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Night Shade Message Boards » Mamatas, Nick » I like to shriek and shriek and shriek like a ninny! « Previous Next »

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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 02:17 pm:   

As some of you may know, NaNoWriMo is coming up. NaNoWriMo is a game (gaaaaaame, this will come up again later) wherein people try to generate a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It started with a few people and five years later, thousands sign up. Most don't finish.

It's just a fun thing that they do for fun. And maybe meet some people.

Enter Alma Hromic and this bit of literary scroogism.

Hromic doesn't like NaNoWriMo. Why not? Well, she believes that the game serves to "diminish me and people like me - professionals who have NOT been scared away by the time and effort involved in producing a novel, who have done hours of research, who have spent hours polishing a piece of work into the best possible shape before submitting it for the judgment of industry professionals."

She goes on to poke through the NaNoWriMo FAQ, so that she can shake her first at obviously tongue-in-cheek entries like this reason for participating: "To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work"

Fingers trembling with rage, Alma extrapolates "The entire premise behind this seems to be that the promoters really really enjoy the perks of being 'a novelist' - the prestige, the carte blanche to act like a prima donna artist, the supposed leisured lifestyle and the endless lunches with editors and sessions of romantic writing with a pencil behind your ear while sitting at a trendy café and sipping your latte while the world roars by," from the above.

Now I will agree that writing 50,000 words doesn't make one a novelist, not any more than driving a pick up truck around the block once makes one a truck driver. I've always defined writer as "someone who has been paid in cash or copies by someone else for the right to publish written material produced by the payee." This is of course unsatisfactory to all sorts of people, but I still haven't heard a better definition. However, NaNoWriMo isn't about defining writers. The point of the exercise is that people want to try something and have fun with it. A game.

People play games all the time. People even make games out of endeavors that other folks get paid for, and yet the staples of classic rock and oldies tours manage to keep from heaping bile on karaoke bars. Back when Super-8 film was common, kids used to make little movies in their backyards, with trick photography and everything. I'm sure they still do it with DV. And who knows, maybe some of them do act like prima donnas, shouting "I'm the greatest karaoketa in the wooooooooorld!" from the stage after only two brandies alexander.

But, so what? Even if someone says that, are they really mocking, oh I dunno, Nancy Sinatra? No.

Time to get a grip. Yes, being a professional writer is difficult. But having met a large number of professional writers -- a group that has more than its fair share of numbnuts, crypto-fascists, idiot savants, plain ol' idiots, booze-addled hillbillies, and people with so little common sense that they couldn't make sandwich if you gave them a slice of baloney and two pieces of bread -- I declare that writing just is not that hard!

It doesn't take a gift, or a muse, or a talent, or a lonesome childhood, or all that much intelligence. A bit of isolation, a bunch of library books, and dumb-ass donkey persistence in the face of indifference are the essentials. This, of course, is the same skill set found among twine collectors and contendors for the record of largest ball of tin foil in the world.

Another near-essential: the ability to read and detect irony when it is present in a text. Hromic may want to develop that skill.

Pardon me now, I have to go shine my collection of jelly jars.
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 02:48 pm:   

I like this bit the best.

"If you don't have anything to say, you don't have anything to say. Or you may have a good storytelling ability but lack the capacity to put the story across well. None of these things are crimes. But they also don't give you the right to write "50,000 words of crap" in a month and then call yourself a novelist. You are not. You've merely written 50,000 words of crap."

Oh dear. Someone tell Jeffrey Archer.
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Mastadge
Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 07:17 pm:   

I wish I hadn't read this, because I happen to like Alma. So I won't bother responding.

Whoops!
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 07:31 pm:   

What's to like or not to like? She says Ridiculous Thing X, I respond with Sensible Thing Y.

Generally speaking, it is a very poor idea to speak on behalf of all published novelists about any topic. The insult Alma feels, is I guarantee not universally felt.

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Mike Jasper
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 04:12 am:   

"Dumb-ass donkey persistence in the face of indifference."

Got that in spades! I is a writer!
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David Moles
Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 06:50 am:   

Man, if I'd known I could get the prestige, the leisured lifestyle, and the endless lunches just by signing up for National Novel Writing Month, I would've signed up.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:47 am:   

You still can!
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Rachel Heslin
Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:47 am:   

Okay, I just had to say that, upon reading the title of this discussion board, I became very glad I was not drinking anything because said fluid would have immediately gushed out of my nose.

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