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Article: Why NaNoWriMo Is Nobody's Friend

  1. Why NaNoWriMo Is Nobody's Friend

    56 Comments by pepperlandgirl Published on 02 Nov 2009 03:05 PM
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    Why NaNoWriMo Is Nobody's Friend

    Every year, about two weeks before Halloween, people start talking about NaNoWriMo. They began mentioning possible ideas, blog about their plans, start threads on message boards to meet other participants, start asking if others plan to give it a go this year, and generally behaving as though this is a great, fun game. In fact, the concept of writing a novel as a game is so interwoven in this month that there are "winners" and "losers." What do you have to do to win? Finish 50,000 words, of course! That's it. That's all. It actually seems like a rather harmless activity. One that I shouldn't have any issue with. It keeps people occupied and happy and hell, I'm always posting encouragement to writers. I love helping new writers--I'm a writing teacher for God's sake! But I hate NaNoWriMo, and I'll tell you why.

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  3. #2
    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Are those quotes about reasons for being involved in NaNoWriMo for real? How horrible and insulting to professional authors!

    I think there are some valuable lessons in NaNoWriMo for a hopeful writer, but they aren't the ones that are typically referenced:
    • The ability to make a deadline. You need 2,800 words by the end of the day to make your quota? You're running behind and are going to have to do an extra 10,000 words this week, somehow, between working your day job, taking the kids to school, going to the dentist and shopping for Thanksgiving? This is what it means to be a writer. It is a job, just like anything else. It takes time. It takes effort. Spending a month having to write a certain amount every day just to keep your head afloat is what a "real" writer experiences every month.
    • Writing even when you don't feel like it. It's not about your artistic integrity. It's not about your muses. It's about getting those damned words down on paper already.
    • Gaining experience. The more you write crap--and if you do NaNoWriMo you're likely going to write crap--the more you learn how to not write crap. Writing is like any other skill. The more you do it, the more you practice, the better you understand it.

    If you're writing for pleasure and want to self-publish your story about Neelox the Snickerslayer, then maybe NaNoWriMo can be your big jumpstart every year.

    Otherwise, it's not much good other than practice and it may not even be the kind of practice you need. I tried it for two years in a row and found it to be pretty much pointless. I could write 50,000 words in a weekend, but they weren't good words.

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    Oliphaunt jali's avatar
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    I feel better. Thanks pepperlandgirl.

    I've been writing and revising my novel off and on for the last 5 or 6 years and I look at contests like this and have wondered what might be wrong with me since I don't set myself a number of words per day goal and I write only when I'm inspired. (and I write in run on sentences)

    I'm stuck at a transitional point and I have to work it out. I've done at least 10 rewrites for this section, but it has to feel right to me.
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    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jali View post
    I feel better. Thanks pepperlandgirl.

    I've been writing and revising my novel off and on for the last 5 or 6 years and I look at contests like this and have wondered what might be wrong with me since I don't set myself a number of words per day goal and I write only when I'm inspired. (and I write in run on sentences)

    I'm stuck at a transitional point and I have to work it out. I've done at least 10 rewrites for this section, but it has to feel right to me.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, so I'm glad pepper's article made you feel better!

    For some people, it's good practice. Other people, it's not. It's certainly not the way everyone writes, or should write.

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    Porno Dealing Monster pepperlandgirl's avatar
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    I've thought about it some more and I think I figured out what really bothers me. The novel, as a genre and as an art form, is a complicated, beautiful, nuanced, sometimes sublime, form of expression. When you take a novel and you strip it down to nothing more than its word count, it devalues the genre. It literally takes away everything that makes the novel valuable, that gives it worth. It takes away everything that makes it worthwhile. It's not an accomplishment to write 50,000 crappy words. It's a huge accomplishment to write 50,000 words that you are proud of. I wish that NaNo was more about that pride than it is pure quantity.
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  7. #6
    Oliphaunt
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    I've tried NaNo twice, and all it ever did was make me feel like a failure. I think I write well, but I certainly don't write fast. And the further I got behind the necessary keeping-up word count, the more discouraged I got, which tended to put me off writing all together for prolonged chunks of time.

    Also, the whole atmosphere around NaNo is this obnoxious "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all special snowflakes who write NOVELS" thing. Which, no. Half of the of the participators I knew wrote frigging fan fiction.

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    Porno Dealing Monster pepperlandgirl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Orual View post
    I've tried NaNo twice, and all it ever did was make me feel like a failure. I think I write well, but I certainly don't write fast. And the further I got behind the necessary keeping-up word count, the more discouraged I got, which tended to put me off writing all together for prolonged chunks of time.
    Yeah, I think that's a major problem with the whole situation. Some people thrive under pressure and require a deadline. Others just feel the pressure a little too much and get discouraged and then give up. Which means that the whole concept has failed you in more ways than one.
    Also, the whole atmosphere around NaNo is this obnoxious "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all special snowflakes who write NOVELS" thing. Which, no. Half of the of the participators I knew wrote frigging fan fiction.
    I've noticed this sentiment come up a lot on this board--that there's writing and then there's fanfic. Now, I'm not going to designate myself the defender of all things fandom or anything, but I write fanfic and I have been for the past decade. It hasn't harmed my career in any way, and in fact, has helped in more ways than I could name.
    I'm still swimming in harmony. I'm still dreaming of flight. I'm still lost in the waves night after night...

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    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Okay then, devil's advocate moment: pepper, would you say that writing a 50,000 word fanfic in a month could be helpful for a writer?

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    Porno Dealing Monster pepperlandgirl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    Okay then, devil's advocate moment: pepper, would you say that writing a 50,000 word fanfic in a month could be helpful for a writer?
    Depends on the person. But here's the thing. Everybody needs to write about 1 million words of crap. You just need to get it out of your system. When you write, you're teaching yourself how to write. You're working out your tone, your voice, your style. You're working out if you like 3rd person or 1st person POV, if you're attracted to internal or external conflict, if you have a special problem with commas, if your sentences are coherent. All of that good, hard stuff.

    Writing fanfic is a fun, low-stress activity that, I think, provides a certain amount of satisfaction to the author even without posting it for all the world to see. If somebody told me they're going to work on plot by writing a Star Trek fanfic (because they want to teach themselves how to plot), I would completely and utterly support that and find it much less off-putting then "I'M GOING TO WRITE A WHOLE NOVEL! WOO!"
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  11. #10
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    Alright, well. I can't say that I am completely without appreciation for fanfic. I have dabbled in that area myself. I just know people who are good writers, and they've given up on their original creative works and turned entirely to fanfic (I think because they can get such immediate and overwhelmingly positive feedback). And so I feel like they've done themselves a disservice, and end up irked at the genre.

    Which isn't terribly pertinent to the whole NaNoWriMo thing, so I probably should've removed the slam. Sorry.

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    Quote Originally posted by Orual View post
    Alright, well. I can't say that I am completely without appreciation for fanfic. I have dabbled in that area myself. I just know people who are good writers, and they've given up on their original creative works and turned entirely to fanfic (I think because they can get such immediate and overwhelmingly positive feedback). And so I feel like they've done themselves a disservice, and end up irked at the genre.
    I'm going to continue the hijack for a moment to say that is definitely a seductive trap. LIfe is so easy with fanfic. You write it, and if it's great or even if it's not great, you get positive feedback and people love you and you're validated as an author and a human being. I fully believe most people write for love--not for love of the craft but so they can be loved.
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    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    Depends on the person. But here's the thing. Everybody needs to write about 1 million words of crap. You just need to get it out of your system. When you write, you're teaching yourself how to write. You're working out your tone, your voice, your style. You're working out if you like 3rd person or 1st person POV, if you're attracted to internal or external conflict, if you have a special problem with commas, if your sentences are coherent. All of that good, hard stuff.

    Writing fanfic is a fun, low-stress activity that, I think, provides a certain amount of satisfaction to the author even without posting it for all the world to see. If somebody told me they're going to work on plot by writing a Star Trek fanfic (because they want to teach themselves how to plot), I would completely and utterly support that and find it much less off-putting then "I'M GOING TO WRITE A WHOLE NOVEL! WOO!"
    I made a simplified version of this post:



    Seriously though, I agree. Just working on writing and getting more experience is good, so long as you realize that's what you're doing.

    And oh yes, fanfic is an easy trap to fall into. So is prose-based roleplaying, believe it or not. It can be a wonderful and horrible way to lose yourself when you should be turning that writing toward something more productive.

  14. #13
    Oliphaunt Baldwin's avatar
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    I participated last year in ScriptFrenzy, which is like NaNoWriMo except it's screenplays. What I got out of if was that I'm more productive if I set specific goals and deadlines. That was a valuable lesson, but I didn't delude myself that my 100 pages of expository dialogue constituted a coherent screenplay.

  15. #14
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    Last year I briefly considered participating. It seems to me that part of the appeal is a kind of plausible deniability. As someone who can't write you anticipate certain questions, explicit or implicit. Among them are "Why on earth did you do that?" and "Is that the best you can do?" Such a competition with its arbitrary rules provides easy answers to those questions. Of course that's not the best reason.
    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    I've noticed this sentiment come up a lot on this board--that there's writing and then there's fanfic. Now, I'm not going to designate myself the defender of all things fandom or anything, but I write fanfic and I have been for the past decade. It hasn't harmed my career in any way, and in fact, has helped in more ways than I could name.
    You write from the perspective of someone who is obvious interested in writing as such. I think what gave fanfic its bad name is that it often seems to attract people who are not just not very good at writing but also only marginally interested in it. If you are a good writer writing fanfic or trying to become one that is one thing, if you just want to play dollhouse with someone else's characters it's another.

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    I'd heard about NaNoWriMo first several years ago, before it got so big. And the original intent was simply the one that Zuul mentioned upthread - one of the biggest problems that many a neophyte author has is that they don't develop the habit of writing daily, and getting something onto the page. And like you said, Pepper, a new writer has about 1,000,000 words of crap they have to write before they can write something readable. If you don't get into the habit of writing daily, that crap never gets out.

    So, I'd never heard of people claiming to be able to win NaNoWriMo, or that it was all about the artistry. It was just a time to schedule yourself to do your writing to a regular, but still flexible deadline. With the expectations that Zuul listed, I can see a benefit to NaNoWriMo. But your criticisms of the expectations, and the culture, that seem to have grown up around it are all spot on.

    I've seen both ends of the fanfic experience, too. You can get people who are doing bad fanfic, hoping only to be told that their work was a masterpiece, and it was perfect and all those pretty comments you get from a poorly led writer's workshop. Then you can find people doing fanfic, who are writing well, or providing insightful criticism with useful, specific and detailed criticisms. Personally, the thing about fanfic that bothers me most has always been the preponderance of Mary Sues. And unfortunately that's not simply something you find with fanfic, it can show up in many other kinds of writing. But fanfic is particular notorious for it, and for doing it poorly with a god-like Mary Sue.

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    Quite a few years back there was a woman who started out doing fanfic and ended up getting a job writing for some TV show. I don't recall her name or the specifics, unfortunately, but I remember thinking at the time that it made sense. She'd developed the skill to take characters someone else had created and write for them in a consistent manner, which is one of the most important skills a person can have for writing for a series.

    Because there's no editor acting as a gateway between you and the fanfic, it comes through unfiltered and there's no blocking out the abhorrent crap, but that in no way means that fanfic is unusual in being full of crap. Having seen some truly horrific manuscripts, I can assure you: at least 98% of the writing out there is abhorrent crap.

    Which is why practicing writing to hone your skills is very, very valuable, but it shouldn't be mistaken for anything else.

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    There is a reason they call it a slush pile, after all. And then pay the lowest people on the totem pole to slog through it. Much like you would pay the most junior part of your workforce to go looking through the cesspool for someone's lost engagement ring.

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    Quote Originally posted by OtakuLoki View post
    There is a reason they call it a slush pile, after all. And then pay the lowest people on the totem pole to slog through it. Much like you would pay the most junior part of your workforce to go looking through the cesspool for someone's lost engagement ring.
    In the big houses, yep. We're small enough here that I do a little bit of everything, including (on rare and horrible occasion) the slush pile. Though when I do that I'm invariably told, "For God's sake, be nice."



    (I have a reputation as being the most brutally critical person at work. I don't know how that happened, since I swear I am nice!)

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    The Apostabulous Inner Stickler's avatar
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    *Makes a note to never let Zuul see what I'm working on*

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    Quote Originally posted by Inner Stickler View post
    *Makes a note to never let Zuul see what I'm working on*
    Aw.

  22. #21
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    Really you seem to be taking it way too seriously, and there was an almost elitist air in the article. Getting whiny over the definition of the word novel is just silly, especially when the 50,000 mark is just set because it's easily obtainable, and writers are encouraged to go beyond if they can.

    Also NaNoWriMo participants are encouraged to edit their work after the month is over, this is even stated by the people who run the program, it really depends on how far people want to go with what they've done. Some people just want to get a bunch of words on paper with a time limit, other want to actually develop their story into a real book, and NaNo is a great way to get a first draft done. There's also a lesser known follow up month called NaNoEdMo that takes place in March where people spend the month editing their novels(March was chosen due to the fact that it's a long enough time that writers will be able to look at their work objectively).

    Anyway, I didn't want to come off as bitchy about the article as I'm sure it would be annoying to be surrounded by a bunch of people bragging about their NaNo books as if they were pro writer, especially when you are a pro writer, but it does serve as a good way to light a fire under people's asses to at least try and see what it's like to write large amounts under a strict deadline(even if the end result is complete shit).

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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul
    Quite a few years back there was a woman who started out doing fanfic and ended up getting a job writing for some TV show. I don't recall her name or the specifics, unfortunately, but I remember thinking at the time that it made sense. She'd developed the skill to take characters someone else had created and write for them in a consistent manner, which is one of the most important skills a person can have for writing for a series.
    This may or may not be who you're referring to, but among Xena fanfic circles from the late 90's/early 00's, Melissa Good was both very prolific and very well regarded. And she ended up becoming good friends with one of the Xena writers, and wrote two episodes for the show's final season.

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    Quote Originally posted by Jeremy View post
    Really you seem to be taking it way too seriously, and there was an almost elitist air in the article. Getting whiny over the definition of the word novel is just silly, especially when the 50,000 mark is just set because it's easily obtainable, and writers are encouraged to go beyond if they can.
    I don't think I'm taking it too seriously. And there's more to a novel than the word length, which was partially the point I was trying to get across. Yes, it annoys me that 50,000 is "set" as novel length, but even if the arbitrary word limit was 75,000, I'd still be annoyed. Because a novel is more than just the number of words you can generate. I take it seriously because it's my job, by choice and by training, to take it seriously.

    Also NaNoWriMo participants are encouraged to edit their work after the month is over, this is even stated by the people who run the program, it really depends on how far people want to go with what they've done.
    But the stated goal of NaNo, as per the website, is to get as much done as possible, regardless of quality. There might be some that choose to continue editing when they're done, but it's certainly not as visible as the actual NaNo event itself. I participate in a lot of writing communities (and non writing communities) and I rarely notice any mention of editing NaNo projects.

    Some people just want to get a bunch of words on paper with a time limit, other want to actually develop their story into a real book, and NaNo is a great way to get a first draft done.
    This is a serious question: Why does it take a special month to begin work on their "real book"?

    There's also a lesser known follow up month called NaNoEdMo that takes place in March where people spend the month editing their novels(March was chosen due to the fact that it's a long enough time that writers will be able to look at their work objectively).
    Again, I rarely see mention of editing month. And it's not because I'm not looking in the right places. Look at blogs, message boards, twitter, and livejournal and there is a huge amount of support and excitement for writing 50,000 words, but I do not see anywhere that much support and excitement for editing those 50,000 words. Why? Because it's hard, and it's depressing, and it really kills the buzz you feel when you're playing author. Quite frankly, National Editing Month doesn't have the thrill that Writing Month does. Which is part of the culture that has grown up around NaNo.

    Anyway, I didn't want to come off as bitchy about the article
    You don't come off as bitchy.

    as I'm sure it would be annoying to be surrounded by a bunch of people bragging about their NaNo books as if they were pro writer, especially when you are a pro writer,
    That's not even what annoys me so much about it, although that can be annoying. I am not the sort of person to discourage anybody from writing if they want to write (and I've started a thread precisely to offer advice and support when I can). What annoys me--as a writer, as a student, as an instructor, and as somebody who loves literature--is the blase attitude NaNoWriMo encourages towards a really remarkable art form.

    but it does serve as a good way to light a fire under people's asses to at least try and see what it's like to write large amounts under a strict deadline(even if the end result is complete shit).
    Ultimately, I feel like if people have a story to tell and a genuine desire to write, they'll do it, regardless of the organized "competition." Think about how many people drop out of NaNo or "fail" every single year (many of them repeat "offenders"). It's because the other 11 months outof the year, they can't be bothered to put in the dedication, the work, the sweat, the tears, and the hours required to write a work of any length, and that doesn't change in November, either.
    Last edited by pepperlandgirl; 04 Nov 2009 at 12:13 AM.
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    Quote Originally posted by Taumpy View post
    This may or may not be who you're referring to, but among Xena fanfic circles from the late 90's/early 00's, Melissa Good was both very prolific and very well regarded. And she ended up becoming good friends with one of the Xena writers, and wrote two episodes for the show's final season.
    That might be who I was thinking of. It seems to be around the right time period, anyway.

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    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    I don't think I'm taking it too seriously. And there's more to a novel than the word length, which was partially the point I was trying to get across. Yes, it annoys me that 50,000 is "set" as novel length, but even if the arbitrary word limit was 75,000, I'd still be annoyed. Because a novel is more than just the number of words you can generate. I take it seriously because it's my job, by choice and by training, to take it seriously.
    I can understand that, but it isn't a thing for serious writers, it's just intended for any who thinks they have a story to get written. There are a lot of people out there that use their daily lives and "being too busy" as little self excuses to convince themselves they aren't capable of writing, which is dumb, but people in general usually are.

    But the stated goal of NaNo, as per the website, is to get as much done as possible, regardless of quality. There might be some that choose to continue editing when they're done, but it's certainly not as visible as the actual NaNo event itself. I participate in a lot of writing communities (and non writing communities) and I rarely notice any mention of editing NaNo projects.
    The reason it's stated that way is because a lot of people who try to write a novel end up getting stuck in editing hell before even getting more than a couple chapters into their books. Personally this was the reason I joined, there were a few times I tried to just sit down and pound out a novel, but I'd start getting picky and keep trying to perfect each sentence, in the end nothing would come of it because I'd get frustrated and start making excuses. With NaNo, it gives me an artificial set of boundaries to work with and also the pressure of friends who are also writing for NaNo. Could I have done this on my own without NaNo? Definitely without a doubt. Would I have done this on my own without NaNo? Honestly I probably never would have. Again, dumb I know, but I like a lot of people out there tend to come up with a billion different excuses and bullshit reasons as to why they can't or won't be able to finish even a first draft.

    This is a serious question: Why does it take a special month to begin work on their "real book"?
    Like I said above, they don't really, but making it into a big thing and putting on a lot of pressure will get a lot more people at least trying to write. Peer pressure and artificial goals can be very motivating.

    Again, I rarely see mention of editing month. And it's not because I'm not looking in the right places. Look at blogs, message boards, twitter, and livejournal and there is a huge amount of support and excitement for writing 50,000 words, but I do not see anywhere that much support and excitement for editing those 50,000 words. Why? Because it's hard, and it's depressing, and it really kills the buzz you feel when you're playing author. Quite frankly, National Editing Month doesn't have the thrill that Writing Month does. Which is part of the culture that has grown up around NaNo.
    There's a good reason why you don't heard much about editing month, it's not officially part of NaNoWriMo and is something started by people who took part in NaNo.
    http://www.nanoedmo.net/
    Honestly the site looks like it was made by a three year old, but the concept is solid because it lets you wait and separate yourself from the high of just finishing a first draft. Basically you can look at it without thinking it's the greatest piece of literature ever written.

    I think the whole NaNo thing would be a fuller experience if the organization itself supported and ran NaNoEdMo. Obviously it takes more than a month to properly edit a "book", but it would help to nail the point home that they aren't finished at the end of November, rather they've just finished the first step. I definitely do agree with the sentiment about some people just writing the words and never touching them again, especially if they start to go around bragging like they're a writer because of that alone.

    You don't come off as bitchy.
    Thanks.

    That's not even what annoys me so much about it, although that can be annoying. I am not the sort of person to discourage anybody from writing if they want to write (and I've started a thread precisely to offer advice and support when I can). What annoys me--as a writer, as a student, as an instructor, and as somebody who loves literature--is the blase attitude NaNoWriMo encourages towards a really remarkable art form.
    I think the idea is to get more people interested in writing in general, if they think they can write a novel in a month and actually try, they might feel the urge to take it further and actually hone their abilities. Of course there are the people who take it at face value and walk around like they're king of shit mountain after they put 50,000 words into a word processor, but those are the people you either ignore or punch in the face. Really you tend to find a pretty wide spectrum of people when you look at some who take place in the event, some are very serious, some are just doing it for shits and giggles.

    Ultimately, I feel like if people have a story to tell and a genuine desire to write, they'll do it, regardless of the organized "competition." Think about how many people drop out of NaNo or "fail" every single year (many of them repeat "offenders"). It's because the other 11 months outof the year, they can't be bothered to put in the dedication, the work, the sweat, the tears, and the hours required to write a work of any length, and that doesn't change in November, either.
    Well like I said in my personal example, I've tried to write, then got stuck in editing hell, and started making excuses after that. It's not that I didn't want to bad enough, it's more that I was going about writing in a way that didn't work for me. NaNo seems to be the thing that works for me, and it works the same way for a bunch of other people. Now of course, I'm not going to stop after the month is over, editing and rewrites start after that, but having community pressure and restrictions set will probably let me get that first draft out that I never would have finished in the first place. NaNo is more of a stepping stone to trick myself around those stupid little mental traps that us wannabes fall into.

    I can definitely see your points, but making something into a game or competition gets people motivated and distracts them from doubts.

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    Quote Originally posted by Unregistered View post


    There's a good reason why you don't heard much about editing month, it's not officially part of NaNoWriMo and is something started by people who took part in NaNo.
    http://www.nanoedmo.net/
    Honestly the site looks like it was made by a three year old, but the concept is solid because it lets you wait and separate yourself from the high of just finishing a first draft. Basically you can look at it without thinking it's the greatest piece of literature ever written.
    I think that I would have a more positive feeling towards NaNo if editing month had been included from the outset. I agree that the idea is solid, and I really hope that more and more participants in NaNo sign up for that.



    Well like I said in my personal example, I've tried to write, then got stuck in editing hell, and started making excuses after that. It's not that I didn't want to bad enough, it's more that I was going about writing in a way that didn't work for me. NaNo seems to be the thing that works for me, and it works the same way for a bunch of other people. Now of course, I'm not going to stop after the month is over, editing and rewrites start after that, but having community pressure and restrictions set will probably let me get that first draft out that I never would have finished in the first place. NaNo is more of a stepping stone to trick myself around those stupid little mental traps that us wannabes fall into.
    I'm sympathetic to the issue of getting started and building momentum to keep writing and working. People on this very board have had to threaten me with all sorts of things when I've got a deadline and I'd rather chat than actually work. We're all susceptible to stupid mental traps, and I think people should do whatever they have to do to break free of those. So on the one hand, I applaud people who grab this as an opportunity to get working and stay working. On the other hand, the whole philosophy behind it, the culture that grows up around it, and the undeniable sense that this is just a month set aside so people can play at being an author, really rubs me the wrong way.

    Anyway, Jeremy, if you're still reading this, I'd like to invite you to register on the board. Despite what brought you to the site, we do love aspiring authors around here, and I think I can speak for the community when I say that we'd love to see more posts from you.
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    Thanks for the warm welcome.

    Like I said before there tends to be quite a wide range of people on the site. The event organizers sort of ride the fence about editing, they don't try and force people to do the editing, but they often do throw in reminders that every month past November is for editing and rewrites. I think the point is to get more people to try writing before scaring the crap out of them with the prospects of editing. That does tend to bring about a lot of people who think they're done once they hit a number though.

    There is one major incentive for people to edit though, anyone who "wins" NaNoWriMo is eligible to get a free paperback copy of their novel. The offer is open for quite a few months after NaNo has ended and users are encouraged to polish their stories before getting a copy so they have a nice memento of the experience and something to show to others. Editing isn't required, but not many people with half a brain would want to show off a shoddy copy with terrible writing and bad grammar.

    In the end though, I have to agree with you about disliking the idea of people thinking they can write for one month of the year and consider themselves accomplished writers. It really should just serve as a springboard into a life of writing, or in cases like mine, jump-starting back into writing after a long hiatus.

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    Quote Originally posted by jeremy_mccurdy View post
    There is one major incentive for people to edit though, anyone who "wins" NaNoWriMo is eligible to get a free paperback copy of their novel. The offer is open for quite a few months after NaNo has ended and users are encouraged to polish their stories before getting a copy so they have a nice memento of the experience and something to show to others. Editing isn't required, but not many people with half a brain would want to show off a shoddy copy with terrible writing and bad grammar.
    I wasn't aware of this aspect of it. That's actually kind of cool.

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    Quote Originally posted by jeremy_mccurdy View post
    Thanks for the warm welcome.
    Thanks for joining us! Have a look around, and if you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

    There is one major incentive for people to edit though, anyone who "wins" NaNoWriMo is eligible to get a free paperback copy of their novel. The offer is open for quite a few months after NaNo has ended and users are encouraged to polish their stories before getting a copy so they have a nice memento of the experience and something to show to others. Editing isn't required, but not many people with half a brain would want to show off a shoddy copy with terrible writing and bad grammar.
    You might be surprised by the number of people who would, but they tend to be the sort of people who think every word is perfect and editing isn't required for their brilliance.
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    I'm not a writer, but this conversation has been really interesting to me. Thanks for the viewpoints, everyone!

    And welcome to the board, Jeremy!

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    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    Thanks for joining us! Have a look around, and if you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

    You might be surprised by the number of people who would, but they tend to be the sort of people who think every word is perfect and editing isn't required for their brilliance.
    Haha, well you're right about that in regards to some people. That sort of comes with the high people can get with writing, especially after writing a large amounts in a short time like with NaNoWriMo. It's another reason why NaNoEdMo should be supported more, it lets people pick up their own work months later and realize "Oh dear god, I wrote THAT?".

    You're always going to get a mixed group, some people get completely deluded, others stay grounded in reality. I still think NaNo does more good than bad, and maybe with time the organizers behind it will tweak their policy to further encourage editing, or even adopt NaNoEdMo as an official event.

    And thanks Sarahfeena!

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    I think this was a great article, Pepper. NaNo annoys the pants off me, frankly. If you want to write a book, write a book. You don't--and, IMO, bitchy as it may be--you shouldn't need something like this to get you to do it. I don't get fun buttons and tags when I finish a book. I get (usually) a week or two of downtime, and on to the next one, because I don't have a choice.

    I know a lot of people who say they want to write but never actually do it; they're too busy or they can't focus or whatever excuses they have. And it's just...either you do it, or you don't. If it's really what you should be doing, you should be doing it.

    And yes, it irks me that people think writing is so easy, anybody can do it. Hey, just throw a bunch of words on a page and you're a Real Novelist! Um, no.

    The idea that NaNo is now offering self-publishing is a little disturbing; I get annoyed when I see vanity presses circling like vultures over people who don't understand how publishing really works and what they lose by self-publishing.

    I see the appeal. I see where it can be encouraging, I do (and frankly, I like word meters because they do push me to keep going sometimes.) And if it's fun or gives people a sense of accomplishment, who am I to say they're wrong? I can't say NaNo is such a bad thing, just that it annoys me.

    But don't tell me my job is so easy.

    Not to mention, I think we'd be way, way, way better served to have a big National Novel READING Months, where we encourage people to step away from the front tables or their preferred genre or their go-to writers and try some new, different stuff. Yes, a lot of NaNoers are voracious readers, but a heck of a lot of them aren't, and they'll learn a lot more about real writing by reading than by sitting down and scrambling to throw a bunch of words onto a page.

    JMO, of course.

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    Quote Originally posted by StaciaKane View post
    Yes, a lot of NaNoers are voracious readers, but a heck of a lot of them aren't, and they'll learn a lot more about real writing by reading than by sitting down and scrambling to throw a bunch of words onto a page.
    What the heck is up with this? My most voraciously NaNo-ing friend frequently complains about how she doesn't know what she should be doing, because she doesn't read novels.

    And I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking why she's interested in creating a product she wouldn't want to read herself.

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    I don't think people are doing it to say that they can take the place of real writers and novelists, okay SOME are(which are just a bunch of idiots), but not the majority.

    Being a writer is a painstaking and often thankless job, NaNo is more for people who like to (or want to start to) write as a hobby. That's sort of where the line gets drawn, writing as a hobby IS easy, writing as a career isn't. The plus side is that instead of getting silly buttons and stuff, you (hopefully) get paid. The end reward tends to be indicative of the writing's quality.

    At the end of the day, I get a badge that says I drink a lot of coffee and write during class time, you on the other hand get money. Not saying you don't have the right to be annoyed, you most certainly do, but you also have a quick and easy way to get someone bragging about their NaNo "novel" to shut up: Just ask them how much money they've made from writing.

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    Quote Originally posted by jeremy_mccurdy View post
    Not saying you don't have the right to be annoyed, you most certainly do, but you also have a quick and easy way to get someone bragging about their NaNo "novel" to shut up: Just ask them how much money they've made from writing.
    On the other hand, this is a good way to make a lot of professional writers start crying.

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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    On the other hand, this is a good way to make a lot of professional writers start crying.
    Or drinking.
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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    On the other hand, this is a good way to make a lot of professional writers start crying.
    Heh, I suppose it is a cruel thing to say to some of the very talented starving writers out there. Maybe it's just better to ask NaNo-ers if they're made any money at all from their writing.

    Also, I just got an e-mail from the NaNoWriMo mailing list written by Chris Baty, the guy in charge of the whole thing. One part seemed to apply to this thread, so I figured I'd quote it here:

    You will also, however, write some flagrantly nonsensical chapters, create pages and pages of dialogue that make you cry (in a bad way), and endure a few shameful days where the only thing keeping your word-count afloat is the fact that your protagonist has a habit of reading the dictionary aloud whenever she gets nervous. And she's always nervous.

    This is totally fine. All the books we've loved started out in a similarly imperfect form. They're called rough drafts for a reason. No one gets a novel totally right on the first pass. This is true whether you give yourself a month or a lifetime to write the first draft. There's an adage in noveling that you can revise a bad first draft into a great book. But you can't revise a blank page into anything but a blank page. Take this to heart during NaNoWriMo. In November, all words are good words.

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    On the other hand, this is a good way to make a lot of professional writers start crying.
    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    Or drinking.

    Wait...I do both of those all the time already. Is something wrong with me?

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    Quote Originally posted by StaciaKane View post
    Wait...I do both of those all the time already. Is something wrong with me?
    No, no. Sounds perfectly normal for a writer.

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    Quote Originally posted by StaciaKane View post
    Wait...I do both of those all the time already. Is something wrong with me?
    So November was a bad time to try to stop sniffing glue?

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    I always thought substance abuse and the coupled depression were just considered writing fuel...

    I hate to keep quoting newsletters, but the latest one also tried to help nail home the point that NaNo is intended as a starting place for a life of writing:
    Dear Writer,


    I once wrote a novel in 22 days. 31 chapters, 62,000 words. I didnít do much elseóbit of sleeping, eating, bath or twoóI just had three weeks to myself and a lot of ideas, an urge to write, a 486 DOS laptop and a quiet room. The book was terrible. 62,000 words and only twenty-seven in the right order. It was ultimately junked but hereís the important thing: It was one of the best 22 days I ever spent. A colossal waste of ink it was, a waste of time it was not.


    Because hereís the thing: Writing is not something you can do or you canít. Itís not something that Ďother people doí or Ďfor smart people onlyí or even Ďfor people who finished school and went to Universityí. Nonsense. Anyone can do it. But no-one can do it straight off the bat. Like plastering, brain surgery or assembling truck engines, you have to do a bit of trainingóget your hands dirtyóand make some mistakes. Those 22 days of mine were the start, and only the start, of my training. The next four weeks and 50,000 words will be the start of your training, too.


    Thereís a lot to learn, and you wonít have figured it all in 50,000 words, but itíll be enough for you to know that you donít know it all, and that it will come, given time. Youíll have written enough to see an improvement, and to start to have an idea over what works and what doesnít. Writing is a subtle art that is reached mostly by self-discovery and experimentation. A manual on knitting can tell you what to do, but you wonít be able to make anything until you get your hands on some wool and some needles and put in some finger time. Writing needs to be practiced; there is a limit to how much can be gleaned from a teacher or a manual. The true essence of writing is out there, in the world, and inside, within yourself. To write, you have to give.


    What do you give? Everything. Your reader is human, like you, and human experience in all its richness is something that we all share. Readers are interested in the way a writer sees things; the unique world-view that makes you the person you are, and makes your novel interesting. Ever met an odd person? Sure. Ever had a weird job? Of course. Ever been to a strange place? Definitely. Ever been frightened, sad, happy, or frustrated? You betcha. These are your nuts and bolts, the constructor set of your novel. All you need to learn is how to put it all together. How to wield the spanners.


    And this is why 30 days and 50,000 words is so important. Donít look at this early stage for every sentence to be perfectóthat will come. Donít expect every description to be spot-on. That will come too. This is an opportunity to experiment. Itís your giant blotter. An empty slate, ready to be filled. Itís an opportunity to try out dialogue, to create situations, to describe a summerís evening. Youíll read it back to yourself and youíll see what works, youíll see what doesnít. But this is a building site, and itís not meant to be pretty, tidy, or even safe. Building sites rarely are. But every great building began as one.


    So where do you start? Again, it doesnít matter. You might like to sketch a few ideas down on the back of an envelope, spend a week organizing a master-plan or even dive in head first and see where it takes you. All can work, and none is better than any other. The trick about writing is that you do it the way thatís best for you. And during the next 50,000 words, you may start to discover that, too.


    But the overriding importance is that the 50,000 words donít have to be good. They donít even have to be spelled properly, punctuated or even tabulated neatly on the page. Itís not important. Practice is whatís important here, because, like your granny once told you, practice does indeed make perfect. Concert violinists arenít born that way, and the Beatles didnít get to be good by a quirk of fate. They all put in their time. And so will you. And a concerted effort to get words on paper is one of the best ways to do it. The lessons learned over the next thirty days will be lessons that you canít get from a teacher, or a manual, or attending lectures. The only way to write is to write. Writers write. And when theyíve written, they write some more. And the words get better, and sentences form easier, and dialogue starts to snap. Itís a great feeling when it happens. And it will. Go to it.

    -Jasper Fforde

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    Default I Love NaNo

    (Damn, I am now writing this post for the second time. It's going to be shorter this time.)

    I came to writing from the newspaper biz, and as a journalist I had to perform. I had to write sometimes six stories a day, and I had a deadline. I don't know if news writing is the ideal training ground for a novelist, but a lot of novelists come from it. And a lot of reporters have novels in their desks.

    Some body, maybe Stephen King, said an aspiring author has to write about a million words before they're a decent enough writer to even think about getting published. My guess is that doing NaNo is a higher quality 50,000 words toward that purpose than news writing is. At any rate it can't hurt.

    Although at least the good thing about news writing is you get paid for it. Well, usually.

    RO (now quite a few words closer to the second million, or maybe even the third)

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    Quote Originally posted by Raymond Onion View post
    Some body, maybe Stephen King, said an aspiring author has to write about a million words before they're a decent enough writer to even think about getting published. My guess is that doing NaNo is a higher quality 50,000 words toward that purpose than news writing is. At any rate it can't hurt.
    I've heard this quote before and it's one I certainly agree with. Taking part in NaNoWriMo is a good way to get in that practice and to get into the habit of writing every day.

    When I was in school, I wrote a lot more than I did in the years directly after graduation. It was required of me, after all. Having my grades and financial aid riding on getting papers out on time was fantastic motivation. Since I was already writing tons of stuff anyway, it became natural to spend a lot of time writing for pleasure, too. Once I graduated, I didn't have that driving force behind me screaming WRITE SOMETHING NOW and as a result, my downtime from work was spent on video games and movies and (gasp) talking to friends rather than writing.

    Now, work requires me to read and write a lot and suddenly writing every day is easy again. In fact, I end up craving it like some people crave their morning coffee. For people like me who need a little boost, NaNoWriMo can be really helpful, though I think those who are fed the idea that what they'll end up with is a workable novel without editing--like a certain unscrupulous publisher is suggesting--aren't going to get as much out of it as others.

    And for people like jali who need to go at a slower pace, it can be a bit intimidating.

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    Quote Originally posted by Raymond Onion View post
    .

    Some body, maybe Stephen King, said an aspiring author has to write about a million words before they're a decent enough writer to even think about getting published. My guess is that doing NaNo is a higher quality 50,000 words toward that purpose than news writing is. At any rate it can't hurt.
    I am sympathetic to the argument put forth that NaNo is a great way to motivate would-be writers, and help them get through at least a portion of their million words of crap. But at the same time, I'm skeptical of it, too.

    I think that people who really want to be authors will always make it a priority, and so will find a way to write every day. Even if it's just scrawling notes on a legal pad at lunch because it's their only free hour all day long. I think people who are serious, people who write out of love, people who have stories bursting out of them, will find a way to make every month Novel Writing month.

    It's just like the fact that I do not care if my house is clean or messy. It's simply not a priority for me. I can find ways to trick myself into cleaning the house--playing little games or setting aside one thing to do every day for a month. And the house will get clean doing that. My end goal will be met, and that's certainly noteworthy. But at the end of those 30 days, despite my clean house, being a good housekeeper still won't be a priority for me. And I'll probably still need to find little tricks and games to keep myself motivated to clean it all again a month later.
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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    like a certain unscrupulous publisher is suggesting
    If you're talking about that hilarious erotic novel publisher, the NaNo officials strongly and constantly warn people about folks like that, but like they say "there's an ass for every seat". Some people are just flat out dumb enough to fall for stuff like that.

    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    I am sympathetic to the argument put forth that NaNo is a great way to motivate would-be writers, and help them get through at least a portion of their million words of crap. But at the same time, I'm skeptical of it, too.

    I think that people who really want to be authors will always make it a priority, and so will find a way to write every day. Even if it's just scrawling notes on a legal pad at lunch because it's their only free hour all day long. I think people who are serious, people who write out of love, people who have stories bursting out of them, will find a way to make every month Novel Writing month.

    It's just like the fact that I do not care if my house is clean or messy. It's simply not a priority for me. I can find ways to trick myself into cleaning the house--playing little games or setting aside one thing to do every day for a month. And the house will get clean doing that. My end goal will be met, and that's certainly noteworthy. But at the end of those 30 days, despite my clean house, being a good housekeeper still won't be a priority for me. And I'll probably still need to find little tricks and games to keep myself motivated to clean it all again a month later.
    I've always found it to be a double edged sword, especially for those of us who run into writer's block steadily. When I'm going through a rough patch creatively, I need little games and incentives to keep me writing, because at those times writing does feel like a chore.

    It does pay off in the end when the rut is passed and it becomes incredibly fun again, but a lot of people doing it as a hobby just don't have the tenacity to stick it through under normal circumstances.

    We also get into that territory where NaNo is generally for hobbyists, but the idea of writing a novel can delude people into thinking they are or are going to be professional novelists because they wrote a lot of words. In that respect for that type of people, NaNo is a trap that's going to end up crushing them.

    The scepticism you have is definitely well founded, but it only really applies to the people who get constant delusions of grandeur, people who don't properly research careers before trying to enter them, or those who think they can make it in the real world with a month's worth of work. Those people are going to have a ton of problems in life regardless as to whether or not they participate in NaNoWriMo.

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    Quote Originally posted by jeremy_mccurdy View post
    If you're talking about that hilarious erotic novel publisher, the NaNo officials strongly and constantly warn people about folks like that, but like they say "there's an ass for every seat". Some people are just flat out dumb enough to fall for stuff like that.
    Unfortunately so (and a great description of that sort of phenomenon). It always depresses me to see people being taken advantage of in that sort of way, but there's little to do to protect them, as they're quite willing to offer themselves up.

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    I like NaNo, and I like April's NaPoWriMo (write a poem a day for a month) simply because they turn writing into something with a community aspect. It lowers the high mental barriers to writing, tells people to turn off their stifling internal editors and just write.

    Many of my friends have had great success with novels and poems they've started under these conditions. Others don't choose to participate. As with all psychological issues, there's no one right way to find inspiration or drive. It's all about finding what works.

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    Default NaNoWriMo Cultural Assumptions

    I quit NaNoWriMo (after 1 "winning" year) because I got sick & tired of religious people being bashed randomly (in threads having nothing to do with religion) in the forums, and then banned or warned when we defended ourselves. Also, when I tried to participate in regional groups, both the ones I attended had at least two people each who insisted that their "erotica" be part of the stuff that was read out loud at parties, etc. Yes, we did have parents who showed up with their kids at the first meeting, and never returned. The assumption was always that the people who don't want to sit listening to some stranger (with a prurient look of glee on their face) read porn to a "powerless" group were the ones who had to leave along with the parents. The overwhelming default assumption is that XXX rules, and anyone who wants to keep material <R rated has to find another playground. Maybe, maybe, maybe if there were a similar game for those of us who want nothing to do with gratuitious sex & violence & religion bashing, I might still play. (Writing can be lonely, after all.) As is, it's mostly fan fiction, bad sci fi, kids getting off playing with swearing in public and here and there a few card-carrying exhibitionists who you don't want following you in the parking lot.

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    Default You've missed the point entirely.

    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    I've thought about it some more and I think I figured out what really bothers me. The novel, as a genre and as an art form, is a complicated, beautiful, nuanced, sometimes sublime, form of expression. When you take a novel and you strip it down to nothing more than its word count, it devalues the genre. It literally takes away everything that makes the novel valuable, that gives it worth. It takes away everything that makes it worthwhile. It's not an accomplishment to write 50,000 crappy words. It's a huge accomplishment to write 50,000 words that you are proud of. I wish that NaNo was more about that pride than it is pure quantity.
    The point of NaNoWriMo is not to purposely excuse shit writing in favor of actual quality. Its point is to get one's ass in gear and begin writing words, to not slack off. Yes, the whole thing is based on a bit of an honor system of sorts (even though there's a "verifier"), but that's on the writer to uphold her end of the bargain. The writer must actually write their own words, in an attempt to formulate a story, however loosely plotted, however shoddy the characterization. The point is not to write gold in the first 30 days. Who writes gold in 30 days? Who says the writer has to stop after the first 30 days, those in November? No one. In fact, it's highly agreed among participants that the idea is to take the 31 days of December to edit the thing into something more readable, to expand wherever necessary, to fill in plot holes, and whatever other tightening up is necessary.

    It isn't any of the things you say in your article, and really, it isn't fair to someone like me, who constantly works on pieces year-round, to perfect the craft. Including several different NaNo projects.

    So shove it.

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    Quote Originally posted by pepperlandgirl View post
    I'm going to continue the hijack for a moment to say that is definitely a seductive trap. LIfe is so easy with fanfic. You write it, and if it's great or even if it's not great, you get positive feedback and people love you and you're validated as an author and a human being. I fully believe most people write for love--not for love of the craft but so they can be loved.
    Fanfic, there's something the original article should've been about.

    You can't even publish it.

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