Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Blogging Your Novel

My new Blogger Knowledge article is out: Blogging Your Novel Part Two. (Biz did Part One last week.) It's got a bunch of tips for people doing NaNoWriMo on their blogs as well as for people who already have entire books that they want to publish. Check it out if you're at all interested in that kind of thing.

8 comments:

Corinna Hasofferett said...

Hi Graham,

I'm a writer of literary fiction and non-fiction. Following a book for young children, my second book was written during 3 years, my third in 15 yrs, my fourth in 11 yrs, my fifth in 9 yrs and I've been working on the sixth for the last three yrs and am still far away from its conclusion.

Writing literature is not an one month marathon but a life long one. It takes dedication, the feeling that you cannot sleep if you do not write, that writing is like breathing to you, skin of your skin.

Writing literature is not a typing contest. You write awake and in your dreams, and daily while seemingly involved in mundane activities. Writing is a long process of revelations for which you are just an organ through which they pass on to the insightful reader.

I heard about this McDonald fast-writing concept last year and even then expressed my non-admiration: http://timeintelaviv.blogspot.com/commentary/2003/11/nonovel-is-nude.html.

Above all I abhore the disrespectful use of the word Novel. Disrespectful to Literary Art, to literary writers, to Intelligence and Creativity.

When the information comes from Blogger,and under the "Knowledge" title - so strong a recommendation - it should have had at least room enough for another opinion, comments, discussions. It is not a technical issue. We are talking here Ethics, and this is a totally different realm.

Please share this with Biz, with your people at Blogger, with the community of Bloggers.

With friendly regards,
Corinna Hasofferett

I'll be soon posting on this a bit more elaborately
at:
http://timeintelaviv.blogspot.com/commentary/2004/10/blogger-is-dressing-up-naked.html

Graham said...

Thanks for your comments, Corinna. I'm sorry you don't like the idea of NaNoWriMo, and I don't expect to change your mind, but I would like to point out that nobody involved in this intends any disrespect to writers or literature. I think the vast majority of us realize that we are not going to come out with literary masterpieces at the end of one month, and we certainly don't intend to try to pass our novels off as such. And anybody who does want to get their NaNoWriMo novel published will most likely have to spend a great deal of time rewriting it beyond recognition, anyway.

What NaNoWriMo means for me is a chance to develop my creativity in a new way. I don't think it will turn me into a "real" novelist, but it will undoubtedly help me write more than I ever have in my life. I see this as something that's good for my writing and my creativity in general, regardless of the actual content I come up with.

I think that the more creative outlets people have the better off they are. Creativity is an end in itself, regardless of quality. But too many people never play music or write stories or paint pictures because they think they have to be "properly trained" somehow, or have some "innate talent." But really, if they just want to do it for themselves, it doesn't matter how bad they are. NaNoWriMo is a way of helping people get over that hurdle, by giving them permission to be bad at something, just to get them to do it. So I support it in the same way that I would support giving finger paints to kids without ever intending to send them to art school, or the way I would teach a friend a few guitar chords and some songs even if he's not a professional musician. It's just good for them.

Far from being disrespectful, I'd say that most people in NaNoWriMo do it because they love literature, and they love writing, and they want to develop a closer connection with it by creating some of it themselves, in whatever form they can manage. The existence of amateurs doesn't demean the skill of the professionals. If anything, it helps us appreciate them more, because we've had a small glimpse of what they go through to bring us such great art.

Chris said...

Okay, I saw the blog a novel article by accident. I got excited especially because a friend who also has Blogger was just saying, "I'd write a book if I could just get the impetus." But what about me? What if you have a story, and you've been blogging bits and pieces of it. But you want to work on it and let other people see it. Can you still (can I still) participate?

Graham said...

Hi Chris -- Sure, if you're already blogging a novel, go ahead and submit it to NaNoBlogMo and I'll take a look and probably add it. If you want it to count for NaNoWriMo, though, you should probably start a new project from scratch. (That's part of the whole point -- to work on something you don't yet have a lot invested in, so you can totally relax and just go at it.)

Corinna Hasofferett said...

Thanks for your response, Graham,

1.
Intentional disrespect.
I do not claim that disrespect is intentional or from people. The concept - "get it fast", "quantity", "never mind quality" - and the misleading use of the word "Novel" is disrespectful. I see in it a vulgar trivialization of Creativity.

2. A chance to develop creativity.
In Hebrew we have a saying, "You're bursting into an open door."

In 1984 I founded in Israel and have run, for eleven years, 2 international artists and writers colonies, in the Galillee and in the Negev (desert) which functioned as peace education programs via arts, with artists and writers coming for up to 3 months residencies, to do their work and contribute to the community at large in diverse programs and workshops.

Never ever did we ask the workshops participants to even think in terms of production, of quantity. Creativity is Quality and the endeavor to achieve it.

Take away quality - your clear unique voice - and all you are left with is fast parrot scribbling.

You stand a better chance to develop your creativity if you write one page or paragraph or a full novel - with no clock or word meter in-between you and your innate creativity.

3. "...it will undoubtedly help me write more than I ever have in my life."

I find this "more" a wide spread recurring theme, or misdeneamor in the North American ethos. It alarms me that it has dissipated from the world of politics, army and business to that of the sacred - the creative human spirit - and is now spreading all over the world.

4.
"...I support it in the same way that I would support giving finger paints to kids without ever intending to send them to art school, or the way I would teach a friend a few guitar chords and some songs even if he's not a professional musician."

You do not ask the kids to paint a quota of finger painting for a full month or day, nor will you suggest to your friend to do 50,000 chords in a month. It's just not good for them.

"The existence of amateurs doesn't demean the skill of the professionals."

The issue is not amateurs vs professionals, but Creativity with Quality at its core (profound insights, Less is More) endangered by the brain-washing Consumerism ethos (Quantity is the measuring stick of your "success"). This ethos has brought upon us only misfortune: wars, colonizational imperialism, terror. I fear the colonization of Humanity's last refuge.

Graham said...

I think connecting NaNoWriMo to "wars, colonizational imperialism, and terror" is a bit on the extreme side, but I can respond to most of the rest of it.

1. As far as the use of the word "novel" goes, I use it like I'd use the word "painting." It simply indicates a form (book-length fiction, or paints on a canvas). Whether it's good or bad doesn't enter into the word itself. If we're working off of different definitions, though, I guess we'll just be talking at cross-purposes.

Perhaps we have a similar issue with the word "creativity", but as I indicated before, this may be the most creative thing some of the participants do in their lives, and I see that as a worthy end in its own right. Creativity is meant to be experienced and expressed in different ways by everybody, and if NaNoWriMo helps some people do it, then I think that is reason enough for it to exist.

2. That residency program you founded sounds like a wonderful idea. If I were a professional artist (or just had 3 months of free time) I would love to participate in that. But I think your target audience for something like that is rather different from NaNoWriMo's. There's no way I (or most other NNWM participants) would be able to take time out of our lives do such a thing, even if you discounted the intimidation factor of needing to feel like a "real" artist just to apply. NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is something more of us can manage, so it works for us.

3. "More" is not something to be afraid of, at least not in the realm of creativity. Whatever your art form, you have to practice, right? What's the most common piece of advice to writers? "Write!" Certainly writing 50,000 words this way won't create something as nice as writing 50,000 words your way, and maybe I won't even learn as much from it. But the point is that I'll do it, and no matter what I learn from the experience, it will be more than I would have learned otherwise. Because I'm not about to sit down and spend 11 years writing a novel. Remember, I'm not trying to sell my novel, or even pass it off as "art." I'm just doing this for myself.

4. (Also relating to 3 and your last comment on 2.) The quota is not an attempt at torture or slave-driving. Its main function is providing permission to do a bad job. This is essential to creativity, and it's one of the key points of NaNoWriMo. You have to learn to make mistakes, otherwise you'll never create anything worthwhile, because you're too nervous to create anything. Similarly, people don't expect too much from finger painting, so it's easy to just relax and be creative, even if it comes out messy. That's all I meant by that analogy.

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." - Scott Adams (if you'll allow me a quote from a cartoonist).

I think it's also important to note here that Quantity is not equated with Quality. Quantity isn't equated with anything except finishing NaNoWriMo, which doesn't mean anything outside of itself, either. It's just a big game to get people writing -- it's not trying to change the nature of art. It's not even suggesting that things people come up with in this game are going to be worth reading.

When I go to the bookstore or the library looking for a book to actually read, I still look for something with a "clear unique voice," something created with time and care. I admire the writers who create these things. But when it comes to encouraging people to have fun and create something, I'll let them write whatever and however they want, and I'll support organizations that help them do so.

And I would encourage you to continue helping and working with the dedicated artists who follow your approach. Chances are, they aren't interested in NaNoWriMo and would get much more value out of your programs and workshops. The rest of us will still appreciate the art and writing you create, and we will still thank you for it. I don't think NaNoWriMo is going to change that at all.

MacKnife said...

I have a couple of comments really. First and foremost with regard to the argument about whether or not a novel, of literary value, can be written in a month - I'm not going to respond point-by-point to everything that was written because I don't feel it's of any real relevance.
Put quite simply who is to say whether a novel is or isn't of literary value simply because it is written in a month. There are plenty of authors who are extremely prolific and who probably have written a novel in a month or so. Unless you are going to actually sample some of the work being created, and critically analyze those works, you can't possibly say, carte blanche, that all work written in a month is garbage and not worthy of consideration as a work of literature. How short sighted!
I took 12 twelve to complete my first book, does that make it a worthy piece of literature? Hardly. It's never been published, not that I've sent it to any publishers or agents, because I don't feel it is in a fit state to be published. Will it ever? Maybe not.
I'm sure that some people have slaved over a book for many years, and still produced complete and utter purile rubbish.
The time taken to complete a book has little or nothing to do with how good it is.
That's all I have to say on that topic.

My second comment is a more technical one with regard to using a blog to publish a book. I've read both of your Blogging Your Novel articles, and How Do I Post A Book?, and have struggled mightily and so far, lost miserably to the computer (BTW I'm a computer professional, albeit a Database Architect, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with the technical aspects of the internet, though certainly no expert), in my attempt to get the template provided to work as it does in your example blog, The Castle of Otranto.
Every time I try to get the TOC setup, the links to my chapters either don't work at all or bring me back to the TOC. It's extremely frustrating and I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.
Can you help me?

CW said...

Corinna-
Nanowrimo isn't just about doing anything to reach 50,000 words.
Nanowrimo is a whole experience. Nanowrimo is going to the forums and sharing ideas, or answering questions. Nanowrimo is spending a month before planning and thinking and breathing and aching for november to begin.

Nanowrimo is the excuse for students and those with jobs to defy their tight schedules and WRITE.

If you checked out the forums, you'd come across this phrase many times "Nanowrimo is what you make of it".
Some do it knowing they won't complete it, but wanting to spend a full month committed to writing. Others really want to start writing to beat writer's block and plot holes.
Most are aware that because virtually no editing is done, it's a draft. I read in a post a girl only kept 1/4 of her nanowrimo novel in the one that was published. Nanowrimo was useful for her because she began writing.

Please educate yourself before making general assumptions. Discover Nano open mindedly. Check out the forums. Talk to people.

Nanowrimo is like a writing initiation.

CW.