Hey NaNoWRIMo, do the right thing here, ok?

Ann Crispin makes a damn good point on her blog entry here.

If you're doing the National Novel Writing month thing, read it.
If you know someone who is, print it out, give it to them, make them read it.

If you're involved in running NaNoWRIMo, how about you read it too.
And then do it.


Elektra said...

To be fair (and I say this with undying gratitude for all Writer Beware is and does), if I were the head of this organization, and opened up an unsolicited E-mail that began, "Every year when you run your event, I cringe", I would delete it without reading further.

Steve said...

I'm not into NaNoMo, but respect those that partake. Do what your have to do, is my motto.

Kimber An said...

Will pass on the word. I never do Nano-whatever, because I already write like crazy anyway.

McKoala said...

What amazes me is the thought that a novel written in a month might be ready for submission a month or two later. I'm not doing it, but if I were, then I can assure you that there is no way my novel would be! For a start, it would only be 50,000 words. Secondly, it would be madly scrawled speedwriting with more than a little editing required. I would think that the only person that would take it on would be a scammer.

Anonymous said...

Most people participating in NaNoWriMo do it for the fun (!) not intending to publish the result. I'd forward the link to my municipal liason, but I can honestly say that it would be pointless, as I'm the only one interested in publishing and I'm aware of it.

katiesandwich said...

Whenever I read the abbreviation NaNoWriMo, I want to add a "to" to the end and make it say NaNoWriMoTo, because for some reason, I think it sounds like Mr. "Roboto." You know. Like the song. Yes, I realize that I'm nuts!

I think this is a good idea. No one who's done their research and is serious about getting published would ever submit in December a book they only wrote in November, but a lot of people who do NaNoWriMo are just getting started and don't know the things we do. It'd be nice for NaNoWriMo to encourage people to not only write, but to protect themselves from the scammers that prey on writers, too.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Geez. I finally pulled out my 2003 winner to revise it and ...

Deleted all but the first 40 pages, and even then, almost everything but the first scene got a major workover.

To think you'd be ready to submit right after the month's over? Given that the NaNo tips include such good NaNo advice as "feel free to use filler words," I can't imagine such a thing.

Tatiana said...

It looks like Ann sent her e-mail to the admin address (which is usually the address for troubles with the website) instead of looking at the contact list that gives very specific addresses to e-mail for various issues.

There is plenty of information in the NaNoWriMo forums every year about publishing scams--of course, that requires writers to read.

Anonymous said...

Four time participant with two nano books ('03 and '05) being querried as I write this. While I think it's a nice proactive approach that I hope Chris Baty takes seriously (alerting participants about scammers), I think it's much ado about nothing, and her cringing is a bit of an over-reaction.

As already stated, most people do it for a lark. Only 17% of all the people reach the required output (50,000 x .17 is 8,500 winners). Those who are serious already know that they need to edit, get critiqued, and find legitimate representation.

Those that get sucked into dubious offers are probably the same people who would fall for them regardless of any barrier erected. (I see the Sobol Award is still chugging on.)

-the other rick

PerpetualBeginner said...

Another four time participant, just beginning to shop NaNo '03. Every year I've poked through the forums extensively I have found information on scammers and what to beware of. The information is there, just not necessarily front and center. Since the majority of NaNo participants are not interested in professional publishing, this doesn't seem too far off.

On the other hand, some people are so eager to get their deathless prose published that they need the information delivered on a brick-bat (or Miss Snark's infamous clue-gun).

magz said...

Thank you, Miss Snark for posting this. I'm spreading the word blogwise and privately to my 1st yr NanNutBuddies, though I'm pretty sure my best successes at educating anyone writing anything..
Is to direct them here. And there, and there and there but always Here first! AND tell them read many many Snarkives before posing questions, or risk the deadeye aim of the weilder of the cluegun.
I love NaNo! I'm on my 4th year and 5th book as I raised my own bar last year and wrote 2 at once, totally different from each other and anything else I'd done. It was fun, and totally schizoid.
I'm a lazy sloppy fast writer, but I pay VERY close attention to all the wisdom I've gained from being a Snarkling. I'm not querying anything yet; just learning how to.

May the Chronicles of Snarkania live on forever! I remain yer devotee, Maggie

Richard Lewis said...

Back in August I posted a tongue in cheek blog post titled "NaNoWriMo? Agents groan and say "OhNoNaNo".

Because I bet a small percentage of participants do send on their work to agents. I didn't think of the scamming angle, though. And I don't think Ann is overly cringeing, because even just ONE scam is one scam too many. This isn't a statistical game, you know, where we say "we can live with 3 percent of participants being scammed, that's an acceptable fall-out.".

Writerious said...

I'm NaNo-ing for the third year in a row, and I've educated a LOT of people on the NaNo forums about how one goes about getting published. Ann is right -- a lot of newbie writers complete their 50,000 words, finish the novel, and think "Hey, now that I've written this, I could get published!" I've fielded questions about PublishAmerica, AuthorHouse, fee-charging agents, the "Congratulations! You won honorable mention in our poetry contest" flim-flam artists, and more.

What makes it harder is that NaNo cut a deal with Lulu, where Lulu will print and bind one copy of any winner's NaNo novel for free. Newbies mistake this for "publishing," and often decide to go with Lulu to publish their novel. I'm still undecided as to whether Lulu is a printing service or a vanity -- they kind of straddle the line -- but there are lots of new writers all-agog about "Ooh, I can publish my novel, and it's so EASY!" Of course, if they're just doing it for fun and don't expect any sales except to their doting relatives, they'll get pretty much what they expect. But if they are dreaming of becoming the Next Great Thing, they're off to a disappointing start.

The point of NaNo is to get people writing instead of just dreaming, and to write within a community of like-minded lunatics. Publishing is not the point, but it certainly feels like the next step for a lot of participants.

LadyBronco said...

I don't do the NaNo thing, but I know a couple of folks that do, and I had already sent them links to several blogs and websites. (Yours included, Miss Snark!)

It's always nice to see folks looking out for others.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that the first draft they may write as participants in the Nano challenge will be snapped up by a legit publisher or agent is delusional. Nano founder Chris Baty makes it pretty clear that your goal in writing the 50,000 word draft is to produce prose that "won't make you vomit" when you read it back. He's all about lowering expectations in order to get the thing written.

wonderer said...

Second-year NaNoer here. I agree with writerious about Lulu. So many returning NaNoers go around saying "Oh yes, I'm published, it's on Lulu." It's no wonder people there are confused...and many of them are indeed completely clueless, very young, or both. In my travels on the forums there, I've been posting links to your blog, Writer Beware, P&E, and Absolute Write as often as I can, as many places as I can, and anytime I see anyone mention publishing. It's an uphill battle, but we'll keep trying!

(In defense of NaNoWriMo, there are published authors who do the challenge, and others who have had their NaNo novels published - including by Tor - after extensive revisions, of course. And before you get to that point, it's really great for the whole "butt in chair" thing.)

Seanachie said...

Dammit. Here I'm trying to get some work done and now I have to Google NaNoMo. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Miss Snark! I hadn't ever thought about NaNo as a ripe opportunity for scammers, but I'm sure some scammers have thought of it.... *shudder* I'll pass this on to my NaNoing friends.

Anonymous said...

Writerious, I've been wandering around the NaNo website since late September and this is the first I've heard of the LuLu deal. May I ask for a link? I'm not intending on LuLu-ing, but I'd like to read it. I already know how agents and houses feel about vanity publishing, but I'm curious about it.

I'm a five-timer winner, and I have found an agent. My 2002 and 2004 MS have been extensively edited and re-worked and are now being shopped around by an agent. So no LuLu for me.

Simon Haynes said...

This is my second year doing Nano. Last year I got it done just before my editor and I set to work on novel #3.
This year I'm using it to write a healthy chunk of my next book. What can I say? I'm a procrastinator.

I finished my first novel in 3 months to meet a deadline for a novel contest - and that after I'd faffed around with it for five years. I finished book #2 in time for a convention because I'd promised it to a number of people and I'd have looked like an idiot turning up without it. Book 3 I promised for the same convention one year later, and delivered.

Now, having just completed a three book contract, I don't have the same motivation to get the next book ready. For example, there's the upcoming launch for book 3, and there's also a UK agent shopping the series over there. It's far easier to daydream about worldwide bestsellers than it is to write. (I can see why they say it's harder to stay published than it is to get published in the first place.)

So, Nano gives me a good escuse to put aside the distractions, sit down and do it.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I sent the link to everyone I know that is NaNoing. I've done my small part.
CJ Parker

Ken Boy said...

If you take this attitude towards NaNoMo, what about everything else that encourages people to write? Should I include a warning against scammers with every critique I write at Elektra's Spawn of Crap?

This seems a bit caveat-crazy to me. At some point people have to learn to look before they leap without someone else shouting "Look!"

I guess I'm just a curmudgeon.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, just search the author pages for "Lulugirl", you'll find her posts.

You can get the book, no ISBN, not available for sale to the public, and be as 'published' as you would be at Kinko's.

Just make sure you don't allow it to be available to the public. There's a special box to check for that. All of the instructions will be onsite, but to get the offer, you have to go through the link on NaNo.

Anonymous said...

I also posted the link in my regional affiliation and on my "fun" group. I'm doing NaNo as a challenge to increase my writing output. I'm coming from short stories and working my way up through novellas. Someday, I might even get up to that 80K mark.

This is just practice for extending plotlines, building subplots, and developing secondary characters.

I have no idea if what I've written is any good because I've not read it yet!

Georgiana said...

My son the art student just IMed me to say, "Hey, Miss Snark and her friend are worried about you being scammed. I think you'll be ok but it is nice of them."

It is nice of you, thanks!

This is my fourth NaNoWriMo also. Last year I wrote a column about it and stressed that the best thing you'll get from NaNoWriMo is the ability to tell total strangers in bars they should buy you a drink because you wrote a book in thirty days. Now I feel vaguely guilty that I never thought anyone would try to get their project published or that they would need protection.

Cybele May said...

I'm cross posting this response that I made on A.C. Crispin's post here in case folks don't click over and read the latest comments:

Ms. Crispin, I was forwarded your email by one of the volunteers that you sent it to and she was kind enough to include a link to this page. My name and contact info is available on the Contact Us page at NaNoWriMo.org and I am the moderator of the forums (a full staff member). If you sent it to the admin address, it may be mired in with all the other webmaster emails.

I would love to have some input on how to help us educate and empower our writers. Not all are new to writing (in fact we have quite a few published authors in our midst). Many gain an incredible sense of 'possibility' during the challenge and once they've written a book and found that they do have a voice, they want to share it.

I am not aware of a 'significant percentage' of our writers falling prey to scams, but that doesn't mean that it isn't happening. If you have some specifics on what's been happening (PublishAmerica, Noble House Press or some other questionable scheme), I'd like to know.

We currently have the following in place:

* When any writer signs up for the site or clicks through to renew their participation we mention quite clearly about Literary Predators in our Terms for the site.

* Within the forums there are numerous threads already available regarding resources (including at least eighteen pre-existing links to your Writer Beware alone before this blast) in multiple forums, including one that I requested be drafted at the beginning of the season and stickied to the "Marketing & Self Promotion" forum.

* The forums are available all year round, so conversations and resources are available for continued support and reference.

* At the end of NaNoWriMo we launch a page called "Now What" which will include resources, advice and of course cautions about scams.

* Currently on our Young Writer's Project (ywp.nanowrimo.org) site we have a large resource page (Amber's Virtual Library) that includes some frank and easily understandable information about scams and cautions about contracts/publishing for our younger writers.

* Additional text and resources adapted from Amber's page have been made available to our regional volunteers to share with their groups either through the forums and/or via email.

* Each year LuLu.com has extended an offer for a free book to all winners, my hope is the POD/Self-Publishing route such as this mitigates writers paying to see their work in print. The LuLu.com forums have additional support and advice about writing scams and their community appears to operate with similar vigilance to warn their peers.

* We scrub the forum to keep predators of all kinds away from writers – they are not allowed to solicit writers on the site nor post in the forums.

* And of course since your emails and postings the forum conversation on the topic has amped up.

Our writers hold you and your organization in great esteem, as you are consistently mentioned along with Preditors and Editors each year as the best resources for writers ready to begin their submission process. Now that you've seen what steps we currently employ, can you tell us how else we can help writers empower themselves (without scaring them off of writing, off course)?

Bethany said...

I was a little bit put off by the tone of the letter, too, but I think Ms. Crispin is absolutely right.

I'm a municipal liason for Gainesville, Florida, and I also keep in contact with a lot of NaNo participants from other areas online.

Most of them are young, unpublished, and clueless. (Note I did not say stupid. They're nitwits, but not incurable nitwits.) But in order to look for scams, you have to be aware that there ARE scams out there, and many of these people aren't. Many have absolutely no idea how publishing works. They've never finished a novel before, so they've never had a reason to find out. Now, they suddenly have a "finished" novel and some of them think that's all they need -- they can just send it out to the first editor whose address they come across and, voila, the check will be in the mail. Others will be referred to Publish America by even more clueless participants who've just "published" their first NaNo novel through them.

I'll be warning my group.

Naf said...

Two-time participant, one-time winner.
I think the idea of being worried about getting scammed is a little ridiculous.
Yes, it's nice to look out for each other, but aren't we grown-ups? I agree that this is far too much ado about nothing. Chris Baty tells you right off that it's just for fun. If you get stars in your eyes because you massed 50,000 words on a page in a month, that's not Baty's fault.
After winning last November, I completely deleted my novel, starting over from scratch. My point? Some of us do it for fun, some to get those writing juices flowing, some because their November is wide open. It's like President Bush says: Fool me once, shame on uh, a heh heh, shame on ... me.

siobhann grey said...

I'm a NaNoWriMo ML for the Orlando area & I have to say this has never been an issue for us. At the very beginning of the month I stress that NaNo is not about being a writer, but about writing. Editing is a no no. That's what December's for (and January, too). Everyone who is a NaNo participant knows this. Well, they would if they read the site, the forums, or attended the meetings. Unfortunately, and I’m sure Miss Snark knows this all too well, there are nitwits out there who don’t follow instructions. To blame NaNo for this or to imply the people at NaNo aren’t doing their part to prevent the influx of garbage that agents get or the increasing number of newbies who get scammed in December is ridiculous. We all do what we can to pass on good advice, but people are going to do what they want, even if it contradicts logic.

Elsajeni said...

Naf: It's worth noting that, when it comes to NaNoWriMo, we aren't all grown-ups. My first NaNo was when I was 16; I've seen on the forums or met at local events quite a few participants around 13 or 14, and they now even have a separate Young Writers' Program for those 12 and under (and incidentally, to any actual 8-year-olds out there writing 50,000-word novels: YOU ARE CLEARLY ALIEN BEINGS), as well as certain areas on the forums where swearing and such isn't welcome because they want those areas to be "All-Ages Friendly". NaNoWriMo as an organization has adopted an attitude of "all ages very welcome", as it says in the FAQ, and you really can't then turn around and say "forget it, we're all grown-ups here".

I do think, though, that some of this ARGH SCAMS reaction is an overreaction, and that the letter (and its tone) are over the top a little. Yes, there are some people involved who are very young and/or naive... but, as other people have said, there are the forums and local events where you meet other people who can say "WAIT NO DON'T DO THAT", there are several "stickied" threads in the forums about publishing scams, and so on. Last year, under 10,000 people reached 50,000 words; the number will probably go up this year, as it has every year, perhaps to 11 or 12 thousand. Of those, some smallish percentage will decide to seek publication; some smallish percentage of those are relatively naive writers more vulnerable to falling for scams; some smallish percentage of those won't see the forum threads or be advised by a friend or something to prevent them from falling for a scam; and some further smallish percentage of those will actually end up finding and being taken in by a scam. No matter how small that final number is, it's unfortunate that it's greater than zero -- but it will never be zero, and there's not much more we can ask of NaNoWriMo in terms of trying to reduce it.