Why Professional Writers Shouldn’t Cheat on NaNoWriMo

I wound up doing NaNoWriMo this year, after some careful thinking about it.

So did a few other friends, and the challenge-aspect of the 50,00-word goal seems to have spilled over into other metrics as well; one woman I know is doing “NaBeAFuAdMo,” or “National Be A Fucking Adult Month,” with a list of real-life tasks laid out one per day for each day in November.

Up to a point I like these sort of adaptations.  The spirit of the game is self-improvement and striving to achieve more than you would without the artificial carrot-and-stick motivation, so anything in that general vein seems like fair game.

But I worry that there’s a temptation for fellow-writers especially to water things down a little bit:

Word count is the official metric of NaNoWriMo, and word count is what a lot of us do for a living.  In many cases that’s quite literal.  I’m paid by the word more often than I am by any other scale, so every word has a real and concrete value (albeit a very, very small one, as far as a single word goes).

So after a day of that it’s easy for your hard-working writer who’s also decided to do NaNoWriMo to say “well, okay, it’s 9:00 PM and I’m just now starting on today’s part of the manuscript, but technically I’m already up 3,500 words from my work, right?”

And I do know people who are doing things that way, keeping track of all words written in the month rather than just the word count of a single comprehensive work.


But I feel like people who really want the novelist-training exercise might be missing out a little by doing it that way.

Very few people are lucky enough to write in a professional vacuum, i.e., sans day job.  Being able to make it through the workday and then still pound out a few thousand words on the next novel is a huge, huge part of the authorial skill.  And I think it’s a skill that NaNoWriMo is trying pretty deliberately to teach.

So on the one hand I’m all for people taking the idea of NaNoWriMo and adjusting the metric to meet their own motivational needs.  It’s basically a self-motivating exercise in the first place, with a little help from our old buddy peer pressure via the internet.

But on the other hand I hope writers are thinking about the benefits of doing the full 50,000 word manuscript on top of all the other written-word projects.

They’d better be there, otherwise I’m losing a lot of sleep this month for nothing.


How We All Hope Our Writing Careers Go

An image and a link for the day, on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words and therefore I’ve more than exceeded my responsibility to you as soon as I post one.  Also John Allison’s work is just wonderful, and everyone should browse through at least some of it.  Like today’s kick-off to a new mini-series called Murder She Writes:

This is how all writing careers should start.  This, or something like this with more drinking, perhaps.  Bear any similarities to your own starts?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Actual writing, thoughts, etc. tomorrow.  Unless you would rather just see more comics, in which case you should also leave a comment, and let me know.

Once again, today’s comic comes from John Allison of Scary Go Round.  His work is excellent and you should take a look at it.  I have no affiliation with him except being a fan!

When Your Blog is More of a BLAAAGH

I like that these things are called “blogs.”

It’s a good sound.  When you’re stuck and swamped and the last thing you want to do is come up with something to talk about (and all your saved drafts look terrible because that’s just the kind of mood you’re in) you can draw the vowel out really long and make it sound like “BLAAAAAGHHHHH!”  Blog.  Blagh.

So that’s my two cents for this kind of blaaaaaghy day.  Thoughts?

Fun with Homophones, Real-Life Edition

I have, like many fine writers before me, more than a passing familiarity with retail.  Sellin’ stuff, ringin’ up, don’t-quit-your-day-job type jobs.  Everyone needs a little steady income!

So every once in a while something entertaining and word-related crosses my counter at the Day Job.  Some stores, you may know, still check the signature on the back of your credit card?  I can assure that it is entirely a formality, even at the few places that do still bother, but most people still know to sign theirs.

Or — or — and this is where it gets fun — to write “See I.D.” on the back instead.

The idea here is that someone who steals your credit card won’t be able to use it, this way, since they’ll be asked for an ID they don’t have rather than scrawling something similar to your signature, which is mostly a joke since, as I said, most places don’t even check and the ones that do are happy to accept “Oh, sorry, I left my ID at home, but I swear it’s me!” as legal identification.  But some people do it.  And some bankers or credit-card-issuers still tell people to do it.

I know that in some cases it is people being told to do it and not people choosing to out of some vaguely conscious sense of identity security.  I know this because every once in a while we get a card that, in place of a signature, has the neatly-printed acronym “C.I.D.”

This is not a thing.  There is no credit card signature related thing called a “C.I.D.,” apart from the acronym sometimes being used interchangeably with “CVV2,” which is the little security code printed on the back.  The only reason to write it on your card is if you heard someone authoritative-seeming tell you to write “See I.D.” and you thought they meant “C.I.D.” and didn’t think to ask what it meant.

Picture related.

I’m always a little boggled by people with “C.I.D.” cards.  But that’s life for you, and that’s homophones too!  Which, speaking of, came up in yesterday’s post too, when I found that famous picture from The Graduate and a caption describing it as “Anne Bancroft stalking” on the part of Dustin Hoffman.

Get it? He's stalking her stocking? Ah well.

So that’s today’s Fun with Homophones, Real-Life Edition.  Share your own favorites (or just your stories of bone-headed consumers!) in the comments and we’ll see you tomorrow…

If Everyone on OkCupid Says They Like Books, What’s a Devoted Reader to Do?

I had to Google OkCupid to figure out the capitalization and other formatting choices in the name, which gives you a pretty good idea of my fixed domestic status.  So this is not my story.  It is a friend-of-a-friend story.  But it’s a good one.

If you’re like me, i.e. not carefully-tuned to the vicissitudes of online dating, you probably didn’t know that people on it often say they like books.  Like a lot — apparently to the point that it is completely, utterly meaningless.  People who haven’t cracked a cover since high school English class say they like books.

(To be fair, some of OkCupid’s users are only a few years out of high school English, apparently, and saying that they’re quite a few years further out than that, also apparently.  Who knew?)

Picture related.

For your genuine bibliophile this is a serious problem.  There’s really only a specific sort of person that actually likes curling up with a good book, like every night; the rest of us just enjoy the idea of being that kind of person.  Someone who read Harry Potter and thought it was pretty cool is not going to fit the bill.

So hence the friend-of-a-friend part, a woman who apparently solved this problem by trying to think of other things that people who like books tend to like and eventually settled on Scrabble.  No one actually likes Scrabble until they are into words in a very serious way, after all, or else are the kind of bespectacled weenie who wanted to be really good at chess but lacked the spacial skills and wound up memorizing a lot of words that use both X and J instead.


Apparently she went on dates with five guys and wound up married to the fifth, which would be a happy ending except that she sort of hates Scrabble and has to play it all the time now.

Makes you wonder what we did before we had scientifically-balanced algorithms to tell us who we love, doesn’t it?  Thoughts and tales of finding your own true love, through fate or information-technology-chicanery, please!

Drawing a Blank

I’m on the road again today, so none of my usual handy-dandy visual aids.

That’s okay, though, because today is actually all about coming up blank.  As in white, empty, unmarred, nil; lights-on-but-no-one-home writing failure.

It happens to all of us.  Every once in a while the spigot just won’t turn.  A few stiff drinks can sometimes loosen the pipes, but that just lends itself to all sorts of other negative trends in life, so skip it.

So instead we have all these hokey little brain-jogger exercises floating around the internet.  I suspect some of them have their origins in primary school classrooms.  Take, for example, the wrenchingly cheesey yet almost elegant “drawing a blank” method, a literalist twist on the actual problem wherein you draw a blank square (or other shape, I suppose) on a piece of paper.  As in create boundaries for your frustration.

All got it?  Have we done it yet?  Take your time — I want you all ready for the next part.

Now fill that shit in.  Doesn’t matter with what.  Words out of your head if you can get ’em.  Random squiggles that you just like the shape of if you can’t.  Make the blank space not blank.

I can’t tell if the sneaky part is reducing your writing-related goal for the day to an exercise a very small child can manage (thereby tanking away the fear and frustration of literary impotence) or creating such a literal metaphor that your brain can’t help but be convinced that it has, in fact, stopped drawing a blank.  But either way it works much better than something so cutsey should.

Your own favorite drawing-a-blank solutions?  Two or three good blog topics went into my head and right back out of it as I was driving and therefore unable to scribble them down, so I could sure use a good brain-jogger.

Remember Remember, or, How Writing Has the Power to Make People Get Their Shit Really Wrong

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta has a lot to answer for.

If you live in a major metro the odds are you saw someone wearing one of those smiley masks on Saturday?  That’s because Saturday was Guy Fawkes Day, which up until recently most of us Americans thought of as some sort of weird early-Thanksgiving-in-England, and the black-and-white mask is a “Guy Fawkes mask,” with the ugly little ‘stache and goatee of the eponymous terrorist.

This guy. Get it? "Guy"?

This year it was also apparently “bank transfer day,” a Facebook-page-organized protest movement urging people to withdraw their money from large commercial banks and transfer it into credit unions or local banks.  The goal, according to their Facebook page, is to “ensure that these banking institutions will always remember the 5th of November!!” [punctuation sic.]

Their logo.

My only explanation for the Guy Fawkes imagery-and-association is V for Vendetta.  The comic — and, more importantly, the movie it spawned — feature a protagonist who wears the Guy Fawkes mask, and is also a reasonably big fan of blowing up buildings, which your average liberal-on-the-street finds kinda heart-warming when it’s born of some kind of romantic notion of an anarchic state where we can all wear goofy masks and just plain get along rather than, say, ushering in a papally-dominated Catholic monarchy even more repressive than the existing one.

Which, y’know, is what Guy Fawkes was actually all about, and is why they still burn him in effigy on Nov. 5th in England. Sometimes along with a little Pope in a pointy hat.

So this is the power of literature, here.  Were it not for a comic book (turned major motion picture) about a radical anarchist in an imagined, oppressive future-state, we would not have protesters (to say nothing of hackers) currently wearing goofy masks to symbolize a genericized rage against the machine that has nothing to do with blowing up buildings for a religiously radical cause.

Or maybe that is what they’re all about, deep down inside.  Who knows.  Maybe next year it’ll be Osama bin Laden masks.

Too soon?

So write — but write carefully.  The history you re-interpret may just be the history a howling mob re-interprets, some day.  If you’re very, very lucky.  I’ll just leave the comments page for people upset by the Guy Fawkes/bin Laden joke, shall I?


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