the best-seller lists for over a year, turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, started as a NaNo novel.
- The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. What eventually became The Night Circus began life in 2004, seven years before it was finally published, started as a NaNo novel.
- Wool, by Hugh Howey. Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel is one of those credited with putting self-publishing on the map, started as a NaNo novel.
I’m not bothered by the “poo-poo on the contest” noise. Whatever gets a writer fired up and writing is fine by me, and we are all the better for the experience.
The real thing that causes angst among the elite is the notion that anyone with an idea can sit down and write the bare bones of a book in 30 days. Being an author is not being in a private club anymore, and it secretly bothers some of the stodgier “real” authors that a person of any background, religion, or ethnicity can dare to write meaningful or entertaining work, even people with minimal education.
Fear and Loathing, we call that. It’s irrational, but then no one ever accused authors of being rational! There will always be a need for more authors and more books, as once a book has been read, the dedicated reader wants a new book. It is the law of supply and demand, and publishing is a business.
The fact is, most people who begin a novel in November do not reach their goal of 50,000 words and never finish those novels. They do not have the discipline to sit down every day and dedicate a portion of their time to this project.
A great number of Nano Authors discover that doing NaNoWriMo is just like doing karaoke. They love to read, and they want to write the next Gone with the Wind, but their work reads like a tone-deaf drunk sounds when singing Wind Beneath my Wings. They are not talented writers. But so what? The cream always rises to the top, my grandma used to say.
Because of NaNoWriMo, many truly talented people are now embarking on learning a craft, committing their time and resources to educating themselves about how to write a novel that others will want to read. Several years down the road, who knows what wonderful works of fiction will have emerged from this year’s madness?
I only know that I am always looking for a good book, and so I will be first in line, hoping to be blown away by a fresh, new work of art. This is why I volunteer as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo. Every year we have new, young writers, with fresh, amazing ideas. But we also have many new older people who are writing their first novel, embarking on a dream they always had but never thought they could do.
Most who begin their novel this year will never write again. But every year a few writers in each age group continue on after the month of madness is over. When I talk to them and hear how fired up and passionate they are, I am proud to have been a part of their writing life. They see the goal, and and are filled with the desire to finish what they started.
They have embarked on the quest to learn how to write well.