NaNoWriMo Day 6: Let’s Read Patrick Rothfuss’ Pep Talk

Patrick Rothfuss Amsterdam - 095

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 The worst unpublished novel of all-time is better than the brilliant idea you have in your head.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.

Wait, what?

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.


23 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 6: Let’s Read Patrick Rothfuss’ Pep Talk

  1. katz

    Happily, I don’t now have to go read his blog post since you’ve already answered the question “Does it have anything hideously sexist in it?”

    (Spoiler: The answer is always yes.)

  2. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Day 8: Panic At The Keyboard | Doing In The Wizard

  3. Austin H. Williams

    I’ll say it again, I am soooooo missing 101 Reasons to Stop Writing right now as you take us through all of this. Your observations about how we, in fact, don’t need books for the sake of books is spot on.

      1. Khal Bozo

        No problem. I wonder if the irony ever even occurred to him when he wrote that review. And as for those poor folks who even dared to disagree with his questionable sentiments…wow.

      2. greentree

        The comments toward the bottom of that page re rothfuss calling her a little bitch, particularly the point that he calls himself a feminist but says some very questionable things on his blog (and in that review)

    1. Signatus

      Thank you!

      It baffles me that Rothfuss would complain about how self entitled the little girl in that book is, when the protagonist of his very own novel is an unlikable spoiled little bastard who thinks he’s bigger than life.

      1. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

        Well of course it’s okay for a male character to be an entitled jerk. He can “grow and change” (that is, continue to be an asshole only with more power and money). Girls have to be nice and sweet and loving and giving at ALL times and in ALL situations. Even when they’re the main characters in stories they’re sidelined into “support.” Fuck Rothfuss and the male chauvinist pig train he rode in on.

    2. Satu

      OH MY GOD can you believe the shit he pulls in that review??!! I´m not gonna quote it here in order to give Ronan the joy of presenting it in a future blog post but you could just swap “Eloise” with “Kvothe” and it would be spot on, I´m amazed he’s able to be so f….ing blind.

  4. Reveen

    I don’t suppose someone wants to crunch the numbers to estimate a best case scenario on how long it took him to write his books? I feel like this is another piece of the puzzle falling into place.

    Oh, and John Ringo and Tom Kratman. Very classy.

  5. Signatus

    Out of curiosity (as I totally don’t know how many words are 50,000 in terms of a book), I looked up how many words the guide for my next book is, and it turned out to be 40,272.
    As for my last book, it is 287,636, which I still think is a bit too much, for some reason.

    Anyways, I love it when people try to use big words without knowing their meaning. Paolini was one who had a tendency to overuse the Thesaurus, not realizing that, the fact that two words might be synonims doesn’t mean they can be applied in the same context, thus creating some pretty weird or awkward sentences.
    Also, a while ago I had a discussion with someone in a dog forum who kept saying we distorted his words. The two funny things are;
    1- He wasn’t writing it correctly.
    2- He was applying it to the fact that we disagreed with his statements and, in fact, were presenting documented proof that he was an ignorant idiot.

    I wonder whether they realize how stupid they look when trying to sound smart.

  6. KC

    Does it work, though? If the despoiler is the haptodysphorian wouldn’t it imply that Rothfuss was the one feeling the crawling sensation and not the woman? I mean, if Rothfuss thought he was really sweet he wouldn’t go around describing himself as a “diabetic despoiler of women”, would he?

    I think he’s using Haptodysphorian to mean “one who gives off a crawling sensation” instead of “One who suffers from haptodysphoria” and I don’t think it’s correct. Fuck it. I actually don’t even know if haptodysphorian (with the ‘n’) is a real word; it sounds more like something he saw once and wrote down to impress his friends with later.

    1. katz

      No, dude, that’s a shit tumblr (which may be redundant). That’s the worst sort of “Look, inexperienced people trying a new thing for fun! I will mock them for not being very good at it!” Yes, you can make people laugh that way, but it’s easy to make people laugh by being an asshole. Doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

      Hell, it’s not even very good mockery.

  7. cetaillefer

    Apparently, haptodysphorian refers to the unpleasant crawling sensation you get when you touch something unnecessarily furry, so I suppose it works, though the rest of it can just get the fuck outta here

  8. KC

    Haptodysphoria: An odd sensation felt by certain people when handling peaches, velvet or other fuzzy surfaces

    That’s classic Rothfuss all right. Tries hard to be descriptive in unique, striking ways and ends up with gibberish.


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