Word Counts and Plot Twists and Whiners…oh my

Fresh Ribbon

I put this graph in because it simultaneously irritates and encourages me. I can be proud of my NaNoWriMo word count, and at the same time completely aware that I’m a tad behind.

All word count aside, writing this novel at breakneck speed has been a fascinating writing experience. There are Those Who Scoff at all these furiously typing novelists as rank amateurs who have no right to call themselves anything but typists. As a creative writing professor I have very little to say to such people, because I know their pathology. When you’ve spent your life kneeling before the Gatekeepers of Academia and kissing their asses for a lousy publication in some university literary mag no one’s ever heard of, it can make you a little cranky. Fine.

I’m not including links to such unhappy writers for a couple of reasons. First, because they want us to. Throwing an elitist and edgy bomb out into the the blogosphere and then turning off the comments forces others to respond by writing on their own blogs and LINKING. It’s a nice way to manipulate the old Technorati count and fluff one’s overinflated ego. Second, these writers clearly haven’t been reading contemporary creative writing pedagogy. Separating the acts of invention and revision is standard operating procedure. And academia has been throwing cold water on the fiery hoops of The Graduate Workshop Model for years now. When Those Who Scoff do a little more research and turn their comments back on, I might consider linking. The blogosphere is not a fiefdom. If the serfs don’t want to fill your larder, they don’t have to.

In the interim, I’m having a very good time with this National Novel Writing Month business and so are my students. We are all learning a lot about how the creative process works under the stress of meeting word count deadlines and the pure magic of letting the story BE. I’m even looking forward to rewriting this bad-boy in December when there’s “world enough and time.”

I began with a character and nothing else. The story twists and blooms right in front of me every time I sit down to write. My students are blooming as well. They’re writing Shitty First Drafts. They’re woefully behind or stunningly ahead of everyone else. They’re sitting down every single day with the words.

They don’t have to write the Next Great American Novel. The NaNo provides writing community so there’s no need for the tortured-novelist-in-a-garret scenario. That’s just a myth anyway. I’m proud of their fortitude and epiphanies and what they’re learning about the work and craft of noveling. The real lessons in craft, of course, always come in rewrite anyway.

So those of you out there frantically slamming out your novels, keep writing. Those of you out there scoffing, keep on telling those damned kids to get out of your yard, I guess. I won’t be reading your crankiness or linking up so others can, but it’s a free blogosphere and you have every right to say what you want. Knock yourselves out.