Monday, November 13, 2006

Na No No No 

A few years ago I seriously considered joining the fray for NaNoWriMo -- aka National Novel Writing Month for those of us who, unlike the New Zealand Testing Board that just decided that high school students will be allowed to use "text-speak" in exams, actually still prefer english over cyberspeech.

Happily, by midday on November 2nd of that year, I soon realized I was a plotless idiot who had no business trying to produce junk, whether it be for meme or for later novelfodder. I mean, imagine what most NaNoWriMo participants are cranking out on November 27th at 3 a.m. and you grok the basic problem here. Heck, imagine the dreck that most folks tend to start with, given the lack of general outlining and planning participants speak almost proudly of.

Look, maybe you're Kerouac -- maybe you, too, can produce a short stream of consciousness thingie of quality and innate truth in just a few short weeks on the road of your daily grind. But most of us don't live the whirlwind existence. Most of us have no great unwritten novel fully outlined in our heads. And most of us have much better things to do with three hours of every day than to write as fast as we can about absolutely anything, so long as the keys keep clicking along.

And anyway, my life is my novel. Why force it? Four years and over a third of a million blogwords later (that's six novels, if you're counting), I remain convinced that'd rather pour my energy into family, friends, blog and brain on a daily basis.

To be fair, way back in that fateful November, I bookmarked Novel In Less Than One Year, just in case I ever want to go back. But when I publish my blog excerpts, I'll have the last laugh for sure. When I do write my novel, it will be marked by a lifetime of history and careful craft, not an arbitrary ruler or a clock on the wall.

God bless anyone who manages to actually complete a novel worth reading in the midst of this experiment in mass production -- and there are sure to be just enough exceptions to prove the rule. And God bless you, too, if you have no better way to do what you've always wanted to do.

But, truly, doing it because it's that time of year? Because everyone's doing it? Novels aren't a destination. It's not about speed OR endurance. It's a piss poor way to fulfil your destiny.

Kerouac's powerful, high-school-accessible On The Road is a great story, and it's great poetry, but a novel it ain't -- and Kerouac knew it. Anyone who thinks they can write a novel against deadline would best remember Truman Capote, who said of On The Road: That's not writing, that's typing.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:13 PM |

Excellent post. I've almost felt a little bit guilty a few times for not doing nano this year but not after reading this!
Well and if NaNo doesn't give you enough of a sense of the shakes there's always this:
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