(American) National Novel Writing Month or ‘Exploding in a Shower of Blood’

Or NaNoWriMo to its friends. Or ‘dis­repect­ful’ shenanigans to its detract­ors. (Thanks to Eric von Rothkirch over at Quantum Storytelling for that link.)

What’s NaNoWriMo? Well, for the month of November, would-be writers around the globe — though mostly those charm­ing colo­ni­als — will sit down at their com­puters and write about 1500 words each day. At the end, they’ll have 50,000 words of fic­tion.

First off, 50 grand of word­age gets you a novella, not a nov­el. Second, why the hell shouldn’t this be a great idea? Would-be writers can get togeth­er and moan and cajole each oth­er until the word count is reached. Seems like nor­mal writ­ing beha­viour to me.

Over at MetaxuCafe, one guy (Mark Leahy) is unhappy at the thought of all these ama­teurs pee­ing on his ter­rit­ory. OK; that might be an unkind sum­mary of his post. I sug­gest you read it and come back.

Done that? Leahy makes a the point that most people would be aghast if doc­tors approached heart sur­gery the way writers approach writ­ing (through tri­al and error. This is not a good argu­ment for sev­er­al reas­ons, and here is the first: (1) Books don’t explode in a shower of blood if you fuck them up; (2) The heart is a phys­ic­al sys­tem whose prop­er­ties can be invest­ig­ated through ana­lyt­ic pro­cesses, and these prop­er­ties can be learned over a num­ber of years’ dir­ec­ted study; (3) The prop­er­ties of a book can­not be objec­ti­fied in the same way, there­fore can­not be learned through dir­ec­ted study, and there­fore must be learned through tri­al and error — in oth­er words, until you’ve fiddled with your fic­tion and had it explode in a shower of blood a couple of times, you prob­ably won’t know what you’re doing. Good luck to the heart sur­geon in Leahy’s story; he’ll need it.

And as for your NaNoWriMo lin­go­nauts — take an umbrella, and God speed.

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

8 thoughts on “(American) National Novel Writing Month or ‘Exploding in a Shower of Blood’”

  1. … ‘explode in a shower of blood’?! I love it. I’d write one with that title if I had the time.


  2. Hah, good one.

    Novella? Yeah, I sup­pose that fits in the grand lit­er­ary tra­di­tion. I’m all for rede­fin­ing the nov­el towards people with short atten­tion spans. 120–200 pages seems ideal to me. Economy!

  3. Great dis­sec­tion of Mark’s post, Doctor Hocking!

    At first I found his post quite snob­bish and con­des­cend­ing… Then I saw through it and real­ised that it was just a writer being hor­ri­fied at the thought of ama­teurs step­ping into his turf.

    But we’re all ama­teurs until we get pub­lished, aren’t we?

    Writing is a very odd busi­ness. I earn my liv­ing writ­ing (not nov­els, unfor­tu­nately) but I am aware that:

    1: I got my job by know­ing the right per­son at the right time and hav­ing the chutzpah and focus to deliv­er some­thing by the dead­line. Talent and abil­ity wasn’t the major reas­on I was hired.

    2: Every time I com­plain about my paycheque, I think of the queue of tal­en­ted people who’d do my job bet­ter, for less pay.

    Anybody who earns a liv­ing from writ­ing is very lucky.

  4. Thanks for your com­ment, Rolski. I think it’s def­in­itely true that we’re all ama­teurs until we get pub­lished. And its so easy to dis­cour­age (by coin­cid­ence, it seems to be the worst writers who do this dis­cour­aging…)

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