An open letter to the NaNoWriMo detractors.

It’s November. Fall has finally taken hold and started making threats about the upcoming Winter. The election is over, Thanksgiving is yet to come. . . It’s also time for the NaNoWriMo whining to start.

Every year that I’ve been involved with the National Novel Writing Month, I’ve seen a proliferation of blog posts regarding it. Those posts fall into two categories:

1) Tips on how to put a huge, devoted effort into one month for a story you’ll probably never sell.
2) Snide remarks about how stupid it is to waste a month of your life on a story you can’t sell, and how you waste hours of editors time with those same stories. I’d like to speak to the writers, editors, and publishers who have advanced these ideas.

Let me lay a groundwork for my position by pointing out the things we agree on. NaNoWriMo stories are crap. Yes. We know that. You don’t need to tell us anymore. It’s on the website. We’re writing for quantity, not quality. So we agree there.

Also, there are some people who delude themselves into sending their first draft, fresh off the presses, to agents and publishers. These people are wrong to do it. I agree with you there.

Where we differ is the reaction that you have to this. First of all, if you are an agent or publisher who wants to avoid unedited NaNoWriMo stories, simply list on your submission guidelines that you only accept NaNoWriMo stories during the month of October. If you see the word “NaNoWriMo” anywhere in the query, ship them the form rejection. They deserve it for wasting your time.

You’ll still get a glut of writers who think they can get around you by not admitting that their work is a NaNo story. You know how to deal with that? Treat them like all the other hapless, unagented writers that you tell us about the other 11 months of the year.

When you write articles about submissions that say “Greatest story ever put to paper” or “Completely original idea that you are lucky enough to publish for me”, understand that these people are no more noble than the NaNoWriMo writers. There are people just as lost and goofy, who didn’t put the work into devoting one month to writing.

In the real world, there are good writers, and there are crap writers. In NaNoWriMo, there are good writers, and there are crap writers. Going out of your way to deride the people most interested in the devoted pursuit of a novel doesn’t help anybody.

And by the way, the only reason I care enough to tell you this is because I respect you guys. You are the established writers, the seasoned publishers. You guys have been the purveyers of quality writing for years, and I would love someday to join you. But when you take on the general populace, people striving to be like you, and call us all clueless hacks, you diminish yourself in our view. Take the high road. Pass on the nutjobs, but relish in the fact that, in a world where people are reading less, this group still reveres you enough to want to be one of you.

By the way, we’re not all that bad. In the NaNoWriMo press pack, you can find a list of authors who did get their NaNoWriMo stories published, including the bestseller, “Water for Elephants”. I, myself, am paying for my car with royalties from my first NaNoWriMo story, Tumbler (self published after editing).

It’s trendy and hip to insult the unwashed masses. I get that. But before you deride an entire populace, realize that your real beef is with a small segment of the group. Target your complaints at the unwanted symptom, and leave the noble cause alone.

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  1. Hear, hear!

    Well said, Brand! I totally agree, there’s enough pretentious judgment in the world. They should stop being a buzz-kill for new writers and instead dig in to find the Stephen Kings and Nathan Lowells in the group!