NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?

It’s November and everyone is jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Thousands of people from around the world get synced-up online on November 1st and start writing the first of 50,000 words to become an author!

But before we start, here’s a full disclosure: I totally did my own NaNoWriMo in January of 2012 (as I couldn’t partake in November). Later, I did something similar when writing my current novel. I did a Thirty-Day Challenge, where I didn’t force myself to have a word count. Instead, I would spend a part of the day to plan and organize my novel.

So what’s up here? I did NaNoWriMo (kinda) then I didn’t. So what?

Let me BLOW YOUR MIND

After getting over 54,000 words during my “JaNoWriMo,” then eventually reaching over 70,000 a few months later, I SCRAPPED THE BOOK. Why? Because it was garbage, that’s why!

I can remember reading it over and just hating everything I had done. All of the characterization, plotting, the pacing, descriptions – oh, god, it was terrible. I still have a copy of it (unfinished) just to remind me how bad it was.

The problem with NaNoWriMo, which a buddy of mine, author Sean Munger, touches upon on his blog, is that it promotes bad habits. It promotes vomiting out word count over actual quality. While it may make a book, it doesn’t make a good one.

It Stinks
“It stinks!”

So when I did my Thirty-Day Challenge (which was for a different story), I took my knowledge from my JaNoWriMo and applied it to my busy lifestyle. I simply dedicated time to creating the project, rather than actually writing it. I would spend an hour or so getting 1,000 words of characterization down, rather than the novel itself. And I didn’t write every day (nor give myself a word count like 1,000 words a day for when I did). It made for a dramatic improvement to my story-telling and my skills of writing, pacing, and oh-so much more!

So NaNoWriMo is Bad?

There’s a silver lining to it all. I found that NaNoWriMo certainly didn’t make a good book, didn’t promote good writing, and didn’t promote good writing habits, what it DID do was get me to write and learn from my experiences. There’s a lot more to writing than just plugging yourself down and firing off words to reach a numerical goal.

I learned a lot about how to characterize and plot. My NaNo-Novel was a pale comparison to the newest one I wrote. The pacing in my newest novel is exciting and pulls the reader in – because I planned for it to do that. The rules of NaNoWriMo doesn’t let you.

Even if you plan out your novel before NaNoWriMo, you’d be surprised how many little things you will miss. Even with plotting out my novel like how I did, I had to go back multiple times and make sure things remained consistent and flowed together. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give you time to pause or reflect. You’re just supposed to punch in a word count and call it a day. Coherent writing is important, but it’s not reflected in NaNoWriMo.

But as I said, NaNoWriMo got me writing. That’s important because it helps you hone your craft. You learn little tricks and the proper way to create sentences (And yes, I know this blog is littered with errors. Pot, meet Kettle).

The way I look at it is NaNoWriMo is the biggest Creative Writing Class you’ll take all year. It’s great writing practice, but terrible if you’re looking for quality.

And for all that is good in the world: if you do partake in NaNoWriMo, do NOT give your novel to publishers! You’re congesting them with a bunch of sub-par books! Stop it!


Thanks.

That’s my take on it. But have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of learning experience was it for you? Did you go anywhere with it? Does my opinion sound ridiculous? Sound off below!

Editing: Done!

My last post was from March, eh?

There’s a good reason for that, too! It was laziness!

Anyway, where was I?

I left off with DoneMoWriMo? What the hell does that even mean? Ah, the things I do for SEO. I also see that it’s NaNoWriMo and I’m already done. Did I win?

As for my absence, I’ve stated before somewhere on this blog, that I work a job that is highly seasonal. The peer editing all came back to me around July/August, but I was still super busy at work. Job and life stuff aside, I didn’t really start editing until the beginning of October. I digress.

I’m now done editing and I have to find a publisher. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m still open to self-publishing. I’m uncertain which route to take as I’m pulled in both directions from friends about what I should do.

My gut says to find a publisher. I’m pretty old fashioned. I actually still take a horse and carriage to work and light my apartment with candles while trusting the newspaper for the most up-to-date news. However, I understand creative rights and all that hooplah through self-publishing may outweigh going through a publisher. But I also understand not all publishers are like that.

But I’m also kind of excited about receiving my first rejection letter. And maybe my second one.

I’ll probably be crying by the third letter. Or reading them like this:

Oh boy. What am I getting myself into?

In the meantime:

. . .

More later.

Poetry Overlords Mk III

This’ll probably be the last bout of garbage spewed out of my fingertips for awhile based off this nonsense. I feel the discussion and philosophy could go on for ages. If you want to continue the discussion, leave a message here or follow me on the Twitter machine. Let’s recap:

The TL;DR from the first two blogs:
Poetry Overlords: Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.
Poetry Overlords Mk II: Music is more universally accepted than poetry because of rules imposed on language.

And Now!

What else am I going to babble on about? A recent study by a McGill University neuroscientist suggests there’s a group of people out there who have the inability to enjoy music.

As I’ve stated previously, unlike poetry, I feel music is a universal language. However, as shown above, there are some people who are not moved by this universal language. It’s interesting to me because music is a great way to express oneself to someone who may struggle to understand what is being said.

For example, if I told you something positive and happy in Russian and you didn’t speak Russian, you would not understand me.

If I played something in a major scale, no matter what culture or background you have, you would feel the positive energy exerted from the music.

Unless you have an inability to.

You’re Not Making Sense

Well I’m trying, damn it!

With both poetry and music also considered forms of art, it can be understandable when someone does not “get” something. Not everyone would “get” classical music or “get” country music. However, one could still feel something from music. Whether or not you “get” classical music, you still get an grand, epic feeling when hearing Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Even with the music being written in the late 1800’s, it still feels grand and current. It does not feel dated.

Poetry, however, has a different hurdle when trying to feel it. Choosing particular words can make your work sound dated. Using a different language makes it non-universal. Sure, using cacophonous words or alliteration can help try and evoke some sort of audible sympathy for the listener. But if the message is not understood, then is that not a problem?

The Half-Assed Conclusion

As you can tell, there’s a lot of discussion to be had with these ideas. Performing poetry should just be as important as having the right words and language in the poem itself. The main problem I’m finding is that not everyone will “get” it because it is not properly understood.

Going back to the first blog on this subject, I had to explain why I was reading and performing Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.” Will there ever be a time where I would not have to explain myself?

So I’m left to ask: where does poetry stand in the world of language? Will it never be truly understood?

Or am I just wasting my time on this?

Poetry Overlords Mk II

Since my last blog entry, I’ve been stuck exploring the intriguing comparisons between poetry and music. I don’t know why, but I just am! And if you haven’t jumped on the “Follow UncannyDerek on Twitter” bandwagon, you’re missing out. Sort of.

Here’s the TL;DR version from my last blog:

Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.

New Thoughts. Little. Yellow. Different.

Now what?

This next part is going to stir some debate, I’m sure, but try to follow me here.

As a musician, I personally find that with music I could record absolutely anything and put it out to the public. I could guarantee it would be understood and appreciated by people.

Take for examples, Fantômas – Suspended Animation (2005) or Devin Townsend – Devlab (2004). Both albums are ambient noise and rather chaotic to the listener. But I really enjoy both albums. There’s no real “sense” to each album and they’re both dramatically different from one another. For the average listener though, there’s no real construct or sense to them. For the most part, I’d confidently say that many people would dislike those albums.

Breaking down the instruments and themes, sure, one could find the inspiration and technicalities built within the albums. That being said, both albums can be difficult to listen all of the way through.

So, Poetry?

Right! So, this is where things get debate-y.

As I said, with music, it could get published despite how normal or bizarre it sounds (as with my examples found above). There’s an audience for everything in music. But with poetry and literature? I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Sure there’s an audience for everyone, but. . . well let me explain.

There is a certain “universal standard,” per se, that is set with literature in which I think music is removed from. Due to “rules” in literature, a missing period could make or break a sentence. Paragraphs can’t be scattered too far as it could confuse the reader. The lack of capitalization could misplace titles or nouns. I could go on.

Now hold on a second because I know you’re already beginning to think of counter-arguments to mine. That’s good, because I had them too.

Let me yank out a few popular lines from Gertrude Stein’s Sacred Emily which appeared in Geography and Plays (1922).

Color mahogany.
Color mahogany center.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Loveliness extreme.
Extra gaiters.
Loveliness extreme.
Sweetest ice-cream.
Page ages page ages page ages.

So to start: this is a Canadian blog and she spelled “colour” wrong.

Okay, I’m kidding. But we can see – as readers – how some of the lines, when they are read individually, seem like incomplete thoughts. The final line, “Page ages,” is repetitive and has no commas. It looks strange to the reader and requires some attention when performing it out loud. Should “Color mahogany” have a colon to read “Color: mahogany”?

While Stein’s poem can fit under the same category as the Fantômas and Devin Townsend albums posted above, I feel it is much harder to cater to a literary audience than a musical one due to what some could say “universal standards” put in place with reading.

Someone listening to an album can (mostly) understand when they hear guitar, drums, saxophone, trumpets, piano, or vocals.
But when someone reads or performs poetry, grammar and understanding can get lost in translation.

To ALMOST Conclude

I can play a guitar solo – regardless how awful it would be – but people would still understand it as a guitar solo.

I can perform poetry – regardless how chaotic it would be – but people would have a difficult time understanding it.

With these “universal standards” put in place with reading, such as periods needing to come at the end of sentences, I feel many readers and listeners to poetry may just miss the point. As someone who goes to poetry readings, I often get scoffed at when telling people I’m going. Is it because they think poetry is pretentious, or is it because they simply don’t understand it? Would a “universal standard” to poetry help? Is there even a way to create such a thing?

There’s nothing really conclusive here. It’s more meant to stir the pot and flesh out more ideas.

What are your thoughts on the matter?