November ends today and with it NaNoWriMo. Perhaps coincidentally, the end of November also saw the launch of SnackWrites, an extension of Josh Gentry’s popular SnackReads website.
SnackReads (for those of you who weren’t around when it published my short story “Hamlet Revisited,” as well as “Servant of Death,” a story I wrote in collaboration with Fred Saberhagen) is Josh’s answer to the problem so many people face of not having enough time to read. The stories featured at SnackReads are original fiction, meant to be downloaded and read on the quick.
Yes. Before you ask, you can still get “Hamlet Revisited” and “Servant of Death” there, as well as stories by authors such as Suzy McKee Charnas and Daniel Abraham.
Back in August, Josh confided to me that while he very much enjoyed publishing SnackReads, he felt a yearning to expand his focus. Just as SnackReads is intended to provide a place to go when you want to read but don’t feel you have time, SnackWrites is intended to encourage people who don’t feel they have time to write to at least noodle around.
Josh’s own plan is to provide one prompt a month, one article about writing a month, and one interview a month.
Talking with Josh about SnackWrites made me think. We live in a culture that celebrates “fast” as if fast is the same as “good.” That’s the philosophy behind NaNoWriMo. Thirty days, 50,000 words, software to help you track your progress and feel good about how well you’re doing. NaNoWriMo turns the process of writing a novel into a race. It tells you you’re a winner. All good, right?
Well, maybe. If you’re a sprinter by nature, I think this approach could be excellent. If you’re the sort of person who always did assignments at the last minute, again, NaNoWriMo may be for you. Over the years, there’s been more discussion about how finishing those 50,000 words is only the beginning of the process – that the finished work will need polishing, revision, and fleshing out.
Proponents say “Of course, everyone knows that,” but the editors who receive “finished” works in the first weeks of December say that many people aren’t getting the message. When the rejection letters come, the winners start feeling like losers.
SnackWrites has a different philosophy. As with SnackReads, the emphasis is on small bites, rather than big projects. Josh wants to encourage writers to write just a little – even if that writing isn’t part of a bigger project. To that end, he’s solicited input from professional writers. This month, award-winning writer Daniel Abraham (who with Ty Franck is one half of James S.A. Corey of “The Expanse” novel and television series fame) provides a provocative writing exercise – one you can do even if you don’t have writing implements at hand.
I’ve given Josh permission to reprint one of my blog posts “Battling Against Distraction” (also featured in a slightly revised version in my book Wanderings on Writing). I’ll probably continue to contribute and maybe occasionally answer questions on the site because I like Josh’s philosophy – and I like the idea of helping people find their way to their stories.
Think of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. NaNoWriMo’s philosophy is definitely that of the Hare. Go fast. Don’t worry if you get worn out. You can always do the polishing, the refining of your craft later.
SnackWrite’s philosophy is closer to that of the Tortoise. Write a little. Play around with an interesting exercise. See what that might spark. Browse an essay or two by a professional writers discussing how they manage to write, to finish, to get the most out of their words.
It’s slower, surely, but just remember who won the race. Hint. It wasn’t the Hare.