Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Writing Tree versus NaNoWriMo

The question is not whether you can write 50,000 words per month, it's whether or not you should.

The value of NaNoWriMo is twofold.  First it brings writers together in a common project.  The value of this should not be underestimated.  Second, it gets writers writing.  No small feat that.

It's easy to find supporters of NaNoWriMo all over the web.  It's a developed and exciting community, and sometimes when you question a community movement you get hammered by its supporters, but I'll risk it.

Considering the speed of publishing today, we all feel the pressure to write faster so we don't get left behind.  The market changes rapidly, especially with the advent of eBooks.  The more we write, the reasoning seems to go, the more money we can make.

But in the race to be rapid, I wonder if we're sacrificing the power of our writing.  The ability to create compelling, emotionally moving writing takes time and reflection to develop.  It requires that we look deeply into ourselves and the people around us before we start typing.

This ability takes time to take root within us.  It begins small, like a seed, and cannot be forced to grow beyond its time or it will wither and die. 

I believe most writers have the ability to be great writers, but they lose their chance by writing before they think.  

One powerful novel is worth ten mediocre efforts.

If you want to read an examples of a writer with mature, developed power read something by James Lee Burke.  I guarantee you'll be impressed and put the book down thinking maybe it is worth it to take the time to think, really think about what you're writing before you put it to paper.


Charles Gramlich said...

You hit it there, man. I think one of the reason the mainstream publishers are suffering is because for years they've pushed and pushed their writers to write faster, faster, faster, and what has been coming out, too often, has been mediocre product. Some readers seem to have lost their ability to tell the difference, but many of us are seeking elsewhere for good strong, quality work.

Rick said...

The future of great writing is the Indie Presses,don't you think Charles? Mainstream publishers seem more and more like chicken farms. All the writers in their cages, producing writing that weighs the same, feels the same and tastes the same.

Speed writing produces the bland quality that lands otherwise good writers a home in the writing cage next to the other writers too chicken to take their time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wrote my second book during NaNo 2010, but I already had a very detailed outline and character sketches beforehand. And I spent six months finishing and revising.
That said, I probably won't be participating in NaNo again.
I think a lot of established authors end up putting out average work. Authors who were my favorite twenty years ago are not high on my list anymore because their books aren't very good now. As Charles pointed out, maybe that's the price of pushing authors to write faster.

Rick said...

Now that's what I call prepared, Alex. Detailed outlines and character sketches are immensely helpful to the growing of a well-rooted story.

BernardL said...

Anything that inspires is a great thing. If NaNo works for a writer and gives them a sense of community, that's fine. As an exercise, I see the attraction. Whether it produces anything of substance will rest with whether the writer follows through. The only way it works is if it jars loose the cobwebs and creates a solid plot and characters. Everything else reminds me of going to the gym and running on the treadmill. :)

Rick said...

I think that's right, Bernard. It's mostly a community gathering thing, and I think that part is good. Writing can be a lonely profession.

Christina said...

I did NaNoWriMo when I was first starting out as a writer. It was fun and the community was exciting.

I think 2011 is my last yr of doing it. I finish my projects, I don't need NaNoWriMo to fuel that desire. Plus, I would get so far and stop because I didn't want to spend all that time writing a project where I'd have to drop 25,000 words or more.

Rick said...

Besides, Christina you do have the ability for depth. You spend time with your characters and get to know them. I expect great things from you over the years to come.

Plus, you are tough. You won't quit.

Travis Cody said...

Perhaps more thinking comes after the last word is written on the last day of an event like NaNo? I've never participated in it, but I have friends who have and they say they stash the manuscript and don't return to it for several months. Kind of getting it out of their system.

Returning to the manuscript later, they apply the craft of writing to it and see if it produces something worth submitting.

As to writing fast, as a reader I want the next book in an enjoyable series as soon as I finish the last one. But as someone who has tried writing, I realize that fast isn't always the best approach.

I'm a fan of Jim Butcher. He delayed the publication of Ghost Story, the latest Harry Dresden book, specifically because he didn't just want to throw the next story out there just to satisfy the demand of his readers. He wanted a good story, a story that made sense, and a story that didn't cheat his readers. I was impatient, but I did appreciate that Mr Butcher refused to give in to the demand to simply get the book out.

And it was a great story. Well worth the wait.

Rick said...

My respect for Jim Butcher just went through the roof. That was a great story to share, Travis. I'm going to see if we can interview him for White Cat Magazine.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm just glad no one has placed a demand on my writing; not that there's much of it. I've been known to sit on a story for too long to count. Then again, I did write a flash-fiction piece in 10 minutes, submit it, and received an acceptance email all within a week. I guess what matters is whether the story feels right and is polished.

mafarivar said...

Though I am a nobody but a novice when it comes to writing, I would submit that good quality writing in fiction, puts me in a sort of trance where, by the time I'm done reading I have no idea how much time has passed, and my mind nags me for every opportunity to get back at it. Kind of like being a young lover, newly infatuated or in love. I also remember such works making me feel disappointed when they're over and yearning for more similar material. This effect is also experienced with good movies. The connection here as I see it is through the experience of good psychological intimacy with the characters. This is less formulaic and probably why you'd find it in Indie press. No?

Margie said...

Great post, Rick.
I think quality is what matters most!

Thanks for the visit!

Margie :)