Of Family Guy & Writing in Public

I have a special treat for you today — a guest blogger extraordinaire! The lovely (and smart as a really really sharp tack!) Tez Miller has graciously conceded to write a post especially for my humble website — legend! Tez is a reader, a reviewer and a blogger. You should definitely check out her Tez Says blog, BTW. Awesome stuff!

So before we kick off, for those of you who don’t know, November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And the tweeters posting their daily wordcount tallies are flying thick and fast on Twitter! Here’s the dealio, straight from the NaNoWriMo website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

Sounds good, huh? But if, like me, you follow literary agents & editors on Twitter, or subscribe to their blogs, you’ll know by now that not all agents and editors are enthused about this whole NaNo thing.

Gasp! Why ever not?

Because every year, the instant November ends, a whole bunch of first time NaNoers flood agent & editor in-boxes with thousands of what are essentially, first drafts of manuscripts… which perhaps shouldn’t see the light of day. At least, not until they’ve been extensively proofed, edited and revised. And then revised some more. (Note to self: do not send out a query letter in December, because it’ll doubtless get swallowed up in the great big huge slush pile of doom.) Sound harsh? Well, take it from one who’s rewritten her very first manuscript too many times to count, and now, many years later, wishes she’d never queried it until she learned a helluva lot more about the craft!

So have I ever done NaNo? Nope. Because for me, every day is like my own personal NaNo. I set myself deadlines for pages to edit or the number of words I want to write, and I go for it. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes life gets in the way. C’est la vie. That’s pretty much the writer’s life. And for me, that part of my life is not really fit for public consumption —  my friends already think I’m certifiable, LOL.  Not judging, just saying it’s not for me.

So without any further ado, here’s Tez’s take on Family Guy, writing in public, and NaNo. Hope you enjoy her unique perspective as much as I did!

M

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OF FAMILY GUY & WRITING IN PUBLIC…

On cable TV in Australia, FOX8 weeknightly shows reruns of Family Guy. Just the other night they showed Season 5’s “Bill and Peter’s Bogus Journey,” whose main plot is hilarious, as is a certain segment that sprang to mind when our dear Maree Anderson requested that I guest-blog with “something reading or vaguely writing-related.”

Teenager Meg Griffin is using a laptop at the kitchen table, writing a letter to her non-existant boyfriend, and speaking the words as she types them. Her brother Chris wisely says, “Meg, you are so full of crap. You’re like those people who sit in Starbucks and publicly write on their laptops.”

The following cutaway is set in Starbucks, where two guys have their laptops open. One bloke says he’s “setting up in public so everybody can watch me type my big screenplay,” and the other gives a fabulous one-liner: “All real writers need to be seen writing, otherwise, what’s the point, right?”

Exchange Starbucks for the Internet, and screenplay for novel, and you’ve pretty much got the infamous NaNoWriMo. It’s a great thing to try out, just to see if you can. And I was successful a few years ago. Haven’t done it since, but I don’t need to – I have the knowledge and experience that I can do it, so I don’t bother with formalities.

I think it was Laurell K. Hamilton who mentioned on Twitter earlier this month something along the lines of every month being like NaNo for her, and that’s true for professional authors. If you’re serious about a long career in writing, it is a job, and as such you should treat it like one. Some NaNoers have claimed that they know that, but they’re participating for the “cameraderie.” What, you can’t have friends without formalising your relationship? You can’t have buddies who’d rather chat about non-writing topics?

I grew up with the Patriarch coming home every weekday bitching about his boss, or co-workers, or clients, or servers, etc. NaNo is like the complete opposite: some participants seem overly chirpy, making a big fuss about making their daily word count. For the non-writer (which I now am), this can seem a bit much, when the participants joyfully report in every day. Professional authors tend to celebrate publicly only when a draft or other major milestone is achieved – in other words, not daily. Whereas some participants seem to seek constant praise and congratulations.

Yes, you did your job – well done! But I’ll only say at the end of the month when you’ve achieved your overall goal. Just as bitching too much can be bloody irritating for those around you, so can over-the-top enthusiasm. You need to find a balance.

The Family Guy sketch was exaggerated; after all, I doubt NaNoers are speaking their written words as they go along. But the show’s writers made their point, and it’s a freaking good one. The reality is “all wannabe writers need to be seen writing, otherwise, what’s the point, right?” But real writers don’t need to be watched, and that’s why we love ’em :-) TMI, NaNoers. When you’re in public, keep cool.

Disclaimer: Don’t get defensive, peeps – I said SOME NaNoers, not all. Also, you are not “so full of crap” ;-)

Tez Miller
Reader. Reviewer. Blogger.
Urban Fantasy & Futuristic
http://tezmilleroz.wordpress.com

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8 Responses to “Of Family Guy & Writing in Public”

  1. Mel Teshco says:

    That’s a very different perspective Tess! LOL!! I haven’t ever participated in NaNo, think it’d drive me nuts cause I’d want to go back every minute and change stuff. guess that’s the whole point though!

  2. Great post, Tez. Only you would compare The Family Guy to NaNo (loved that you did, btw)

    I did NaNo last year (actually DID it, too, which surprised the hell out of me considering what a monumentally slow writer I am). Started it this year and, 15,000 words in and way behind the NaNo projected stats for success realised I wasn’t doing myself or the book I was working on any favours. I know it’s fantastic for some (and it really helped me last year) but I think I can write better without the stress. And as you pointed out – most of us exist in a daily NaNo-ish environment. That’s enough pressure for this little disturbed Aussie, thanks :)

  3. Oh The Family Guy – ah classic lines and ones that make you think too. I’m unofficially doing NaNo – ie had a hell of a month last month and no way could I do 50K in a month this one. I think what NaNo does (well hopefully does) is help people find what works for them and to write and finish a book instead of sitting on the first three chapters only.

    Even though I haven’t seen that episode of FG, I can imagine it and like you said, you don’t have to be ‘seen’ to be writing to be a writer, you just have to do.

    Thanks for this.

  4. Tez Miller says:

    Seth MacFarlane is my TV god, so I take any opportunity to bring up my favourite shows :-) Notice how I didn’t go the obvious route, and quote Stewie’s “how’re you going on that novel” ;-)

    Though I may save discussion of Peter’s self-published “Peterotica”, and Brian’s “Faster than the Speed of Love” for another time ;-)

  5. Tez Miller says:

    Oh, enjoy the footage of the writers-in-Starbucks FG clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12JTDp6xm18

  6. Maree says:

    OMG, that is soooo funny! I’ve posted the video and linked it back to the original post so everyone can enjoy…

    Thx Tez!