NANOWRIMO 2016 & Other evil things in life.
So on October 31st I ran across something online which reminded me of the NANOWRIMO event. Having little knowledge of this evil torture, I signed up for it. For those who don’t know, it stands for National Novel Writer’s Month. For some inexplicable reason, someone decided to pick November for this annual event. I suppose if you’re a teacher interested in getting students to write more, November works okay. However, for those of us who have to deal with the impending holidays, it sort of sucks.
The idea of NANOWRIMO is to write a fifty thousand word novel in a month. Again, this perplexes me since 50K is short for a novel and a little long for a novelette. It’s a weird size. It works out to about 1650 words a day. A reasonable goal for any single day, but for some people, it’s a little hard to do that consistently for thirty days. Since I normally write every day, I’ve found this goal to hurt me at times. Before this event started, I would happily tap out three thousand or more words at a single sitting, but now I kinda give up when I hit my 1700 for the day.
Then there’re the days when I struggle for words and end up feeling guilty if I don’t make my goal. In the past when I hit a wall, I used the time to go back and review or edit areas that needed flushing out. The NANO mantra is not to do any of that. This is supposed to be a rough draft, and I shouldn’t be wasting my time with edits. Meh. Screw it. I’ll do what I like. You don’t control me.
But I struggle on. When November 1 hit I was about 46K words into my current novel, and since the goal for this one is someplace between 82K and 87K I figured I’d just carry on and keep track of my daily progress. I’m now up to 72K and fighting for that neatly-wrapped-up-in-a-bow finish which we all seek.
On the plus side, the NANOWRIMO website has a decent forum section, and you can add writing buddies to your profile, so you’re able to get encouragement or swap ideas. My buddies have been a little on the quiet side but that’s okay, everyone is busy. Also, the #nanowrimo & #nanowrimo2016 hashtags on Twitter are extremely active, and allowed me to find a ton more writers to interact with one-hundred and forty characters at a time.
If you haven’t signed up for the event, there’s also a Camp NANO in the summertime which I’ve heard encouraging things about.
My next topic is a bit of a return to a previous topic — Accepting criticism. Nobody likes to have their work slammed. Most people don’t enjoy giving it out either. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to react to it. Keep in mind that I’m talking about when you ask someone who has no vested interest in seeing you succeed or fail. A total, or almost total, stranger that you somehow bribe, arm-twist, beg, plead, offer sex in exchange for, a look at your work.
If you’ve done this for more than a couple of weeks, you’ve probably found out how hard it is to get people to read your work and offer anything more than a pat on the head and a job well-done reply. Unless you’re in school and have teachers who are being paid to examine your writing, the process can really blow sometimes. For those of you who’ve been following me, you know I swap material with as many people as I can find.
Some advice downright sucks. Some advice is absolutely wrong. But all advice is freely given, and it’s my job to smile, say thank you, and sort through what I think are valid points and what can be tossed in the scrap pile.
If more than a couple of critique partners mention the same problem, you can be certain I’m going back through the area to find a way to make it work better. The other day I had someone who completely didn’t understand one of my character’s reactions to a situation. I had to step back and think if the character was behaving in a manner that NO human would react or if the character was just doing something that this reviewer couldn’t see himself doing in the same situation. For now, I’ve decided not to adjust the scene. If more people tell me she isn’t reacting like a human, I’ll make changes. I’ll even point out the scene in question to one of my writing groups and see if anyone else thinks it’s a problem.
So… Last night, someone posted on one of my Facebook writing critique groups a request for someone to read over a few pages and give feedback. I offered to take a look and then promptly fell asleep waiting for a reply. This morning I had a message along with the file waiting for me on Facebook along with an email asking if I got a chance to look at it.
The message on Facebook has already been deleted, so I’ll have you give you the rundown from memory. This person told me a few other people had already done line edits of the material and he was only looking for a basic overview and opinion. Sounds good so far. I hate reading material where the author hasn’t bothered to reread and correct obvious typos and such.
So, I read the material. It certainly wasn’t awful. It kept my attention throughout even though I caught a few grammatical issues and some places where I needed to read a sentence more than once. I sent him a short response since he didn’t ask for a close line by line examination. Keep in mind, I’ve never met this person before, and the only thing I know about him was that he’s currently in college someplace.
The scene is between the main character and an intern working in a human resource office of some company. Her job is to interview this man for a job. The character seems to dislike the entire interview process as a whole and proceeds to do things to taunt the interviewer.
Enjoy this horrific exchange.
In case you’re reading from a device too small to make these screenshots visible, I’ll re-enter the exchange.
Him: Hi Andrew
I sent my story to you via Facebook message. Just wanted to be sure you got it. Thanks for giving it a look.
Me: Sorry, didn’t see anything come through until this morning.
The ending is a bit unclear. It might have a better impact on people if the reader knew from the beginning that he cared nothing about getting the job because he already had one lined up. During all the bizarre things he was doing, I was just thinking the guy was an asshole and had no chance at getting the job with his attitude.
Him: I did indicate he had another opportunity at the end of the first page. FYI, if I was you I would not offer feedback in the future. There was absolutely nothing constructive about this.
(Okay, so he didn’t like my feedback. No big deal so far. But then I get this next one a few minutes later.)
Him: I am truly shocked you would treat another writer the way you responded to me. Very underhanded. And weak. Let me guess. You’re Jewish?
Me: Did you send this to the right person? I didn’t say anything offensive.
You are fucking publishing shit on Amazon and you can really be so careless when someone is simply looking for feedback? That was a complete garbage response. Any reasonable person would have had at least one constructive thing to say. Unbelievable.
Me: I’m sorry you feel that way. You specifically asked me to give you a general impression of the piece and not an in depth line by line edit. I gave you an honest opinion. If you’re planning on putting your writing out for the world to see, you can expect to get harsher words than I gave. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with the story. I just told you how I thought it could be improved. You might want to take the time to learn a few things about this type of feedback.
You didn’t pay me. I’m taking some of my free time to help you. It doesn’t matter if you agree with anything I say or not. Appreciate the fact that I was willing to read your material. You probably haven’t found out how hard it is to get that much out of random people.
If you only want platitudes and a pat on the head, ask your mother to read it.
I have gotten a fair amount of feedback from people I have never met before. Nothing came as close to your carelessness. Done with you. Please don’t contact me any more.
(But of course that only lasted for a few minutes because he needed to send more.)
Him: One thing you may want to consider, don’t say anything about someone’s work you wouldn’t say to their face. I assure you if we were in a writing group you wouldn’t have been as rude. If you were I would see to it you never would dare to treat someone so poorly ever again.
Me: I honestly have no idea what you think I said which was rude.
You’re the one who threw a racial slur.
Yeah … So that was my morning. I had to reread my response a few times trying to see where he thought I insulted him in such a careless manner. I still don’t see anything. Yes, I called the character an asshole but certainly not the author. I write lots of unlikable characters, and I assumed the one in question was meant to come off as arrogant. I can only guess that the character was a thinly veiled version of himself, and he didn’t intend the character to come off as such an awful prick.
After getting this sort of reaction, how eager do you think I am to help the next person who wants me to take a look at their work? I admit I was pretty blown away and pissed off for about an hour. I’m over it now. Trolls lurk everywhere. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.
I’ll try to keep updating this blog more frequently. If anyone has a suggestion for a topic, feel free to send it along. Comments, opinions, even visceral nastiness accepted.