Love it! Had to tweet it.
I'm not anti-NaNoWriMo, but I think Laura Miller, in her otherwise weak Salon piece, was groping toward one important truth: There's something weird about the difference between the vast number of aspiring novelists and the small sales numbers in the industry many of them hope to join.For example, there are, what, 150,000 NaNoWriMo particpants? But the author of a literary novel or a work of genre fiction is happy if his book sells a few thousand copies. (Along the same lines, Virginia Quarterly Review is considered a prestigious place to publish an article, and the magazine wins tons of industry awards, but a recent newspaper article claims that VQR has only 2,400 subscribers and 941 circulating newsstand copies. Everyone wants VQR on their resumes...but is anyone actually reading it?)Obviously, as a blogger, I'm fine with anyone having their say, whether they have ten readers or a million, but when I see the huge number of NaNoWriMo participants (and the recent rise of predatory, fourth-rate creative writing programs), I think of how many books are going unbought and unread this month, and I wish we were encouraging reading just as strongly.
Jeff: I do agree that the market for aspiring novelists is shrinking, while at the same time the number of aspiring novelists is growing.However, what I have a problem with is the presumption that anyone who wants to write a novel of course wants to get published. Sure, maybe some or even a lot of them do. But we can't know that, and we can't presume that, and we can't presume that this Great Unwashed Mass wants to take away the chances from the The Real Authors (ugh, that just smacks of elitism). As has been pointed out: why is writing in some weird category where there can't be amateurs without everyone freaking out that they're not then taking the next step and trying to get published (and horrified that they'll try). What happened I just hate people crapping on a project (and a group of people) when the whole point is giving people a place to express themselves and be creative.
Oh, I definitely agree with you that professionals, or "real authors," or whatever we want to call them--"paid writers," maybe?--shouldn't be afraid of amateurs, first-timers, fanficcers, or people who simply want to write a novel for fun. I'm no fan of that sort of snobbery, and I do love when Internet amateurism--in the best sense of the word--traumatizes the old guard. (Goodness knows I could exhaust myself shopping around more of my writing to publications that would pay me pizza money, give me a byline, and reward me with "prestige," but why bother? That's what the blog is for.)My sense is that most NaNoWriMo participants do hope to publish, and I do still worry that we're on the verge of having tons of writers and almost no readers. Even so, over the years I've watched friends of mine who used to write for their own satisfaction drift away from any sort of creative expression. I'll be quite glad if NaNoWriMo, or something like it, helps them spend some time with their own thoughts again.
I have so many things to say about the arrogance of that Salon piece, and about the assumption that if one is writing, one cannot also be reading. (I mean, really, if you're a professional writer saying that? What is it you're saying about yourself, really? Not anything good.)But in lieu of a ridiculous rant that will only offend and not contribute to the conversation, I'd just like to quote this from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:amateur: "French, from Latin amator lover, from amare to love"What's so terrifying about people loving words and writing for the "Writing is SRS BSNZ!" crowd? I find that an interesting thing to ponder, personally.
about the assumption that if one is writing, one cannot also be reading. (I mean, really, if you're a professional writer saying that? What is it you're saying about yourself, really? Not anything good.)Ronda, if that's addressed to me, I have to say, I don't think it's at all outlandish to suggest that intensive, large-scale, deadline-oriented writing--which is what NaNoWriMo participants are doing--will lead to fewer books being bought and read during November, especially since NaNoWriMo participants are hardcore book lovers who are spending an intensive month focusing on something other than buying and reading books. I know that when I'm deep into a writing project, I sure don't have a heck of a lot of time to read. I'm not making the suggestion as an anti-NaNoWriMo cudgel; I simply don't think it should be The Thing That Musn't Be Said.The NaNoWriMo numbers also strongly suggest to me that there's a larger market for many good novels than current sales numbers suggest, but that publishers are doing a crummy job of letting potential readers know those books exist.