The above-referenced article in Salon by Laura Miller states that, in her opinion, NaNoWrimo shouldn’t exist. That’s a contest where people are encouraged to produce a 50,000 word novel during November. You can find more about the specifics here:
Miller insists that nobody should be encouraged to write novels. She says it isn’t necessary. Novel-writers will always write. Nobody can stop them. She wants most of them to stop, in fact, since so many of them apparently write bad stuff. They won’t stop, she laments. Then she makes the odd contention that we should be encouraging readers while discouraging writers. Maybe I’m oversimplifying the author’s position. Read the article for yourself, but here are my thoughts on the subject.
Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and met the goal of 50,000 words by about November 19. The book from that project was published in May of the following year. It is just under 100,000 words and is the second in a series. I am also the published author or co-author of over a dozen books, all written before I ever heard of Nano. So I’m not sure if it’s fair for me to wonder if she meant I am one of the pitiful hacks who should not be writing. She even brings up a Nano success story, Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. So I guess she doesn’t hate all Nano writers.
But, wow … How to really respond to Laura Miller?
1. I never did agree with all the Nano pundits who seem to say that you should give yourself permission to write badly just because it might mean you churn out 50,000 words in a month. I had no real problem meeting the goal last year, and I revised and corrected everything along the way. If people really do churn out 50,000 words of garbage, and call it writing a novel, shame on them.
2. It also disturbs me, as it does Miller, how many people write but don’t read, or even read only what they like, or to have derivative fodder for their chosen genre.
3. I also agree that readers are somewhat hard to find and may be becoming fewer, and more disillusioned with the bad choices.
4. I think the writer of this article is snarky and doesn’t take seriously what a truly good writer is and does. I have not read Water for Elephants but I have read about it. The basic story is pretty derivative — the old “her husband didn’t love her but this other guy was a sensitive soul so she was justified in loving him back” story is one anybody could write, but I wonder if anybody should.
5. So I conclude that we should carefully write good stuff, for Nano and otherwise, try to nurture readers, and ignore the snarky woman who got paid to vent about something she does not understand — which is writing. How do I get paid to write about something I admit I do not understand?