Landfills of Words

NaNoWriMo is working it’s way back around to us, and as October tips over the hill, thousands aspiring novelists begin to steel themselves for a month of sustained masochism.

The prize? The title of NaNoWriMo champion and a your very own novel. Supposedly.

What you really get is a primordial mass, fifty thousands words heavy and the result of (probably) less than a hundred hours of work. Let me tell you something: This is NOT a novel.

Of course, you already know this, and I’m sure most NaNo’s plan to edit and revise their novel until it can be shelved between Jane Austen and The Count of Monte Cristo. The problem is, you’ve essentially created a messy mass of words that is not even remotely ready for publication. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even read it aloud to your cat. If you think of your novel as a sculpture, you essentially get a lump of clay when NaNo is over. The only goal is getting to that 50k word mark. No one even cares if you stamped ‘The End’ on it.

There were over four hundred thousand official winners for the 2012 NaNoWriMo, which means more than twenty billion words were generated by the winners circle alone.

20 Billion. As you let that sink in, think about the fact that there were countless other novelists who didn’t quite make the cut, but still contributed their tens of thousands to the heap.

Now, I love NaNoWriMo. If you don’t believe me, here’s my novel’s page on the NaNo Website:

But, that doesn’t change the fact that I think there is something very wrong with it. Or, rather, that it is the sign of something being very, very wrong.

The fact that this program could encourage four-hundred thousand (mostly) young people to write an entire novel for themselves is wonderful, a cause for celebration, even. But, the problem is this: Literature is transforming.

Content volume is king, in the modern world of literature. Well, actually content might be second to speed, as glorified by sites like twitter where we are a fed a constant stream of new content, delivered at a lightning fast pace.

What ever happened to the quest for perfection and art? What I find most sad is that the overwhelming majority of these novels never ever see the light of day. Too many people write their 50k, are satisfied and move on. Maybe that’s all well and good for you, but not for me. I want to make something of those words. And if you ever want to be a novelist you should too. It doesn’t end in December. That’s when it’s only just begun.

You owe it to yourself and your novel to take it beyond November and turn it into something truly worthwhile.

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