Budding writers and aspiring novelists have been reminding the Internet via acronym for the past five days that it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In an effort to combat the stigma that the manuscripts resulting from NaNoWriMo are rambling novellas with inconsistent plot lines, hollow characters, and a mish-mosh of half-conceived ideas, I decided to interview three successful writers to get their thoughts about NaNoWriMo. After pulling more strings than a cello player with obsessive compulsive disorder, I was able to sit down with Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, Stephenie Meyer, “author” of Twilight, and George Orwell, author of 1984.

Katie: I’m so glad you all could make it. Especially Fyodor and George, you guys really pulled through.

Stephenie Meyer: What about me?

K: I’m still not sure why you brought a Robert Pattinson cardboard cutout.

Among the three of you, you’ve authored enduring and thought-provoking novels. …The other is a bestselling Young Adult author whose books gave everyone a new appreciation for Anne Rice in her glory days. How do you each feel about starting such a special and intricate process, and one that doesn’t involve cooking a turkey that isn’t too dry, in the month of November?

Fyodor Dostoevsky: In Russia we don’t have turkey dinner. We eat soup with cabbage and carrots.

George Orwell: Writing a subpar novel in a month that you’ll only consider an accomplishment simply because it’s complete sounds like doublethink to me. Part of the reason I wrote 1984 was to call attention to how Big Brother uses frivolous deadlines to give the fraudulent appearance of worth to what is clearly sloppy work.

SM: Well, personally, when I was a young girl living in Connecticut, I never imagined–

K: Imagine you’re just starting your novel. Would it be hard to get to 50,000 words in just four weeks?

SM: Well, if it were me, I’d keep in mind that this is just a rough draft. I wouldn’t put much time into creating compelling characters that demonstrate growth or get involved in stirring relationships–just get as many words down as you can.

K: …Took your own advice, I see. How about you, Fyodor? Is 50,000 an intimidating number?

dosFD: Don’t make same mistake as me. When I start writing novel, I strive for 50,000 characters–that’s why I make the names so long! Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov could have been Ivan Agapov…

K: Despite the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words, Crime and Punishment is 211,591 words long and 1984 comes in at 88,942. Do you think this suggests most novels that barely reach 50,000 words are probably going to suck be underdeveloped?

FD: As we say in Mother Russia, the subpar novel of my enemy is my friend.

GO: One shouldn’t need a special month or a pep club to conduct the electricity of one’s ideas onto the page! Instead of hurrying to reach daily word counts, you should be laboring over every syllable. You should be proofreading, erasing what is not needed, changing your mind, giving up for a week, and returning refreshed with a vengeance and a new connection to your story. Thirty days is not nearly enough time to tap into your greatness.

S: Twilight is 115,362 words. My book is longer than 1984, and I still don’t get any respect.

K: That “lion and the lamb” metaphor and four paragraphs of lovelorn looks do not constitute substance, Steph. So what final pieces of advice do you three have for novelists participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

GO: Just remember that abstaining form NaNoWriMo isn’t thoughtcrime against the art of writing.

FD: Eat your cabbage and carrot soup! …Don’t trust Tolstoy.

SM: No matter what happens, don’t be nervous! If nothing else, NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to write a slipshod novel with a heroine who Kristen Stewart will be perfect to play in the movie version.

nanonowrimo

Fellow writers who aren’t participating in hurried novel-writing and other dissenters of NaNoWriMo, join the NaNoNoWriMo movement.

46 thoughts on “Three Well-Known Authors Dish about NaNoWriMo

  1. I love that you kept cutting off Stephenie Meyer! I completely agree with your above sentiments. I was tempted to participate seeing all of the hype on WordPress and I love a challenge. I can get self-conscious about my writing and tend to over think it before I have even written anything down. So I thought NaNoWriMo would be a good idea. Then logic kicked in. Why would I subject myself, and my work, to a month of hair-pulling, crying, poorly constructed paragraphs and half-assed one dimensional characters. I would end up with 50 Shades when all was said and done. Let us all not write a novel this month!

    1. Yes! Spread the word!

      I think it’s cool that people want to push themselves as writers with a supportive group behind them yadda yadda yadda, but I don’t think you should ever confine your ideas to a timeframe or word count. This isn’t the English Lit paper you left until the last minute and whose 2500 word length seems unbearable–a novel is supposed to be a labor of love. NaNoWriMo is cheating, in my opinion.

  2. I’ve never won NaNoWriMo, and honestly, I could be completely wrong despite the fact that I do read a lot and know somewhat what a book should sound like, but I’ve gotten down 40,000 words in a month that I might not have had if I hadn’t subjected myself to a month of grief to just sit down and do it. Sure, I didn’t win, and the novel is not close to complete yet, but I’m still working on it and I’m not sure if I’d have that motivation if I didn’t already have so much done. Especially with all the other demands on my time, including work, books, blogging, gaming and boyfriend. Oh yeah, and eating, sleeping, that fun stuff.

    I get that probably a lot of the novels produced during that time are crap, but there are books that have been published that were NaNo novels that are quite decent (or at least are from decent writers that I enjoy.)

    But ultimately, thanks for cutting off Stephenie Meyer in your interview. She didn’t need to speak.

    1. I think at the end of the day it really depends. In my opinion, based on what I’ve read of yours, I don’t think you need a special month to really sit down and dedicate your energy to stringing your ideas together. Maybe because I’ve never been a big outliner/drafter/planner, the idea of writing so many words per day or per week just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve always been of the opinion you should only write when you’re inspired, and I think NaNoWriMo forces it a little.

      1. I think it does? I always had a good view of it until my boyfriend begged me this year NOT to stress out about it because I’m already behind this year (Poor guy). I just know that if I wait until I’m inspired, I will never get around to it. I’m lazy/scared/tired/brain-dead and it will never get done. But to each their own. It works for some people, and for others it doesn’t. 🙂

  3. Do you know what I”ve found, Katie? (No – of course not, I don’t live inside your head). Fair point. I reckon that sometimes working to stupid deadlines can work wonders. It’s kind of like exercise: The more you work your muscles, the stronger they become. They mightn’t look great to begin with, but with time, they grow bigger and better, and shit, the weights, become(s) easier to lift. Does that make sense? Sometimes by nutting it out, and just writing, albeit crap upon crap, later, down the road, you can writer better, quicker. Like playing sports. First, you look like a horse on roller skates. But you stick it out. Then, with practise, you can freely glide around the streets like a juggling clown on acid. As a side, I LOL’ed (which apparently means laughed.. like, out aloud) while reading this. In a cafe. Uh-oh – how embarrassment.

    1. I see what you’re saying. I guess I just can’t compare my writing to say, building muscle for instance. That’s just now how it works for me. To me, writing 50,000 words of shit would be such a burden, and I don’t think I could even write 2,000 shitty words without going back and revising before I continue. I guess a lot of it really depends on your process.

      1. Yeah – I’d imagine everyone’s different in the process thingie. Another key to successfully completing nano would be, surely, not having a full time job. That’d work wonders.

  4. I like to call it NoNoYouNoWriNoMore. There’s already too many shitty words strung together. Never including you in this, of course. I quite love your writing. I couldn’t imagine writing any more. It involves DOING, which is beneath me. There, I wrote something. Now I can have a beer, listen to music, watch tv, read two pages of some book, fall asleep, and hate the next workday.

    1. HA! Thank you. I truthfully don’t even think I could 50,000 words in a month. I just don’t think doing something as significant as writing a novel is something you could set a deadline for.

  5. Superb, Katie! Couldn’t agree more – with George and Fred… oh sorry, that’s the Weasleys. I gave my own opinion on NaNoNooNah last year but this is much better. Respect. (Might have to reblog this!)

  6. Why are you so rough on Stephenie Meyer? She is richer than both of us… combined! I bet you wished you wrote some trash that got lots of money. Also, I think George Orwell is correct, this is a way for Big Brother to control us. There was always a NaNoWritingMonth… it was always 50,000 words. In a few generations, all novels will be written in Nov and be 50,000 words.

  7. Ha! I loved your post…still laughing. I, like another commenter, am participating in NaNoWritMo for the first time but I’ve put my time on other works so nobody’s better give me any grief when I don’t reach that 50,000 word goal … and still laughing. Hey, don’t forget that NaNoWritMo is also a fund raising event – one which I did not contribute to but hey, I’m still broke from the recession!

    1. Good for you and good luck! I have to respect anyone who tries to accomplish 50,000 words in a month, but it’s just not for me. Maybe because I know I couldn’t do it. I just can’t help but think of how it is for me, and some days I just don’t feel like writing. When you do that with NaNoWriMo that could set you behind pretty quickly.

      1. Oh, I’m way behind, Katie – way,way behind. But that’s okay – I just wanted to participate. It’s like running a marathon you know you can’t win but you do it anyway because you love to run. Yea, I’m a little crazy. 😉

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