Want to know the genre for NiaD 2013?

So far there have been two Novel in a Day exercises. For anyone not aware, the NiaD is a collaborative writing exercise where a group of writers get together and write every single word of a novel over the course of a single 24 hour period. Doesn’t sound challenging enough? Here are a few additional complications:

1) The authors have no idea what kind of story (even the genre) until the day itself.

2) The authors have no idea what the rest of the story involves – they just get the brief for their own chapter.

3) The authors have no idea where in the story their chapter fits. If they are the first chapter, they don’t know it. If they are the last chapter, they don’t know it.

The NIAD format adds quite a lot of new pressures to the writing process, but somehow it seems to remove some of the normal and familiar ones in a way that enables you to get on with it. Still, I was wondering this year whether to remove one of these additional pressures, by posting the story’s genre in advance. That would give the participants a bit of time to at least get in the right frame of mind, and maybe mull over a few things in their head before the day itself.

Would this make taking part easier? Would it increase the anticipation and allow you to enjoy the run up to the event more?

Or are you on the other side of the fence? Would it remove some of the spontaneity of the day or somehow detract from the purity of it all?

Let me know what you think in the comments.


You can download the previous NiaD books in a variety of formats for free from the following pages:

Or read about the event in general: http://www.pigfender.com/index.php/category/niad/

11 thoughts on “Want to know the genre for NiaD 2013?

  1. BethCutter

    Hmm. I think I prefer not knowing the genre in advance. If it was something I’m not familiar with, I think I’d have to run out and do research — or else feel guilty for not doing it. ;)

    Whereas if you just spring it on me that it’s, oh, Magical Realism crossed with Westerns, I can just wing it with a good excuse for my failures.

    1. pigfender Post author

      BETH WROTE: I think I’d have to run out and do research — or else feel guilty for not doing it.
      Hmmm. Yeah, I don’t want people to think they should be researching or preparing. Anticipation? Sure! But actually preparing beforehand? Kind of weakens the “in a Day” part. :)

      BETH WROTE: Magical Realism crossed with Westerns
      So… ‘Star Wars’?

  2. Mr X

    I am in two minds. As I said last year, I felt out of my depth as I’m not a great literature person and have no real concept of genres and their styles etc. So on the one hand, not knowing allows me to plunge in and write something, even if what I write was way out of key with everyone else’s contribution; on the other hand, knowing would mean I’d say to myself, “Help, I have no idea about that genre at all … I’ll give it a miss!” which would perhaps be a pity.
    So I shall be the classic fence-sitter and allow others to decide on this question for me!


    1. pigfender Post author

      Mark, Mark, Mark.
      Marky Mark.
      The Markatron.
      Let me share with you a true story:
      I was in a band at University. I played bass and a bit of guitar, and also wrote some of the songs. But I never sang.
      Sure, if I wrote a song I’d sing it once for the band – strictly in the privacy of the rehearsal studio – but we had a great singer who’d be able to hear it once and really capture the whole thing in his head. So once really was enough.
      Anyway, we were setting up for a gig one time and the sound engineer wanted to know if I needed a microphone as well. I chuckled and said ‘no, I’m no good at singing’.
      That’s when the drummer took me to one side.
      ‘Look,’ he said. ‘You keep saying that. You keep saying that you can’t sing as if you are waiting for someone to correct you.’
      I looked at him.
      ‘It’s not going to happen,’ he said and went back to setting up his cymbals.

      Now, Nom has ordered me to tell you that it would be a pity if you didn’t take part. ORDERED. And Nom’s not the kind of guy who goes around doing that sort of thing.
      I’ve just gone back and re-read your chapter from last year to see if I’d missed something. To see if it really was “out of key with everyone else’s contribution”.
      It wasn’t.
      Now I don’t want to hear this kind of talk again, or next time I’ll go all drummer on you, just out of spite. ;)

      In all seriousness, though, I should point out that I think a lot of people felt out of depth with the subject matter last year. That was one of the prompts for me thinking about revealing the genre in advance. And I agree with you on the two minds thing. On the one hand it would be great to know the genre in advance if it’s one you love. Not so great the other way round.

  3. Rollerdiva

    Just how many TRUE surprises do we get through the course of adulthood? Surprise me goddammit!

    1. pigfender Post author

      I KNOW! I mean, other than the whole “I am your father” thing. Although I was three when that movie came out, so that might be stretching the definition of adult somewhat.

  4. nom

    Surprise! :)
    What? No, I don’t have one. I meant… oh, never mind.

    That didn’t go so well. I’ll try again…
    I’d prefer the element of surprise for one simple reason: no preconceptions. I could go on about it fitting in with the overall theme of NIAD, and blah-de-blah-blah (insert some reference to Derrida here, people* seem to like that at times when they want to read waffle that has the semblance of intelligent prose), but the main reason is expectations. In not knowing the genre last year, I couldn’t say, “Well, I don’t know much about NASA, I’ll leave it to people more knowledgeable than I.” No, all I could say before the event was, “I don’t know much at all really, but then neither does anyone else so we’re all in this together.” If you were to announce the genre ahead of time, I might be thrilled and think it was a perfect opportunity to show-off my skills in the sub-genre of magical-psychology narrative fantasy (in verse), but more likely I’d just panic and be ever more susceptible to procrastination when it came to signing up.

    If you were to tinker with any part of the format, as a writer I’d like just a teeny bit more info about character backstory (including sub-characters). Even though we’d have no way of knowing if it happened in the novel or before, it would help give a little more confidence that what we wrote was consistent with the rest of the novel. But, having said that, part of the charm of the finished novel was seeing how different authors interpreted characters and had them doing different things.

    And tell Mark it would be a pity if he gave NIAD a miss.

    *Except pigfender (see his post on Truman Capote) and nom (who, if you couldn’t tell, simply doesn’t like Derrida)

    1. pigfender Post author

      NOM WROTE: sub-genre of magical-psychology narrative fantasy

      So it seems from the comments so far that people would rather not know. It’s a difficult one for me as I – for obvious reasons – always know the genre in advance.

      Interesting suggestion re: backstory. The decision on how much to include is something I struggled with on both previous occasions. I see the backstory as a straitjacket of sorts. The more detail I give, the less freedom everyone else has to create. It’s also been a decision partially based on convenience: Having them as light as possible means that I can give each participant the same version of each character sheet – or at most prepare just 2 or 3. I’ll give it some thought.

    2. Mr X

      Well, I’m with you on Derrida … I used to have a cartoon (Steve Bell, I think) on my office door which had Derrida in the loo with no paper saying “There’s no paper! There’s no paper!” and his colleague fellows outside saying something like, “Oh lord, he’s even questioning the existence of the paper now!” Sadly, I lost it when I left Westminster. And I have always been intensely suspicious of post-modernism, to the point where I haven’t gone into it, what I did encounter irritated me so much. I wouldn’t have thrown the book at the wall … I’d have thrown it into the town cess-pit!
      As for joining in NAID this year, we shall wait on the event, and I’m sure that if I decide to drop the baton, there will be others who will relish the chance to pick it up. I think on balance, though, I’d rather not know anything at all about backstory, genre etc., as then, whatever I came up with, nothing would be my fault! :D

  5. nom

    Yes, you know the genre in advance. But you also know the setting, the major plot points and the key characters so take your pick which one to feel conflicted over. There has to be some penalty for being the genius who came up with the idea. :)

    As for back story, I don’t see that additional information here restricts creativity. If anything, I think it enhances it. But then I’m from the school of thought that thinks restraint enhances creativity. I think there is far more creativity in creating something interesting out of a length of string, a balloon, a piece of chewed chewing gum, a bucket of wet concrete and the last third of a disintegrating 1970’s “penny banger” paperback western found in a dumpster behind a secondhand bookshop than being given free access to all the resources you could possibly want. This is, in fact (well, my point of view but we all know that is equivalent to facts thank you very much), one of the great strengths of NIAD. Because we only have one day, it dramatically reduces one of our regular and most highly prized resources: time. It sharpens the mind and unlocks the creative spark that normally hides behind procrastination until the opportunity goes away.

    However, although I think that more backstory would be helpful, I am also aware that you already put in an enormous effort into NIAD and can see how this could add to the workload. So I’ll leave it as a gentle suggestion (and hope my Jedi mind powers work over long distances).

    PS Star Wars wasn’t in verse. :p

  6. nom

    PPS Your captcha system appears to work on a very odd version of mathematics. e.g. Normally 7 – 1 = 6, but not according to your captcha. In fact, it wouldn’t accept any of the standard base-10 calculations until I copied my text, reloaded the page, pasted it back in and submitted again.

Comments are closed.