So Long, and Thanks for All the Fist

trophyHappy Thanksgiving to everyone world-wide who recognizes the day. Holiday or not we all have things we can be grateful for, probably more than we would immediately think. It is important to occasionally take note of these things and give a little thanks where thanks are due.

We are also nearing the end of November, and all the Nano participants are pushing through toward the finish line, or they have already finished, or they are coming to grips with the fact that there is not enough month left to finish the stories they have attempted to tell.

I’ve been reading some of the comments, some of the folks out there are having a particularly trying time right now, some of you have become discouraged and depressed, especially for those who now know that December will indeed soon start, whether or not they have reached their goal. A few have even started doubting the validity of the contest and the goal, or whether it is really an achievement worthy of mention or celebration. There are many among us who have become jaded and cynical and wish nothing more than to infect the rest of us and spread their shitty outlook.

I take issue with a few aspects of the whole concept of the National Novel Writing Month and some of the virtues it seems to encourage. I think word count is over emphasized, the goal of fifty thousand words in thirty days says nothing about quality, and can almost be said to condone sloppy writing as any novel length story pounded out in just one month is surely going to be missing some of the more delicate sensibilities a good piece of literature can convey, and many of the more celebrated works of literature have been tinkered with and pored over meticulously sometimes for years.

So while I do not fully endorse some of the tenets of the challenge, I do not want to belittle or trivialize anyone who has actually attempted the feat. As I have stated before, fifty thousand words in a month nothing at all to scoff at.

No, it’s not a finished project, surely it will need a coat of bondo and a few appointments with a cold, hard chisel to chip it into better shape; any book done right is the result of a rough draft improving through a succession of rewrites and editing. Even if you manage to crank out the fifty thousand words there is no guarantee at all that your story will be in any way a good story or well written manuscript. Very little instruction is offered about how to develop a story or build a believable world for your characters to play in.

But no one who has participated in the challenge, whether they made it to end or not, whether they stumbled upon their masterpiece and published the work for a crowd eager to read, or whether they scraped out a few clumsy pages and threw their hands in the air and gave up when they ran out of road and couldn’t think of a way for their story to proceed. No one here should feel like a loser, like they wasted time, or like they had committed their energies in a worthless venture. No one who wrote one more word than they had yesterday should feel like a failure.

In my mind, from this perspective, the whole design behind the Nano challenge is to get people writing who wouldn’t otherwise, encourage an artistic attempt from a group of people who would not otherwise take the time. How many of us hear friends or family say they’d like to write a book one day. How many people ever do it, or even ever try? How many bucket lists get filed away forever with certain items still not crossed off.

No one who made an attempt here should be too disappointed if they didn’t make the fifty thousand word goal, as I have said and as I am sure you are ready now to agree, it is no easy feat. It can achieved if it’s trained for, but to the uninitiated and unprepared it can quickly turn into an unscalable wall. 1667 words a day, everyday.

This little piece I am currently writing just passed seven hundred words, to give you an idea of the amount you have to write everyday. And I am seasoned and I am used to cranking out a few thousand words in a sitting. I have a personal pledge to write at least a thousand every day. It ranges, for me, between half an hour if I am well prepared or really inspired, to a few hours if I am struggling. And it does take some focus and determination to keep developing and invented new things to say everyday.

Anything that encourages us to think a little more, to read a little more, it is hard for me to consider this a bad thing. Anything that gets the general public to read more, I can’t begrudge anyone who would participate in such an endeavor. On this one, we all win. We all truly deserve a pat on the back and a round of applause.

No one here should feel at all like a failure. If nothing else, we can write again next year. No no one who played along walks away empty-handed, we all have earned a consolation prize; a new novel to edit, some new ideas to work on, or a new favorite author or genre to investigate, or indeed even just a better appreciation for the written word, and the art and craft of creation.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

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