Sunday, December 4, 2011

After NaNoWriMo Then What?

My daughter won NaNoWriMo over a year ago. She didn't do it this year. And after she finished her novel, she put it in a drawer or something. It hasn't seen the light of day since. She won't let me see it.

I don't think she's unusual. And I think that's a shame. It's easy to figure that after writing with such intensity the writer will want to kick back and rest for a bit. And after that the manuscript is easy to leave in the desk drawer to languish.

Instead of languishing, something else should happen. Or maybe it should languish if the novel is really bad. Who's to say? That's tricky, because sometimes what I think is a bad novel is regarded quite highly by someone else. Or vice versa. In olden days, it was very easy to know what constituted a good novel: someone in New York would take it from a slush pile and declare it publishable. Maybe it would sell, too.

I think that after November finishes, all those novels submitted to should be read by someone. They may not be ready for public consumption, but they should be read. And this got me thinking about A Proposal for Improving Ebooks that I posted a few weeks back.

Suppose someone were to create an e-reader program that runs on iPads, Android tablets, PCs and Macs, but this e-reader program is tied to a server. The reader signs up to read someone's NaNo opus, then goes through it adding annotations identifying typos and--more pertinent to Nano--providing feedback to the author of a more editorial nature. This feedback, like the novel, would not be made public, but would go from reader, to Internet server, to author with only those things the reader and author want public seen by anyone else.

Alternatively, writers and readers can using something like Google Docs, specifically Jae-Sung Lee's Pinfolio, to give readers editable copies of the novel. But I have never been able to work this way. I think the only person making changes to the novel should be the author. And the reader should only be making annotations that are for the author's eyes only. The author alone should be responsible for doing something about these annotations.

My current thinking is that someone needs to lash up a prototype e-reader to give readers a feel for what I have in mind. And mockups of the server screens with diagrams that illustrate the processes of finding/choosing readers by writers and hooking things up to the NaNoWriMo people. This would give the NaNoWriMo author a system to take his work to the next level.

What do you think?


  1. I also think there needs to be a first stage of story analysis suggesting holes, underdone, long-winded, etc. A neat bad story is still a bad story. I've been toying with the idea of butchering Calibre, given its Python infrastructure - bit restricted to having a pc though. Another way to go would be totally web-based using jscript. Have you had a look at the way Kibin does it?

  2. I would make the anonymity optional. I for one would let the readers fight it out - laziness. (E&OT9)

  3. ... wasn't disagreeing - you had it covered.

  4. I, personally, don't have a problem with publishing my NaNoWriMo writings as works-in-progress publicly and accepting comments anonymously or identified. If your proposal would allow for readers to rewrite wiki-style, I would enjoy that, too. Other writers may want all contributions from Commentors/editors to be private and that would be fine, too.

  5. As a five time (hope to be six) winner and as a teacher whose brought her students along on this crazy ride each time, I have some thoughts I'd ask you to ponder:
    Nano isn't about writing great or even good novels. It's about setting a ridiculous goal and meeting it. It's about having the privacy and the ambition needed to write with reckless abandon while your nasty inner editor is out of the room. Isn't that enough?
    If the shadow of a mandatory submission process loomed in the future, I know my students would not glom onto this project with the joy they do right now. Don't know that I would either.
    That being said, the OLL supports NaNoEdMo in the month of March, I believe. Those willing to play along pull their novels out of the drawer and pledge X number of hours of editing time. I do ask my students to play through that month, and it's a whole different ball game. I ask them to take a particular section of their novel to work with if the whole thing is just too overwhelming.
    If students wish to, YWP gives winners a coupon for a free paperback copy of their novel. That, often, is enough.

    1. I don't think I can arrogate saying what NaNoWriMo is or is not. Your perspective that it's an exercise in "ridiculous goal-setting" is quite enlightening. I really appreciate the business of pulling students through the process without self-defeating self-gainsaying. Yet I see the novels languishing in drawers and lament this. NO one should face a MANDATORY submission process, but everyone should have a loving coach like yourself exhorting and encouraging them to take their manuscript to the next step in the process.


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