22 November 2012

NaNoWriMo – WTF?

NaNoWriMo Curtis Brown Creative creative writing course novel writing course
by Rufus Purdy Events, Opinion

As if you hadn’t got enough to do this month – what with growing facial hair for Movember and making informed decisions on who you would prefer to control your local police force – something else comes along to compete for your attention. NaNoWriMo (or, to give it its full title, National Novel Writing Month) may be the worst acronym since the Islamic fundamentalist group KEVIN in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, but the US movement’s manifesto – that adherents should use November to sit down and write a 50,000-word novel – has so far produced 90 publishable manuscripts, including Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants, since it began in 2011.

The idea, though, seems to polarise writers more than Jordan’s ghostwritten children’s books and the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon put together. ‘Codswallop,’ was Curtis Brown agent Vivienne Schuster‘s response when asked for her views on the subject.

‘Steinbeck, Kerouac, Faulkner: some greats wrote (some of) their work quickly, but (a) they were great and (b) they’d put themselves in a position to be great by doing lots of practice,’ says CBC novel-writing course tutor Christopher Wakling. ‘For most of us, rushing at warp-NaNoWriMo-speed presages an intergalactic train-wreck.’

Not all those on the course agreed, though. ‘NaNoWriMo does serve a valuable role in converting people to writing and instilling a sense of belief in their ability to finish a novel,’ said student Michael Hines. ‘Many would-be-novelists are put off due to trepidation about the size of the task ahead, and also because an inability to turn off their self-editing mechanism prevents them from ever penning a line.’

While NaNoWriMo is in no way a submissions process (manuscripts are automatically deleted from the website at midnight on the 30 November), it does undoubtedly provide something of a framework for those of us who suddenly develop an obsessive interest in tidying or televised darts when faced with a self-imposed deadline. And though it is unlikely to unearth another Jack Kerouac – who famously wrote the first draft of On The Road in three weeks, sustained only by coffee, pea soup and amphetamines – NaNoWriMo is sure to result in more than a few bare-boned novels that a talented writer and editor could build upon.

As Paul Golden, another student on the CBC novel-writing course, points out: ‘Sure, probably 98 per cent of the novels uploaded during NaNoWriMo are rubbish, but if people develop the habit of writing regularly, they can develop the craft of writing better.’

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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