I recently published a post about NaNoWriMo prep, and it provoked this interesting comment on Facebook:
I really hate this initiative! Shouldn’t we be learning to write novels that are better, higher quality, more considered, more rounded, better thought out, that TAKE MORE TIME!!! rather than just trying to whack one out in a month? We don’t need more books on Amazon, what we need are BETTER books if we are to promote reading in the twenty-first century.
So who is this firebrand? It’s Kevin Booth @Kevinbooth01, a writer, translator and editor, who writes contemporary fiction and arts-based commentary as himself, and eco-fantasy as K. Eastkott.
I don’t disagree with him. And yet I barefacedly, two-facedly, published a post promoting NaNoWriMo?
I think it’s time to discuss the good and bad of NaNo.
In a nutshell (or a nanobyte):
The good – NaNoWriMo can be the confidence boost to get you started. NaNoWriMo is a community; a race; a deadline. It’s an appointment to get something done, like a new year resolution, but just in time for the Christmas letter. Beginners use it as their first go at writing. Seasoned writers use it to get a first draft done, for yea, drafting always makes us as nervous. It’s like the London Marathon, open to all to use as we wish. Perhaps as a one-off special event, this year’s challenge; or a handy lockdown in a bigger writing plan.
The OhNo – NaNoWriMo creates the idea that you can rattle out a book quickly, without editing, redrafting, or, as Kevin says, thought. And woot, a lot of them get put on sale. Look at Twitter in November and you’ll see anguished messages from literary agents, imploring people not to send their NaNo draft in search of fame and fortune.
Here’s where I’ll echo Kevin. A month is not long enough to write a worthwhile book. When good work arises from NaNoWriMo, it’s been planned beforehand, drafted in the crazy race, then honed and tended for many more months afterwards.
And Kevin told me he’s seen too many writers – talented writers – use NaNo as the culmination of the writing process:
As an editor, I’ve seen that, however well-structured a novel’s plan is, when you tell your brain to slap those words down at speed, the grey matter has a horrible trick of blind obedience. And once words are stuck on a page, they become surprisingly difficult to budge. I’m not talking about bad writers here, but talented individuals who have a love of words and should know better—because sections of their work are brilliant. Yet they’ve failed to constructively revise those thousands of words written in haste.
That remark I just made about revising? I’ll repeat it. Your draft is the time you transform your ideas from notes into an experience for the reader. It won’t be perfect first go (unless you’re a genius). It will change as you write it. The first draft is an exploration, not a presentable product. You need a thorough and considered revision period afterwards. And a break, so that you can see what needs changing (I refer you to Kevin again, and my self-editing masterclass snapshots).
But it’s just a game
Fair enough, some people take part in NaNoWriMo just to have a go. There’s nowt wrong with that. We all do hobby projects in the privacy of our own homes, for the kraic, for the experience, for the bucket list, to enrich our lives, to express ourselves.
Where to share
This is the bigger question. What should we do with those have-a-go manuscripts, if the month of writing was quite enough, thank you? (Listen for those agents wailing in the wires of Twitter. That’s a warning.) There are plenty of places where you’ll be among like-minded writers – you can use Wattpad, or blog your book. Other options are no doubt available. You can immortalise it in print – Lulu, Createspace and Ingram Spark will let you do personal, limited distribution.
But please, don’t put it in places where the public deserves properly finished books – Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble et al. Even if it’s extremely unlikely that your NaNo splurge will be found among the millions, there’s a principle here.
No, I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to have just a few months’ experience under my belt and think I knew everything. And a story I was burning to release, and a career I was desperate to start. But we need to discuss where it’s appropriate to share our work. Is that a great unmentionable? C’mon. We’re all grown-ups here.
Encouraging people to read
Kevin mentions the question of encouraging people to read. And he’s right to. We don’t have to try to change the world, or lament that we have so many forms of entertainment that now compete with books. But with every book we publish, we have the chance to prove that reading is still a great experience. So let’s make our books as good as we can, as a matter of pride, and of respect for our readers, and for the joy of doing absolute justice to our potential (yeah, you know what I’m like when I get started).
(Thanks for the speedbump pic Andrew Rivett)
If you’re planning a NaNoWriMo novel, there are plenty of tips in Nail Your Novel. There’s also a discussion about it on this episode of my radio show, So You Want To Be A Writer, with bookseller Peter Snell. You can get notification of new episodes by signing up to my newsletter.)
Have you done NaNoWriMo? What were your aims, and what became of the manuscript afterwards? Are you doing it this year? Whether you’ve NaNo-ed or not, what would you add, agree with, disagree with, protest about to your last breath? The floor is yours.
#1 by Jonathan Moore on August 16, 2015 - 10:01 am
Hi Roz. In my latest attempt to get a novel finished I’m doing a sort of Nanowrimo type exercise, writing a chapter a day on a 40 chapter project. The quality is pretty low, and it’s easy to get disheartened by that, but I’m pushing ahead. The point of this (and all I think you can get out of Nanowrimo) is to get a story from start to finish, that is more flashed out than my 4 page plan, and shows up the plot holes, the lack of motive, the lack of action, the lack of tension, that wasn’t obvious when it was only a couple of lines that said “MC goes to the dock and gets on a ship.” As I continue writing, I can then look back at what I’ve done so far and make notes on how to make it better. It’s certainly not something I would give people to read at this stage, and I suspect it’ll need another few drafts before it gets to that level. So, in conclusion, I support schemes like Nanowrimo but no one should expect to get a finished manuscript from it. Cheers, Jonathan.
#2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:10 pm
Hi Jonathan! That’s a good idea, to set your own Nano as a way to get the draft written. I think there’s another important point here – although you’re trying to add a lot of detail, you’re aware that it’s rough and there are problems you’ll have to go back to.
#3 by Glynis Smy on August 16, 2015 - 10:17 am
Without Nano I wouldn’t have written a first draft titled, The Baby in the Basket. It went into a drawer and a few years later became, Maggie’s Child. I considered the book my weakest as I’d written it during the Nano month. The UK readers proved me wrong! The book regularly hits the best seller listing (paid) on Amazon UK and made it into the second round of ABNA. It also gained me a shortlisting for the UK’s Festival of Romance Fiction New Talent award in 2014, and is in Suffolk libraries. To my astonishment it was listed as a recommended read in the Indie Author Fair brochure 2015 at the Indie Recon festival in London and readers have asked I expand on the family to make it a saga. Nano gave me courage to let loose words and the fun of a challenge. I only took part once but will never forget the pleasure it gave me. I do think it is something that can be done but must be considered a first draft.
#4 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:12 pm
Hi Glynis! I didn’t know Maggie’s Child germinated from a Nano attempt! I’m glad you’ve given this potted history of how far it’s come. And congratulations, BTW.
#5 by Suzan Robertson on August 16, 2015 - 11:18 am
I’ve done it a few times. After being in the corporate world in high stress situations for many years, I’m the type of person who works well under a deadline, and NaNoWriMo has helped me stay focused. 50K words in one month feels like an accomplishment, especially if I’ve been procrastinating, which is my default behavior, haha.
However, I consider what I’ve written to be a first draft or an outline, never a finished novel.
Even if I use NaNoWriMo for editing an already-written story, I don’t consider it done on Nov 30. I know myself well enough to understand that words written in haste definitely need to be revised a million times, lol. 🙂
Overall, I think NaNoWriMo is a good tool.
#6 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:13 pm
I like your comment here about needing the pressure. I think that’s what a lot of people appreciate – the hothouse atmosphere that makes it a commitment, rather than something you can tinker with and never finish.
#7 by Celia Reaves on August 16, 2015 - 12:35 pm
Great comments. I just finished my first NaNo through Camp NaNoWriMo. As a college teacher there’s no way I can write 50K words in November, but in July I can, and I did. I had been studying lots of writing guides for more than a year and did exhaustive planning for months ahead of July. I went in with a one-page summary of each chapter and a clear image of my story’s structure. Now that my first draft is done, I expect to spend a year with revisions and beta readers and more revisions before submitting it to professionals.
The value of NaNo for me is the structure it provides. Having a specific goal, public to people I know and teammates at the NaNo camp, defeated the “but I don’t feel like it today” monster. Deadlines are gold.
#8 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:15 pm
Another vote for deadlines and structure – thanks, Celia!
#9 by acflory on August 16, 2015 - 12:42 pm
I’ve got a slightly different take on Nano. I’ve only done two, but both gave me the impetus to /begin/ a flight of fancy. Neither was planned, but that was the point – to see if I could come up with something if I stopped being a perfectionist for a month. The first turned into Vokhtah [After 13 years]. The second turned into Innerscape [still a Wip after three years]. Not exactly a prodigious effort, but I believe I’d have no stories at all if not for Nano, because Nano gives me permission to be messy and all over the place. For a while.:)
In one thing, however, I agree completely – that mess should never, ever be made public. Self confidence is a good thing, but it should be tempered with a strong dose of reality. First drafts suck. Always.
#10 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:16 pm
Hi Andrea! I like your point about the permission to be messy. And not go back and fiddle because you have to get that wordcount done. I think Nanowrimo has taught a lot of writers to go with the flow and find the freedom to explore.
#11 by acflory on August 16, 2015 - 10:23 pm
Yes! It’s a bit like going on holiday. And then when it’s done you come back and start working properly again. 🙂
#12 by tomburkhalter on August 16, 2015 - 12:50 pm
I tried it the slow-and-easy way for decades. I would get to page 30 or so, get discouraged, quit, and lose the thread of the writing. Then a year or so later I’d pick up those 30 pages, read them, and wonder why the hell I quit, because there was nothing wrong with them a little editing wouldn’t cure. Too late — I was never able to pick up the thread. Then along came NaNoWriMo. I wrote a novel that had a beginning, a middle and an end. It sucked out loud. It’s still buried on a shelf somewhere in my study, where it will most likely remain. The point is that I wrote a complete story. I did it again the next year, and again, in a month I wrote a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end. Still sucked out loud, though. So OK, after ten years of writing for NaNo, I am still writing first drafts that suck — but they don’t suck anywhere nearly as bad, and I have two novels ready to shop and one almost ready. Maybe the point is that a lot of people who do NaNo are first-time writers who don’t really know the ropes. I’ve been writing since I was 14 — kind of a long apprenticeship, but I kept my eyes and ears open along the way, and I knew one thing at the beginning. I knew how I wanted my novels to read in comparison to writers who held me enthralled as a reader, like C.S. Forester, Nevil Shute, Donald Hamilton, John D. MacDonald, Robert Heinlein, Alexei Panshin, and James H. Schmitz, just to name a few. Knowing how you want your novel to read is an important skill for a writer, and you have to develop that deliberately. So, NaNo? All for it. The problem isn’t NaNo, it’s writers with unrealistic expectations in a publishing environment that offers the relatively instant gratification of seeing your name in print without serving any sort of apprenticeship or grasping, however intuitively, what standards a writer should hold him/herself to.
#13 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:22 pm
Hi Tom! You make so many good points. I can’t imagine abandoning a book completely and I think it takes a lot of wisdom to do that, although it is tricky to find the groove again for a book you’ve mostly forgotten.
I really like your point about expectations, and I think that was one of Kevin’s concerns. There’s this commonly held belief that everyone has a book in them, or could write one if they just sat down and had a go. It’s not helped by the number of celebrities who apparently dash off a novel as well as running an acting career, a fashion empire etc (pointed silence as the ghostwriter calls the kettle black…). Few people in the civilian world understand how much trouble and craft goes into a good book.
And I have to shake your hand, sir, for including Nevil Shute as one of your favourites. I’ve just read Round The Bend and loved it. (Note to self: must write Goodreads review this week.)
#14 by morrighansmuse on August 16, 2015 - 1:37 pm
While there are people who may send out their Nanowrimo works to Amazon and other retailers without rewrites or edits, there are also those who go through the rewrites, the edits both through beta readers and professionals, and everything else associated with publishing. But whatever they decide to do – at the end of the day, they still have a 50k manuscript they didn’t have before tackling NaNoWriMo. I always thought that’s what nano was all about – getting something written within that 30 days. What you do after those 30 days, good or bad writing aside, is not the fault of the initiative.
#15 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:24 pm
Used well, Nano is very useful. But there are people who don’t realise what work needs to be done on a first draft… Thanks for stopping by, Morrighan!
#16 by jessmbaum on August 16, 2015 - 2:08 pm
I get the concept, but don’t participate myself. If you’re going to write, actually write, you don’t need to do this you’ll set your own deadlines because you want to.
#17 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 16, 2015 - 5:25 pm
That’s an interesting point, Jess. Friends have challenged me several times to do Nanowrimo, but I’ve never had a book at that particular stage in November. Certainly I would never be able to hold off starting a draft in order to fit in the with the Nano times.
#18 by AM Gray on August 17, 2015 - 12:32 am
I have trouble hitting deadlines and nanowrimo works for me because it is an outside deadline (even though it’s set by me – I know weird brain is weird). Nobody who has anything to do with it believes that your one month effort is anything other than a rough draft. I do the camps as well – where you set your own target – and I wrote 80k in 4 weeks. So I call that a win. That work got put aside – issue with collaborator- but it’s there for when I work out what I want to do with it.
#19 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 17, 2015 - 5:48 am
Hi Anne Maree! I like your description here of the outside deadline that’s voluntary but still seems more real than one you’d set yourself. Isn’t it funny how the mind works.
#20 by Brian Philipsen on August 17, 2015 - 3:19 am
I wasn’t ready for NaNo last year. This year I am still pondering it. I want to do it as an experiment and be able to say that I tried it so I have advice to give to my fellow writers at the workshop I facilitate. Maybe if I can encourage a few writers from the workshop to join me and make it a competition then it will be worthwhile. I do need deadlines to write and this just might work for me.
#21 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 17, 2015 - 5:50 am
Hi Brian! That’s even better if you can get your group to do it together.
#22 by Carla Monticelli (@ladyanakina) on August 17, 2015 - 11:23 am
Hi Roz! I’m practically writing or re-writing all my novels during a NaNo (regular and Camp) and it’s of great help to me to be disciplined in my work. Of course you don’t have to write a novel in 30 days (actually you have to write 50k words, which is hardly an entire novel, or how many words you want during Camp NaNo) and you don’t have to start working on it on the first day of NaNo, you have to prepare it beforehand just like you do every time you write a novel (I spend month thinking about a story, taking notes, outlining it, before actually writing it, while I’m doing the same for other novels). The point of NaNo is taking a commitment with yourself. I normally write 2,000 words during a writing session. The real problem is pushing myself to write every day. NaNo gives me the motivation to do it. And it works! 🙂
#23 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 18, 2015 - 8:03 am
‘The commitment to yourself’; ‘the motivation’. Thanks for commenting, Carla!
#24 by Lynn Anne on August 17, 2015 - 2:10 pm
I love NaNoWriMo. My tendency as a writer is to write the first 5000 or 10,000 words and then edit the heck out of it over and over again until I completely ruin it–not that it was great in the first place. For many years, I just couldn’t get past my perfectionism. NaNo gave me the ability to push past that and write 50,000 or 60,000 words–to let go of mistakes or even let of go changing the beginning when I realized the story had to go in a different direction, because I knew I could fix that later. I think that most serious writers understand that NaNo is meant to be for a first draft, but I’ve also seen many successful writers mention that they wrote their first complete novel during NaNo.
Another way that NaNoWriMo has been useful to me is to try something completely different–something that’s a bit off the wall for me or even just a different genre.
NaNoWriMo also gave me a lot of confidence. After my first NaNoWriMo, I just knew I could do this. I learned that it was hard work and not just some sort of magic that happened–the magic was in the hard work. The ideas and the flow came from the hard work. NaNo taught me that I could do this hard work.
I never thought my first successful NaNo was a successful story, though. That one definitely should never see the light of day. Now though, I am a firm believer in writing a first draft relatively quickly (whatever that means to the writer)–just get it down. I’m not advocating that everyone should do this, but just that it can be a good strategy for writers like me who would never get a first draft done otherwise. I don’t plan to publish anything without thorough editing (by me and by a professional), but my first NaNo (2005) gave me the confidence to keep going, to keep working, to work on craft, to learn the business.
I do NaNo every year and plan to continue doing it. I also try to do Camp NaNo at least once in the summer. Not everyone who does it is going to end up a novelist, but I think it’s a good thing for people to learn to express themselves through writing. NaNo isn’t for everyone, but I don’t think it hurts anyone. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing that some people publish their first drafts whether it’s NaNo or not. Reviews and comments will let them know that it needs an edit or is in some other way not up to par. I only wish I had that sort of confidence myself. 🙂
#25 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 18, 2015 - 6:32 am
Hi Lynn! ‘Battling with your own perfectionism’ – that’s a good way to put it! Good luck this year.
#26 by Kevin Booth on August 17, 2015 - 3:58 pm
“And Kevin told me he’s seen too many writers – talented writers – use NaNo as the culmination of the writing process”
I’d like to clarify this: no, not as the culmination of the writing process. As many writers have mentioned above, your result after a month of writing is 50,000 words which form the basis of a draft to be expanded, re-worked, revised and polished. Agreed. My concern, and what I have seen in the prose of good writers who have gone through this sort of boot-camp process, is that these words written in haste are never sufficiently revised. The author has psychologically opted for a quick and fast solution to maintain their word count, rather than thinking deeply about the best means of advancing the story at sentence level.
In my own process as a writer, I’ve tried both approaches. My first novel took me five years to complete. Now, however well-planned the book had been when I sat down to write, it would have been a paltry, easily forgotten book had I tried to rush through the bulk of the draft in a month. More importantly, it wouldn’t have been the story I was trying to tell – because those agonisingly conceived sentences, one by one, create the narrative. And I’m still really proud of that first novel.
On another, early work, I took the approach of forcing myself to produce two thousand words on a daily basis according to a pre-established plot structure. I then spent – literally – years trying unsuccessfully to edit the result and turn the mush of sloppy writing into something approaching a narrative.
My conclusion is that the faster solution is the slow one. We could do with the equivalent of a slow food movement in writing. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and place the words on the page exactly how you want them. That will save you far more revision time in the end and produce a better book.
#27 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 18, 2015 - 6:31 am
thanks for the clarification, and the expansion! I think it doesn’t matter how you write the book so long as you give it proper care. The method you’ve outlined here is an interesting approach, especially for the kind of person who doesn’t like rewriting, rewriting and rewriting.
I also take care over every single syllable. Sometimes I do a redraft just to concentrate on one aspect of imagery, but I like the layering approach.
Anyway, thanks for provoking an interesting discussion.
#28 by Gerald Hornsby on August 17, 2015 - 11:33 pm
I do think there’s a lot of snobbery around NaNoWriMo. It’s only 1667 words a day. If I’m on a roll, that’s under an hour of writing. If I wanted to, I could spend 12 hours each day producing those words. Would that still be too fast? How slow do we need to write before being acceptable to the writing and publishing cognoscenti?
I don’t know about a professional literary agent, but I can spot a duffer of a manuscript / novel within a paragraph or two. I get a mental image of people in nice offices with water coolers and coffee machines fainting at a couple of dozen unsolicited manuscripts arriving in their inbox on December 1st. They should be applauding the fact that so many people are writing, constructing novels.
The same goes for NaNo novels that are uploaded to Amazon, Kobo etc. Why not? I’ve seen professionally-produced tripe on there. Amazon have the “look inside” feature, and as noted previously, a minute or so’s reading will indicate whether the investment in purchase will be worthwhile or not. Let these people put their books out there so Auntie Agnes and Great Uncle Bulgaria can download the things. What’s wrong with that?
#29 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 18, 2015 - 6:26 am
Hi Gerald! Perhaps we’d better not let anyone know about the ‘write a novel in a weekend’ initiative…
For the agents (and publishers), they get a lot more than ‘a few dozen’ unsolicited manuscripts, I can tell you. Before everyone sent books by email, you could see the evidence – manuscripts in Jiffy bags, piled up around the walls of the offices like sandbags in a bomb shelter. Of course they had their efficient ways of dealing with them, but believe me, they received significantly more than a few dozen unworkable timewasters. This was why the term ‘slushpile’ was invented, and why it became (and still is) so difficult for the talented people to be found. You can’t blame anyone, really, because we all hope we’ve written something marvellous. We all hope. But it’s worth saying.
At the moment with books on Amazon, it’s a situation of ‘buyer beware’. Sure, the traditional publishers put out some dross. But now the buyer has to be very wary indeed, which can’t be good for anyone (except Amazon, clocking up royalties on millions of titles).
I’m really glad you brought this up, Gerald. It’s one of the great unmentionables in writing circles.
#30 by mrdisvan on August 18, 2015 - 7:33 am
Yes indeed. Agents and publishers have been buried under collapsing slush piles and their bodies never recovered. It’s why so many agents in Writers & Artists begin with the plea “no SF/fantasy”, knowing that the genres for some reason bring out those beavering tyros in their droves. What harm does it do? Well, one minute on Amazon’s Look Inside is fine until you multiply it by a thousand, or by ten thousand. Poor quality serves no one, the lone straw we can cling to being that a slapdash novel will usually have a slapdash cover. Until somebody creates a neural net for sifting out the lousy books, that’s the best we have to go on.
#31 by geraldhornsby on August 22, 2015 - 2:25 pm
lol @ “Write a novel in a weekend”. I’ve tried a couple of times (and failed) to do 5 days @ 10k a day, and I’m rather sceptical of some of the more extreme word counts posted – there’s a million word group on the NaNo site.
There is (often) an insinuation that fast writing is bad writing. Of course, it can be true, but it doesn’t necessarily follow. And don’t forget the great Hemingway quote: “The first draft of anything is sh*t”. So NaNo to produce a first draft is ideal, I think.
#32 by Kevin Booth on August 18, 2015 - 12:20 pm
Gerald, you make a good point about the quota being easy when you’re on a roll. When the inspiration flows, you can write that much and they are all ‘good words’. My objection is to forcing words onto a page for the sake of fulfilling a quota. I would much rather write only 500 words in a day as long as I know they are serving the story and the book, and that they come from my heart as a writer.
And if you have twelve hours a day to write in, that is fantastic. Personally, I’m a freelance translator and editor. On the editing side, my clients are mainly self-publishing authors, and my writing time is snatched when all the other stuff of the day is dealt with. As for cognoscenti, water coolers (and bosses, for that matter), I haven’t been near one in 20 years and I don’t plan to start any time soon.
#33 by geraldhornsby on August 22, 2015 - 2:31 pm
Thanks for the reply, Kevin. I was by no means addressing you personally with the cognoscenti (etc) comments.
I think this is going to be an ‘each to his/her own’ issue. I’m a fan of fast writing, and the works should be judged on their quality, not how they are produced.
#34 by chelecooke on August 22, 2015 - 7:58 am
I love NaNoWriMo. I also agree that nobody should come out of November thinking they have a finished book. NaNoWriMo is best for bashing out that first draft, for putting yourself on a counter and being held accountable for whether you do the work.
Writing is mostly viewed as a solo job, especially while those first drafts are being written, but NaNoWriMo gives you a chance to be entirely social with it through meet-ups and events. You also get to talk out problems and struggles with other people going through the exact same thing at the same time.
No, I don’t believe that anyone comes out of NaNoWriMo with a finished book, but having a worldwide event to help encourage you to get over those first 50,000 words can be incredibly helpful, whether to new or experienced writers.
I think my overall opinion here is, if you don’t like it, don’t take part… but don’t think that just because it’s not how you work best that it can’t work spectacularly for other authors.
#35 by geraldhornsby on August 22, 2015 - 2:17 pm
I agree with your post. Most definitely.
As a long-term NaNo-er (10 successes out of 11 … or is it 12 out of 12 – I forget), I find the best parts are the social interactions with local authors. I’m on the cusp of two countries, and so I join both for meetups. It’s nice to be able to talk writing for an hour or two, and to reunite and make new writer friends.
#36 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 23, 2015 - 10:30 am
Hi Chele – another person I didn’t realise was a Nano-er! Thanks for stopping by.
#37 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 23, 2015 - 10:32 am
Er, that reply ended up on the wrong comment. Trying again! In the meantime, hello again, Gerald!
#38 by Jackie Dana on August 25, 2015 - 6:44 am
I did my first NaNoWriMo at the suggestion of a colleague who liked a short story I wrote. At the time I thought I was a bit crazy. After two successful, back to back NaNo wins, I can easily say it completely changed my life.
Did I write excellent novels during the month of NaNo? Hell no. But I wrote a lot, and I was absolutely rigid about writing every single day even if I didn’t always make the minimum. Despite the fact that my first NaNo fell during a work trip to Vancouver, I wrote every night, even on a night when I had a few too many beers. 🙂
What I learned out of NaNo – and how it changed my life – is that you really can accomplish something if you work on it every day. It really does become a habit. Since that time almost three years ago, I write almost every day and have so much more to show for myself. Right now I’m finishing up a non-NaNo novel that I started last December (right after NaNo!) and I’ll be publishing it in the spring. Even more than that,’ am now a full-time writer by profession, doing copywriting by day and fiction writing by night (or sometimes the other way around).
In other words, NaNo didn’t help me write the Great American Novel (though what I did in two years will eventually turn into what I think will be a wonderful book, after much editing!), but it did totally transform my way of thinking about writing and how I approach it. It was only after NaNo that I first started to take my writing seriously and actually consider myself a writer.
#39 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 26, 2015 - 6:03 pm
Jackie, I love the story you’ve shared here, and particularly your concluding paragraph – that Nano helped you develop a routine, showed you you could do it and set you on a new path.
#40 by Fabien Badilla on August 25, 2015 - 4:27 pm
My novel is a NaNoWriMo child. Completing the book in a month was a challenge but the prospect of “getting it done” was a great boost. It kept me motivated. It was what I needed in order to get a decent first draft actually done. Granted, it probably made the second draft harder to work through, and it took me longer to edit it and revise it than it should have, but it’s ultimately what got me started on this path!
I agree with the need of seeing better fiction out there, though, so it seems to me that NaNoWriMo should come with a warning, haha. I think that “First Draft Writing Month” (FirDraWriMo) is not as appealing, although it is more accurate.
#41 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 26, 2015 - 5:57 pm
FirDraWriMo, ho ho ho! Yes, I don’t even know how you’d say that. But everyone’s path is different, and as you say, Fabien, you emerged with a draft that you might not have thought was possible before. Thanks for stopping by.
#42 by samurainovelist on August 26, 2015 - 4:10 am
I am 52 years old and going back into writing, which I have been doing on and off since I was 12, after a long hiatus. With 40 years of unpublished writing under my belt (or not under my belt, really) I am quite shocked at how terribly different the writing/publishing world has become. NaNoWriMo epitomizes it. I wrote a blog post of it (blogging is another thing I started recently), and I cannot stress enough how weird this event is. Pro or con on NaNo seems almost beside the point. Why does NaNo exist in the first place? It represents a major shift in the world of writing and publishing. The problem is not that it is producing tons of low quality manuscripts. The solitary act of sticking your butt to a chair secluded from the world for months on end has been turned into a massive social event. NaNoWriMo is as different from conventional writing as tropical water skiing is from alpine skiing. You couldn’t get 50,000 people to play basketball in the same month. Yet, back in the day, people like me were weirdos who stayed in doors and wrote stories while other kids played basketball. NaNoWriMo is not the same thing as butt-in-chair writing, not because the quality of the product is low, but because the social dynamic and psychological behavior of the writers (which was what more or less defined the act of writing) is completely different. I have never been involved in NaNoWriMo, so I am trying to keep an open mind. I will not say that it is better or worse. Only different. But to be honest, it makes me a little uncomfortable.
#43 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 26, 2015 - 5:56 pm
Hello, Samurai – and what an interesting perspective. You’re dead right that the writing world has changed so much. I like to think we’ve got the best of both worlds if we want. We can batten down the hatches if we feel that’s right for us. We can be social about our writing or antisocial.
Does that mean we don’t get so many people who think they’re the odd ones out, that everybody else in our school year is reading pop magazines or hanging out on street corners while we prefer to hole up with a typewriter, or reread a favourite author again? Do we lose anything by not having that isolation, that zone of discovery where we learn what it is to be ourselves? Impossible questions, because we can’t wind time back or uninvent the internet. But very interesting to consider.
#44 by samurainovelist on August 28, 2015 - 8:54 am
We certainly cannot uninvent the internet. It is merely a curiosity to consider a world without it. A more relevant question is; Where is the world going with it? In a world with NaNoWriMo and YouTube bookshelf tours, what is a writer supposed to be?
#45 by P.D. Workman on August 29, 2015 - 11:42 pm
I love Nano. I have participated in Nano, Camp Nano, and Script Frenzy a number of times over the past few years, as well as running my own little “Nano in February” for myself and some writing friends this year. For me, Nano is an opportunity to make drafting a top priority for a few weeks, several times a year. Knowing when Nano comes ahead of time, I can keep my Saturdays clear, manage my commitments (no, I can’t take that on, it’s in November and I’ll be writing a book), and choose to put drafting over some of my other responsibilities.
By the time that Nano rolls around, I have my novel researched and plotted, and am excited to get started. Since I have found that 50,000 words is too short for me for a complete novel, and continuing to put drafting first through December is impossible, my goal for Nano is 100,000 words. I don’t write on Sundays and like to give myself a little extra wiggle room, so that makes my per-day goal 5,000 words. That means I’m usually done in about 23 days, and have a week to run through my first revision or two, before setting the new novel aside to season for a month. My July Camp Nano book ended up only being 75,000 words, so I was done in 15 days.
Does that mean my work is ready to be published in a month? Not by a long shot. Seasoning, revisions/rewriting, editing, beta readers, more revisions, and final editing take time.
For the first 25 years of writing books, I didn’t have a plan, didn’t make an outline, didn’t make any deadlines. Some books came out fairly quickly, and some meandered for months or years, or were completely abandoned. I find that the old stuff needs a lot more work rewriting and revising to get to publishable form. But then, I’ve learned a lot over the years about what makes a good story. Writing for publication is different than just writing for your own entertainment. There’s a different standard.
#46 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 30, 2015 - 5:38 pm
75k from Camp Nano? Wow, you’ve developed a good writing habit for yourself there. Thanks for the insight into your methods and your days off! Best of luck for this year’s November burst.
#47 by ruthweatherill on October 6, 2015 - 4:34 pm
I did Nanowrimo last year for the first time and did my 50k words. The words are now buried in the bottom of a very large cupboard. However, the process got me writing, and I’m still writing.
I’m toying with doing it again this year, I’m about to finish the first draft of my novel and have one that nano could give a head start to, at least getting part of the first draft down. I certainly wouldn’t expect a novel to be finished at the end of November though.