The Problem With NaNoWriMo
Several years ago I tried writing a novel during November under the auspices of NaNoWriMo. I only finished about a third of the piece, but the following spring, after I finally had caught up on my sleep, I went on to craft a complete novel (85,000 words ) that was completely unrelated to my first attempt. After nearly a 100 agent rejections that novel also sits in a drawer, as I contemplate converting a more recent NaWriMo effort into a finished manuscript.
Nonetheless, one of the most vivid memories of my first venture into Zombie land was visiting a Borders cafe at the end of the month and while I was quietly sipping my extra-strong cup of java, I noticed two young men sitting at a nearby table, feverishly pecking away on their laptops. Without a doubt, this public display of wackiness was associated with the national novel writing month that is now responsible for producing over a 100,000 new manuscripts every year.
Don’t get me get me wrong for I think that National Writing Month is a great idea. But combine NaWriMo with the yearly crop of MFAs and now you have a real literary agent’s nightmare. No wonder the favorite three words for any agent is now, “not for me”.
However, cynical this may sound, I still believe that NaNoWriMo is a great concept. In their own words, the 30-day project is aptly described as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing”. This lost-in-the -wilderness-without-a-map attitude can make for a great writing experience, provided of course that the writer knows how to forage for nuts and berries and makes it out of the woods alive.
Unfortunately, this event that can sometimes be so beneficial to the writer, can also make life more difficult for the agent, who during December and January has to deal with the paper slush pile on the inside, along with real life slush that accumulates outside on snowy NYC streets.