For those who don’t know, the NaNoReMo to which I’m referring is the smug elitist’s answer to NaNoWriMo (the write a novel in a month challenge). Some people use NaNoReMo to mean “National Novel Reading Month” — those people are fine. However, others use it to mean “National Novel Rejection Month” — aka, the month where agents and publishers the world over reject all the terrible NaNoWriMo novels submitted to them in December.
Look, I get that NaNoWriMo is scary. I get that people don’t want writing to be an accessible thing, that, as Syndrome says, if everyone is super, then no one will be. I get that writers are proud of how difficult writing is. I get that the idea of writing feverishly for one month and then not continuing for the rest of the year offends some true artistes. I get the idea that someone else coming into your playhouse for a month and thinking they own it can be upsetting. I get it. I also get that it’s fun to take people down a peg, to find someone genuinely excited about something and to walk up and tell them it’s pointless.
Every year, this snarky hashtag (or some variant) rears its ugly head, and I am asking — beseeching — people to stop it. NaNoWriMo writers do not submit their novels to publishers as soon as December hits. The official NaNoWriMo site in fact asks people not to. March is NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) for a reason. Novelists are encouraged to take a break for December, then come back and look at their manuscript with fresh eyes. The forums have an editing section, with resources, suggestions, and a place for people to find beta readers for their work. Every year, thousands of people use these features.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo since 2004, and am an avid forum-goer as well. Not once in the thousands of discussions of post-November plans have I seen someone submit their novel to a publisher right away. People aren’t stupid. People who have finished novels through a program designed to get them over their fear and hesitation, and to turn off the inner editor, they know they’re not holding publishable material. But they at least have something. Something they did not have on October 31st.
Some people put their novels away and never look at them again. THAT’S OKAY.
Some people send them out to crit groups and edit feverishly, then give up and never submit it anywhere. THAT’S OKAY.
Some people edit, work, submit, and end up getting their NaNoWriMo novel published and optioned for a film with Robert Pattinson, raising the hopes of everyone participating in NaNoWriMo who hopes to get published someday. THAT’S OKAY.
Some people finish the first draft, send it out immediately, and get a form rejection. THAT’S OKAY.
Some people complain that NaNoWriMo novelists plunk their books into Createspace on Amazon and think they’ve been “published’. THAT’S OKAY TOO.
The slush pile does not see a quantifiable increase during December because of NaNoWriMo — and even if it did, what does it matter? People write terrible novels and submit them every day. People who crafted for years, who painstakingly edit every single word, write terrible novels every day. Slush pile agents are who they are for a reason; they’re tough. They can survive.
The proper way to handle this fear of an influx of terrible first drafts is to remind people about the importance of editing. This is advice useful to everyone, no matter how insignificant or how important. A first-time NaNoWriMo novelist needs this just as much as J.K. Rowling did when she wrote that epilogue.
Acting like elitist crab apples and coming over to someone’s house just to urinate in their swimming pool helps no one. It discourages honest, creativity-loving people from continuing something that is designed to help them bypass their formidable inner critic. How does making snarky remarks about NaNoReMo solve anything? Does it make you a literary warrior, as some people seem to think? No. It’s the worst form of intellectual bullying, and it needs to stop.
The world of writing should be a place of community, not an excuse to tear other people down. So before chuckling and hitting ‘retweet’ on those NaNoReMo missives, try taking a walk or playing with a puppy instead. Most NaNoWriMo novelists will never be published — who cares? Let them do what we all have in common: write, and love to do it.