Current Total: 52,019
I have completed the fifty thousand word challenge. That’s it, I’m done. Not with my novel – far from it – but with the challenge that NaNoWriMo puts before us all. My final total reflects a spurt of writing that I did over two days while sick in bed with the flu, and – wow – I had no idea I had written so much in forty-five minutes spurts between naps, short dog walks, food, tea, and shower breaks. Really, I was outlining scenes more than writing them because I had ideas I did not want to lose, and no energy with which to complete them. Discovering my word count this afternoon was quite a pleasant surprise.
So now that the sprint is finished, the real work begins.
NaNoWriMo gives me inspiration to write, but I cannot imagine anyone with any clout will reach fifty thousand words and say, “It’s a masterpiece! It’s ready to be published now!” In fact, with very few exceptions, it’s the first of many dozens of drafts, always assuming the NaNo Winner in question realizes the work it takes to produce a well-written and interesting novel. I’m still learning, myself.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that self-publishing takes the monopoly of storytelling away from publishers who seem to only be interested in certain kinds of stories with certain kinds of heroes, and certain types of love interests between very specific genders. It’s terrible that we’ve allowed a relatively small number of groups to determine the future of our cultural contributions, and what stories will be remembered versus what stories will be lost, all based on what will sell to the masses.
I love the idea of self-publishing, but I dislike the reality of it. I, like many others, have spent money on self-published novels, only to set them aside several chapters in unable to wade any further into the bogs of spelling errors, grammar errors, and inept sentence structure. No doubt there is a good story behind all of these dangling distractions, but readers need to be told the story through the well-written and properly edited medium that is published writing. They should not have to try to decipher it from within massive amounts of run-on sentences, sentence fragments, repetitive wording, spelling and grammar errors, needless scenes, redundant characters, and awkward dialogue. The point of a novel – the job of every storyteller – is to tell the reader the story without forcing them to search through all of your errors or needless side-stories to find the overarching theme.
I wish I could be less negative about self-publishing, because I really want it to work as a medium for stories that go against our current ‘socially acceptable’ norms. The problem is that so many authors are using it as an easy way out. Anyone can now call themselves a ‘published author’ because of the relative ease and low-cost of this era’s publishing opportunities, but that doesn’t mean their story should have been published in its current form – if at all.
Now, to be fair, we are also seeing a lot of poorly written stories being published by modern publishing houses, as well. So how do we deal with this lack of quality? My answer to this question is that we do it with our words. That book you purchased that you couldn’t put down because it was so cleverly and masterfully written? Tell everyone what you loved about it, and why. In fact, ask yourself why it was so compelling, and what drew you in and kept you interested. Did it make you tear up in places, or smile in others? Did it reach into your chest, and squeeze your heart until you thought it would burst? How and why? Tell others about these things.
Alternatively, if that book you picked up is so horrible you’re not sure your sanity can take reading further, return it, and tell everyone you can reach your exact reasons for disliking the story. I don’t mean flaming the author, by any means. I am referring to constructive responses such as “Once you get past the sentence fragments and repetitive wording, which are quite distracting and difficult to read through, you’ll find that this story is demeaning to women because, if the main character is any judge, the writer is telling us that a woman simply cannot accomplish anything in life – even just surviving from one day to the next – without having to depend on a man for their existence as well as for their happiness’ (the Twilight Series).
There are two authors I can think of off the top of my head who are regularly published by major publishing houses who write poorly. Perhaps their stories are interesting. I don’t know because I cannot get through the errors of sentence structure and grammar, or the constant repetition of words and phrases that an online thesaurus could have easily prevented. These authors make a lot of money without seeming to try to hard, proving that adage that tells us ‘It’s all about who you know.’
Why should self-publishing be any different or better? Because we, as consumers and as writers, should be demanding better quality for our money and for our art. We should be outraged when poorly written stories are lauded, and infuriated when we purchase a book that still has pointless sentence structure and grammar errors. Every rule is meant to be broken if there is an artistic reason for it, yes, but watching people who clearly don’t understand the rule, let alone why they’ve broken it, get applause for shoddy work should not be tolerated by the writing community as a whole. We should be striving toward a body of work with higher quality, not settling for lower quality just to get it published, and we should be demanding that others in our field do the same. There is no excuse for giving up before a draft is perfect because you’ve decided that ‘It’s as good as it’s going to get.’ (After all, that’s for an editor to decide.)
So, now that NaNoWriMo is over (for those of us who have reached the word count goal), it’s time to continue on, striving for quality and clarity. And, above all, knowing that this is only the very beginning of a hell-of-a-lot of work that is the novel-writing process.
Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.