I have a lot of thoughts about this. There are two pieces I read last year, one after my colleague and friend Carolyn Kellogg responded to it over at LATimes.com. Both are impassioned arguments about NaNoWriMo (as it has been awkwardly shortened), and I am inclined more to agree with Kellogg that writing a novel in 30 days is a good writing exercise. Despite the rash of MFA programs and people with that dubious credential bashing about the country, spending a month writing–even a crappy novel–is a use of time that certainly trumps motoring through the back seasons of Dexter on Netflix. Certainly more productive than to fret as Laura Miller does over the lack of quality in a novel written in a month or the inevitable spate of horrid manuscripts that agents and editors see each year in December.
However, I don’t think that Miller’s thought that people who have never before written a novel, who do not read, who don’t have any formal training or real credentials to write a novel are all (or most of) the people who do NaNoWriMo, then ship their 50K word manuscript off to Penguin is entirely without veracity. But it seems silly to say that those people (who are analogous to the people who claim to be environmentalists but drive Hummers or who cheer the death penalty, but claim that human life begins at conception and then go shoot up abortion clinics full of women and doctors who perform abortions) are a reason not to do NaNoWriMo.
I think maybe Miller should–instead of bemoaning the failure of readers everywhere to buy enough novels or subscribe to enough literary journals–start a corresponding National Novel Reading Month, where the competition is to see who can read the most novels in a month, or to just read novels at all. We live in a world full of folks who don’t do enough reading. Just ask Rosemary Wells. It’d be simple to start up, open a blog, buy a URL, and start off with a registration form and a list of novels, with the clear advice that readers may read novels not on the list. Readers can keep track on GoodReads or something, and off we go! NaNoReaMo!
I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo myself this year. Not to come up with a fully polished draft for submission to ____________, no, but to get back into the habit of writing fiction every day. Writing every day, which I do, is good. But writing fiction ever day, for me, is better.
I’m going to think up a way to include all of you blog readers in this effort. I’m thinking of a training camp for the rest of October where I post prose poems or flash fiction, or efforts thereat.
Hate the idea? Love it? Leave me a comment. I love comments, and like to reply to them.