Friday, November 15, 2013

The NaNo Crazies

Our local community college has an adult education program that focuses on hobbies. Fun stuff like photography, belly dancing, tarot card reading. One of the classes is a cake decorating.

All kinds of people sign up for the cake decorating class. Teens, housewives, grandparents, folks that just want to try something for fun.

Now imagine if you will, a bunch of professional chefs are picketing at the main doors of the community college as you walk in. Jamie Oliver, Emeril Lasgasse, Bobby Flay, and a bunch of other people who you've never heard of are waving signs and screaming at you. Things like:

"You didn't pay your dues!"
"How dare you think you're as good as us!"
"You're second-rate and you'll always be second-rate!"

These guys are nuts, right? I mean, you're just taking a cake decorating class.

What exactly are these guys thinking? That you're going to take their restaurants? Their experience? Their customers?

Do they seriously think all these cake people are going pro overnight?

If you ask the picketers, they'll tell you that they are just trying to save the cake students from a lifetime of disappointment. You see, the chef business is incredibly hard!

Yet, that very reaction happens every year in November. Something about National Novel Writing Month (aka "NaNo) drives the long-time writers and other publishing professionals stark raving bonkers. It's hard finding a publishing-related blog that doesn't go apeshit crazy about NaNo.

Even one of my favorite people, Kris Rusch went a little NaNo crazy last week. In Kris' defense, hers was more along the lines of Gordon Ramsey saying, "You're in my fucking kitchen, and you'd better fucking keep up, cupcake!"

Speaking of Mr. Ramsey and his show Kitchen Nightmares, you're always going to have people like Amy of Amy's Baking Company whose estimate of their abilities far outstrips their capabilities. But hey, that happens in every industry. (In fact, I can think of a couple of opposing counsel that fell into that level of delusion.)

The truth is that people like Amy are going to fail. They don't want to learn, and they won't listen to people like Gordon who are trying to help them. You don't need to put them down. The raw pizza and burnt fish they serve are going to drive people away. They definitely aren't a threat to the celebrity chefs, much less people like me.

So where do I fall in my cooking analogy?

I'm a short-order cook at the highway diner. My regulars come in because I serve the comfort food they love. I try to make it a little special, like substituting nutmeg for cinnamon in my French toast. I know I'm not at celebrity chef level, but I'm learning and saving to go to culinary school. I'm taking the cake decorating class because I've been creating birthday cakes for my neighbors and friends. Now that I have roses down pat, I'm experimenting with fondant.

Am I a threat to the celebrity chefs? Hardly.

I just chuckle and shake my head as I walk past them. I'm looking forward to tonight's lesson: fondant monkeys.


  1. [smirks at sign-waving idiots]

    I've actually seen a few pros write NaNo-positive posts. Scalzi's done one, and I think Jim Hines did too. But yeah, I've seen plenty of frothing at the mouth, from the folks snarking at the fools who think they can just sit down and write a novel, to folks snarking at the idea that writing only 50K words in a month is even vaguely enough to call yourself a pro writer, because she wrote a lot more than that every month, and besides, what idiot said a story 50K words long was a novel anyway?!


    It's stupid, but it's funny, and I guess anything that provides some entertainment isn't completely useless, hey?


  2. I missed John and Jim's posts. But I would have to argue that they are both special cases. They are little more open-minded and secure enough in their own identity that they don't feel threatened by a buch of folks trying something for fun.

    But then what do I know? I'm stealing Libby Hellmann's readers for daring to *gasp* publish my fantasies!

  3. Right! Because everyone knows that readers only read books by one writer -- if they start reading a second writer, they have to drop the first, duh! :P