Forget about writing that novel, how about reading one?

NaNoWriMo.jpgFirst aired on Q (11/19/10)

At this very moment, thousands of people are trying their hand at writing a 175-page (50,000 word) novel from scratch, and they're giving themselves until the end of the month to do it.

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is currently in full swing across North America. The program, founded by American freelance writer Chris Baty in 1999, is aimed at anyone who's ever wanted to write a novel but has been scared off by the time and effort involved.

But although they may be giving themselves a big pat on the back in a couple of days, Laura Miller won't. Miller, the literary critic at, recently came under fire for calling the program "a waste of time and energy."

"The world has not benefited from more bad novels," Miller told host Jian Ghomeshi in a recent interview on Q. "We actually have more good novels that we are able to read."

According to Miller what the world really needs is more readers.

"There's this mistaken perception that writing books is a really unusual thing to do," Miller later said. "It may be difficult to get published or to get paid for it or to get anybody to read your book, but a really astonishing number of people either are writing a book, have written a book or have imminent plans to write a book."

The success of NaNoWriMo may be proof of just that. The month-long event now claims 500 official chapters around the world, including several in Canada. Last year it had 165,000 registered participants — 30,000 of them completed the task. This year, even more people are expected to take part.

For her part, Miller doesn't go so far as to suggest people stop writing completely. She would simply like to see a more balanced distribution of literary supply and demand.

"For the literary culture as a whole, if we could just stop each thinking about our own particular, selfish hopes and dreams for a moment and think about what would foster a healthier literary culture," Miller concluded. "What we need is more respect for reading."

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