So you can read my books

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Children, I just passed old Hemingway. He was cussing up a storm.

I asked why.

He told me of NaNoWriMo or NoNoNanettes as he called it.

Children, I have to humbly ask you ...


What would you think of a a National Brain Surgeon Operating Month, where we all took a stab at poking around in the innards of our friends' heads?

NoNoNanettes denigrates the writing profession, when they say, "Oh just sit down and start writing."

The fact of the matter is that most books worth reading have been thoroughly researched and outlined before the writing process has begun.

NoNoNanettes don't bother with that step—

which is a shame because first-time writers need the structure of good research and outlining to keep their attempt at writing a novel on track and away from meandering.

Just start writing, folks. Don’t worry if you don’t know where the narrative is going to go. Don’t worry if you haven’t puzzled out the intricacies of the plot.

Just write and fix it all later. Just get to your word limit for the day. There are NaNoWriMo sites that will sell your their editing services. I weep, children.

Don't you kind people know that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between LIGNTNING and LIGHTNING BUG?

That kind of striving for the right word takes ...TIME.

Being a ghost, I just heard one of you wail, "It allows you to meet fellow “writers” both online and in person!"

Oh, silly backward Missouri hayseed that I am!

Everyone knows that writing a novel is not a personal and spiritual journey one undertakes on their own, it is a social experience! A "group hug" affair as Hemingway calls it.

I bury my head in my hands.

This NoNoNatte thingy is just AMERICAN IDOL for those who think if they want to bad enough, they can overcome the lack of talent.

Except there are folks offering you poor children their various writing-based commodities ... for a price.

I know, you are unsuspecting dreamers who just want to write like your favorite author and make your living doing it.

If you want to write a novel, then, by all means, do it.

Read the masters. See where the seams are. And if you can't spot them, see how those writers managed that.

Write. Write. Write.

See what type of story sings to you, what person you excel in writing, what prose style flows from your pen.

If you need NaNoWriMo to write,

you are not ready to write your novel.

If you need the feedback and criticism of strangers,

then you are not ready.

If you need the structure in order to keep and maintain a writing schedule,

then you are not ready.

If you need to be patted on the back for reaching your daily goals,

then you are not ready.

Writing, like cooking, must be done alone. But have fun with it, please!

You need not expect to get your book right the first time.

Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention.

These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.

You want to know the time to begin writing your book? It ain't in November, friends.

The time to begin writing a book is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...

Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.

Write without pay, but with ever-growing craft, until somebody offers to pay.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you did not do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

And children, never doubt that I am your friend!



  1. Bravo, Roland (and Mark Twain). I think you've put it in a perspective most writers should be able to appreciate. If not, oh well!

    I investigated what this NANOOOOOO! was myself, and I believe you are right; people are trying to sell their services. I even got an email for such things because I did join and came to my senses right after. DUH!

    What would happen if we all used typewriters again--or perhaps a pencil/pen?

    Writing is a CRAFT not a race to the finish. I don't care if someone can bost that they've written 4K in a day. I've only had a rare day when writing came that wonderfully easy. It merely was me writing the story that was already there, inside me. You don't have that every day.

    And I sure as heck do not have time for just writing after a long day at work. I've got a life, after all!

  2. I think you're being a little unfair on us NoNoNanettes. For one thing many do plan before they start writing (that's allowed) and very few think that the words they write in November are anything close to a finished novel. Personally, those 50,000 words (or as close as I get) are something to work up into a first draft.

    Taking leave of our good senses? Hmmm, you could be right about that.

  3. Lorelei :
    Yes, I just found out about those editing services, counters to let you know your progress (doesn't their Word program have that at the bottom of their pages?)

    It seems to be a group hug affair as Hemingway growled to me just now.

    Ernest Hemingway was happy if he crafted 400 words a day. Mark Twain had to write a whole draft of INNOCENTS ABROAD (his newspaper accounts) before he could write it well.

    Glad you are a kindred spirit. You and me others with a day/night job do not have the luxery of pounding 4,000 words in a day! LOL.

    Patsy :
    I am happy that you find pleasure in NaNo or NoNoNantting. I would not take away your free will. It just hurts to see friends take a month away from a true novel they could be sculpting in that month.

    Still the word count a day is what is emphasized. Twain urged us to distill a whole page into one touching paragraph. Raymond Carver urged brevity in distilling 25 words to 10. Focusing on quanity over quality seems self-defeating for writers who want to be accepted by agents or editors.

    Thank you for visiting and taking the time and heart to write and sharing with me. Friends can let friends do their own thing, right? Roland

  4. Before you can distil the page into a paragraph you need to fill the page with words!

    "Friends can let friends do their own thing, right?" Absolutely!

    I think it's a good thing we write in different ways - there'd be little point to it if we all wrote the same kind of thing in the same kind of way.

  5. Patsy :
    I agree with you about we all need to write in a way that works for us! I write a chapter, then I whittle those pages into paragraphs. THEN I go onto the next chapter. So my word count mid day would be larger than at the end of it! LOL. But that's my way. You have a lovely blog. Where do you find all those neat competitions? Roland

  6. Hi Roland,

    This was an interesting post for me to read on a number of levels. I appreciate that you took the time to lay out your thoughts on the matter, and I can see how you reached the conclusions that you did. In light of that, I'd like to offer an alternative viewpoint, speaking as someone who has gotten a lot out of NaNoWriMo.

    First of all, there seems to be some misinformation being passed around, so I'd like to clarify a few points:

    - NaNoWriMo is run by the Office of Letters and Light, which is a non-profit organization. It does not offer editing services. What it does have is one tiny little box on the homepage that displays advertisements for NaNoWriMo sponsors. Some of these sponsors offer special deals for NaNo participants, which cover a range of writing and publishing-related services. But nobody is shoving an editing service down your throat, and there's really not much difference between that little box and having a regular old ad on the homepage. And there are definitely no "NaNoWriMo sites that will sell you their editing services."

    - NaNoWriMo participants cover a huge range of writing talent and experience, everything from complete newbies to seasoned professionals who have already been published. NaNoWriMo has also led to the publication of a number of books, including the NYT bestseller "Water for Elephants", and innumerable published authors have expressed their approval of NaNoWriMo as a way of getting people to write.

    - Many, many NaNoers outline and plan their stories beforehand, but as Patsy said in her comment, it's important to recognize that this is a matter of choice. Some people (like me) go nuts trying to write a "carefully-sculpted" story in a first draft. I know there are plenty of good writers who approach writing in the slow, precise way you describe, but there are also many who don't and who instead revise their first drafts many times. Personally, I prefer to write a messy first draft all in one go and then go back and refine it later. All in all, you and I probably put the same amount of time, just at different points in the writing process.

    - Not all NaNoers do NaNo with the intention of publishing. Many simply view it as a project that they participate in for the fun of it. Would a similar project for who paint simply because they enjoy it "denigrate" the visual arts? Of course not. :-)

    I certainly understand your desire to encourage people to produce quality writing, and I agree that regardless of whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo or writing on your own, it's best to polish your draft until it shines before you send it out to agents or editors. I guess my point is just that I think revising through multiple drafts is just as legitimate and effective a writing method as revising as you go. And there's nothing wrong with trying to write a novel just for the fun of it. :-)

    At any rate, thanks for a thought-provoking post, and I wish you all the best with your writing!

  7. Yeah, what fuzzymango said!

    The compettions, like ideas, are everywhere. I suppose I'm just good at spotting them (the competitions I mean, but I seem to stumble across enough ideas to keep me writing too)

  8. FuzzyMango :
    I appreciate that you cared enough about NaNoWriMo and myself to craft such a detailed response.

    I, of course, spoke through the personalities and characteristic voice of Twain and Hemingway. Sometimes they had all the tact of a stick in the eye.

    The focus of whatever post I am reading by a "NoNoNanette" is on word count alone -- not quality or planning or craft. It is that focus that saddens me.

    If NaNoWriMo focused on the art of writing for a month with each week spotlighting an important element of good writing : character development, dialogue, pacing, the importance of the first and last chapter showing a "before" and "After" for the MC -- with participants posting a well-written page or two showcasing their novel's way of handling that element -- I would be all for it.

    But when you throw as many boards together as you can in a month to build a home, you usually end with a hovel -- plus reinforcing some bad construction habits and pretty much wasting that month.

    If you slap a novel together in a month, there is no going back to edit it into shape. You have to pretty much start from scratch, laying down a good foundation and building it from at least a sketch of the house you want to erect.

    Thanks so much for staying and chatting over what means so much to you. Do come again, Roland

    Patsy :
    I was an English teacher, focusing on good creative writing. So my viewpoint is molded by that training and experience. I am so happy that you can find such delightful competitions on your blog. I have really enjoyed our conversations, Roland

  9. Quite a discussion!

    The writing process is different for each of us, and NaNo does not do it for me either. I tried to "force" writing, keep to a schedule, even write for competitions to make sure I keep with it - in the end, none of those work for me, no matter how hard I tried. I need to write when I have something to say. Some weeks that is a couple hundred words every day, other weeks not one word. It took me over a year to write the first draft of my 78,000 novel and I am into the 13th month of revising now. But maybe I am just extremely slow.
    I any case, I think we all have to do what works for each of us individually - and endeavor to write the very best stories we can.

  10. E.D. :
    Yes, it has been quite a discussion, hasn't it? And you're right : we must each have our own discipline in writing. But it is a discipline.

    I just read a tweet from a poor girl who only had 400 words to go before hitting her day's goal of 3000 words -- but her wrists were beginning to hurt!

    Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, and Mark Twain worked all day to get 400 quality words written on their novels. Sigh.

    Quality not quanity. As a former creative writing teacher, I have that as my mantra.

    Please do come and chat some more, will you?