No, I will not read your novel

NaNoWriMo is a programme which encourages people to write a novel in a month. Controversially, I’m against it. There is not such a shortage of bad novels in the world that we need a special nationwide effort to generate more of them. Even NaNoWriMo’s own web site says:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap.

The fact is, everyone is capable of writing crap, and so far from needing encouragement, most people need to be discouraged from doing it. Often with a stick.

Writing is a very pleasurable activity, of course, and one that’s generally undertaken in private. However, just as with many privately pleasurable activities, other people do not necessarily want to watch you doing it, or for that matter to inspect the results.

I recently had the privilege of being asked to read an acquaintance’s novel which was mysteriously failing to find a publisher. I’m happy to say I solved the mystery within a few minutes of reading. There are books which just need a little judicious editing, and then there are books which are acutely, fundamentally, hilariously unsalvageable. As Josh Olson puts it in I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script:

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.

In the world of music, they say that a good composer is slowly discovered, while a bad composer is slowly found out. The author of this particular book, while perfectly able to string words together into sentences, is a bad writer in such a basic sense that if you cut him vertically in half with a bandsaw (which I heartily endorse) you would find the words ‘Bad Writer’ engraved on his heart.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful writer, of course - many terrible books are published every year and often sell in huge numbers. But the world definitely does not need more bad books, and so I propose a NaNoNoWriMo: National No Novel Writing Month - and I humbly submit the above as my entry.

Now, where’s my cheque?

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