How’s That Novel Coming?

by Liz Colville

National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo for short — began five days ago, meaning you have 25 more days to complete a novel of 50,000 words or more. If you do it, you “win.” Prizes if you can do it with one hand like the person in this photo. There are reasons to applaud this movement, which started in 1999. It forces you to write something, hopefully every day and not in the last 48 hours of the competition.

But Salon book critic Laura Miller argues that NaNoWriMo isn’t all that great. There’s too much emphasis on all the “crap” you will inevitably write on the way to the 50,000 mark, and there is a tendency to think what’s completed on November 30 is truly finished. “Worst queries I ever received as an agent always started with ‘I’ve just finished writing my NaNoWriMo novel and …,’” one literary agent told Miller. And while NaNoWriMo might be free (it’s a nonprofit; you’re encouraged to donate to its programs), there are plenty of businesses trying to cash in on the phenomenon, which speaks to Miller’s point that “far more money can be made out of people who want to write novels than out of people who want to read them.” Ooooooh.