So I had a whole other post ready to go here, discussing Cathyrenne Valente’s pep talk and whining about the forum some more, but then something very important happened: the eagerly anticipated Patrick Rothfuss pep talk was released.
The fact that he was involved with NaNoWriMo is maybe 30% of the reason I decided to take part in it to begin with (I really wish I was joking about that) so I thought I’d take some time away from The Journey to Let’s Read this shit. Just like the good old days!
To be honest the pep talk is kind of disappointing. I was expecting a real Pat Rothfuss experience to whet our appetites until Doors of Stone comes out- in which case it would be 10,000 words long and end halfway through a sentence- but instead it’s some vague platitudes about being a NANO REBEL and a collection of fairly bland “here’s some advice on how to not stop writing, written in ye olde biblical ten commandments style”. There’s literally an entire thread full of this shit on the forum.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I should write here.
Insert obvious joke here.
Though I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for ages, I’ve only done it once before.
Man, who else really wants to see his NaNoWriMo novel now?
(Insert other obvious joke here)
So. You’re awesome. You know that, right? We’re all writers here. We’re awesome by definition.
What’s this “we” business about?
Now, I’m going to encourage you to break the rules.
I’m not talking about the little rules—grammar stuff like avoiding sentence fragments and ending sentences with prepositions. (Though I encourage breaking those rules, too.)
No, seriously, don’t do that. Everyone will think you’re a shit head. And especially don’t do it because Patrick “Why Use One Word When You Can Use 500” Rothfuss told you to.
Thou shalt not just think about writing. Seriously. That is not writing. The worst unpublished novel of all-time is better than the brilliant idea you have in your head.
I dunno, if I had to sit through another Patrick Rothfuss masterpiece or whatever happened to be bumping around in, say, Helen Oeyeyemi’s head right now I know which one I’d go for.
Why? Because the worst novel ever is written down. That means it’s a book, while your idea is just an idle fancy. My dog used to dream about chasing rabbits; she didn’t write a novel about chasing rabbits. There is a difference.
Okay, so this actually ties into an attitude that’s very common on the internet, namely that writing is an inherently worthwhile and ennobling thing to do, and that the act of creating a book should be applauded merely for the sake of it. Other creative endeavors have similar ideologies attached to them, and a lot of gamer bros seem to think playing Call of Duty should earn them a fucking Nobel prize for some reason, but it’s most pronounced with writing. Needless to say this idea gets pushed very heavily on the NaNo website and in the forums, including the site motto “the world needs your novel” (no, it really doesn’t).
This attitude is not true. Some people’s stories aren’t worth the time it takes to write them down, nor are they worth the time a person will waste reading them. Some writings have caused active harm and literally decreased the sum total of human happiness in the world.
Writing can be a great and sacred and ennobling thing, but if so it’s because the thing you’re writing is great and sacred and ennobling, not because the mere act of writing possesses those qualities or imparts them on what’s written.
So I say unto you: You don’t have to start entirely from scratch. (But you can’t count previously written words in your word count. Obviously.)
I actually agree totally with this one. I don’t see any reason why people should feel they have to start a new novel on the 1st of November. I guess the rationale for discouraging this is that it breaks with the whole mission statement of “write a novel in a month”, but if we’re pulling on that thread 50,000 words isn’t actually a full novel anyway.
NaNoWriMo says you shouldn’t go back and revise. But honestly, writing is all about revision. So if you realize you need to change something three chapters back, go and do it. Sure it means you aren’t constantly churning out words, but it makes your story better. Writing good stories is why we’re all here, right?
Hey, two consecutive Patrick Rothfuss paragraphs I agree with! Holy shit, is the world ending?
Well, I only half agree with this. It’s true that telling people they shouldn’t revise at all until December 1st rolls around is kind of stupid, but I’ve found that one of the bad habits that aiming for a higher word count is helping to alleviate is the tendency to second guess myself by going back and picking over what I’ve just written. Inevitably this leads to me deciding it’s shit, deleting whole swathes of story and attempting to rewrite them hours after putting down the first draft, which inevitably leads to discouragement and the bitter, ashen taste of failure. But now, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’ll read back over what I’ve written in several week’s time, decide it’s shit and delete the entire thing!
NaNoWriMo says that you shouldn’t switch between projects. When I did NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, I moved back and forth between my start-from-scratch project and the third book in my trilogy.
So in the comments section a while back (you should check it out, it’s awesome) we were discussing whether or not any of the Kvothe books were written during NaNoWriMo. I guess this is partial confirmation.
Do you think my readers were pissed?
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I lost NaNoWriMo when I did all these things. I only wrote about 35,000 words.
I didn’t think it was physically possible for Patrick Rothfuss to write less than 150,000 words in one sitting.
But I learned some things, and I improved my craft.
That classic Rothfuss humour! What a funny guy.
So that’s pretty much all there is to it, but he does leave us with this parting gift:
P.S. If you’re curious about all the particular details of how I lost NaNoWriMo, I wrote a blog post about it here
You should go read that blog post. He describes himself as a “haptodysphorian despoiler of women”, whatever that means.