book lover, professional writer & blogger
Warning: this article contains my opinion – and it’s not pretty. Prepare your inhalers.
Many decent bloggers, writers, online commentators and regular wordsmiths are saying – or, if they’re a bit less certain, gently suggesting – the same thing right now: there’s nothing wrong with writing a novel in a month. I want to stop the twittering record turning because there definitely is.
This is what those people really want to ask us authors: “What’s the point of wasting years of your life writing something so long and well-researched no one will read it anyway?”
Laziness is a concerning trend – as many trends tend to be. (Trends have replaced friends, I sometimes think, as I sit alone, writing and writing – and writing some more in my empty house). There’s no shortage of entrants to National Novel Writing Month: you can round it up to about 300,000 (although, only a fraction actually finish).
In today’s mad world, people seem to say things and even think things just because someone else has said it or thought it and that somehow makes it okay inside their mad heads. There’s barely anything out there (comment if you disagree) that argues with the bandwagon-jumping notion that it’s okay to replace art and substance with rushed, pseudo-rhetoric. The difference between speed-writing and real writing is like the difference between speed-dating and a meaningful relationship. There might be one resultant orgasm but you’ll definitely split up.
I know what some of you are thinking: writing 50,000 words (for Twitterites: they’re like tags but in a decipherable order) in a month isn’t lazy. No, it’s not. I agree. It’s hard work for your arm muscles. But, so is masturbation. And, I’m sure, if you want to dredge around, there are decent novels that have, apparently, formed during the month-long process. Writing, I mean, not w*nking. Sorry to hurt your feelings, folks, but I don’t believe those novels were created from scratch in that time. As I recently tweeted (Yes, I tweet, but it doesn’t mean I can’t think for myself) the organisers of ‘NaNoWriMo’ – that novel writing bonanza thing – said themselves that the rules about bringing previously-started material to the online writing desk are vague and slack. My words; their sentiment. You can continue old work and still submit it as new – or old. They’re basically not bothered. Well, I am. I want to stick up for real writing, writing that means more than running a race, winning or losing, competing.
To put my opinion into a simple, tweetable statement: I just don’t believe all the short-cut hype. Even good people will say something is worthwhile or right when it isn’t.
To quote one of my all-time favourite on-screen characters, Super Hans from the eternally outspoken British comedy ‘Peep Show’: “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. You can’t trust people, Jeremy.”
Another trend I’ve seen talked about a lot when it comes to commenting on the plight of wannabe novelists is that many of them are trapped in fear of something. Yes, FEAR is on the up. FEAR that too much time will be ‘wasted’ on a novel no one will care about; FEAR that if a decent novel goes out, it’ll be their last decent novel and their new fans will disown them as fast as they can wail, “Please don’t leave me!”; FEAR that they’ll get writer’s block or suffer a seizure at their desks and not be able to pen another 300,000 word-thick brick of text; FEAR that a publisher will read something they wrote four years ago when they’d had a drink and tell all their publisher friends never to support anything they write, ever; FEAR that writing’s not a proper job anyway and the rest of the family think they’re a maniac for ditching their normal job at the office; FEAR that they’ll actually say something interesting and different and real and FEAR – yes FEAR – that they’ll realise success doesn’t happen overnight.
Still desperate for your work to be noticed? I understand. I want that, too. But, we shouldn’t give up our principles too easily. Now more than ever, we need to preserve the quality and integrity of our art. Slow down, remember why you started writing in the first place and put your fears and insecurities where they belong – I call it Planet Insignificant.