Mark Leach (marienbadmylove) wrote,
Mark Leach

Space Writing: How to produce 1 million words for Nanowrimo without really trying

"I think a lot about 'space writers'—the writers who get paid by how much they write. I always think quantity is the best gauge on anything (because you're always doing the same thing, even if it looks like you're doing something else) ..." - Andy Warhol

Since 2008, I have been a Nanowrimo overachiever, consistently producing in excess of 1 million words – and making a lot of enemies along the way.


It’s easier than you might think.


Plagiarism, fraud, theft, falsification, uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation – these are the intentionally self- and ego-effacing tactics of my approach to quickly and easily generating 1 million-word manuscripts. Boredom, valuelessness, and nutritionlessness is my ethos. Production is built on aplastic, objective and entirely non-writing procedures. I make use of information management, word processing, databasing and extreme process.


I have found that I don't need to generate new material to be a Nanowrimo overachiever: the intelligent ordering or reframing of existing text is enough. (Parenthetical aside: I appropriated almost all of this from various articles about conceptual poetry, including a piece that has been picked up and reprocessed by dozens of writers.) This type of writing replaces the human substitutions that are at the heart of metaphor and image with the direct, mechanical presentation of language itself. Spontaneous overflow is supplanted by meticulous procedure and an exhaustively logical process.



Clearly my efforts are not focused on quality and originality. Rather, they are about quantity and the relentless pursuit of a robotic approach to writing.


The test of my kind of robotic output isn’t “was it done correctly according to the rules of Nano?” or “could have been done better?” That’s the question of the writing workshop, which does not interest me. Rather, could my work conceivably be generated without emulating the techniques of a machine?

I’m not the only one who sees value in a machinic approach to writing. Here’s a POETRY FOUNDATION review of one of my works:


"Cutting Up Two Burroughs" by Mark Leach fulfills a fantasy imagined by Darren Wershler in The Tapeworm Foundry: “andor proceed as though edgar rice burroughs not william s burroughs is the author of naked lunch.” Leach has applied the “cut-up” technique (used by William S. Burroughs) in order to interfuse the stories of jungles (featuring the character of Tarzan) with the stories of junkies (featuring the character of Benway), thereby producing a hybrid result, whose lysergic rambling almost implies that poetry itself represents a kind of robotic writing, generated from an “ape-man” on drugs. ( )

Most people regard literature at the level of invisible language. The language is subordinate to - a medium for communicating - the ideas and the entertainment. But literature can work at many levels. You can think of its language not merely as an invisible medium but as physical matter. Language that has to be moved around, processed, stored, manipulated. Language as a quantity of text. Language that takes up space -- that both creates space and fills space. I am most interested in literature as physical matter, something that you manipulate and build.

Filling up space with words. Andy Warhol said quantity is the best gauge on anything (because you're always doing the same thing, even if it looks like you're doing something else). I first explored this type of machine-like writing while producing my science fiction epic, "Marienbad My Love." Much of it is based on appropriated text, which I multiplied with the copy and paste functions of the computer then ran them through online cut-up engines and markov text generators and processed with other aleatoric methods. The result is 17 million words, making “Marienbad My Love” the world’s longest novel. I admit that 17 million words is a lot. Anything over a half million words is a lot. Too many words to read, really. It's more interesting to think about that many words than to try to read them.

Most novels, if you don't read them then you don't get them. But you don't necessarily have to read my books to get them. That’s the way it will be for everyone in the future. No longer will people read novels; they will just think about them. The thinking will be better than the reading.

Admittedly, my approach does not appeal to very many Nano types. In fact, most of them are enraged by it. To quote one participant, what I do “is the artistic equivalent of running newspaper ads, magazine articles, and tampon covers through a shredder, pouring glue on it, then taking a piss on it and calling that art.”

I love that! In short, my approach to extreme writing (such as producing 1 million words during Nanowrimo) is to produce novels of intellect rather than emotion. When the raw materials are right the output should be able to naturally carry enough semantic and emotional weight to make for an interesting story. The goal is to produce a genuinely creative product, albeit one without the creative intervention of the author.

Tags: appropriation, extreme process, falsification, fraud, illegibility, nanowrimo, overachiever, plagiarism, theft, uncreativity, unoriginality
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.