Sunday, October 23, 2016


This has sort of been a year for me doing things I had said I wasn't going to do.

I wasn't going to start another project this year. (Technically I didn't I guess, I just expanded an already in progress project--but the outcome is the same. I'm starting work on another first draft.)

I wasn't going to write a series.

I wasn't going to do NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo, for those that are unfamiliar, is National Novel Writing Month. It is, as the name implies, a month-long writing event. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel draft in the 30 days of the month of November.

There are all manner of thinkpieces out there about NaNoWriMo from writers of all stripes and all levels of experience. The event has its supporters and detractors, and both groups are pretty vocal.

At the risk of making a generalization, I have noticed a trend in the articles that I have read regarding the merit (or lack thereof) of NaNoWriMo: professional writers--by which I mean writers for whom money from writing is either all or the bulk of their income--seem to think less fondly of NaNoWriMo than amateurs. 

This makes sense, I guess. The market has changed to the point where anyone with sufficient determination could throw 50,000 words on a page in November and self-publish their book in December or January. Even though most of these self-published novels won't see sales high enough to be threats to sales for authors with traditional contracts at bigger publishers, there is something uncomfortable about the idea of someone doing in a month, and seemingly on a whim, what can take literal years to do the "right" way. And having to fight for an agent or editor's attention for a work you might have spent months or years on against someone's thirty-day draft doesn't seem fair.

Beyond this, there are some more practical concerns. Marketable manuscripts usually run closer to 70,000 words than 50,000, so even if the writing on the November draft is perfect, it's probably not a complete novel--not for a publisher, anyway. And, if we're being honest, the writing on the November draft won't be perfect--a first draft never is.

You don't really have a true novel at the end of NaNoWriMo. You may have a great start, but you don't have a finished project. Not even close.

And, for me, I think that's the key. 

I am pro-NaNoWriMo. I can understand the frustrations, and I would hate to be an editor or agent on December 1 when I imagine hundreds or thousands of queries for 50,000 word rough drafts come to the slush pile, but I frankly think the benefits of this event are pretty great. Granted, my opinion isn't unbiased--most of the first draft of Evin was written during NaNoWriMo in 2011.

Sometimes, at least for me, getting the words on the freaking page is the most difficult part of a draft. I'm a perfectionist--at least when it comes to my writing. When it comes to revisions and editing, that's great, but it's not so great for the first draft. I want the words to be perfect--and of course they never are--so I keep trying to "get them right" before I get them on the page. Which generally translates to me never getting the words on the page. The looming deadline--50,000 words by December 1--helps serves as motivation. When I did NaNoWriMo with Evin, I didn't have a perfect draft by any means, but I had words on a page, and that's something I can work with.

And there's a community with NaNoWriMo. If you sign up on the official site, you can select your region and connect with other writers near you--on forums or in person (in public, well-lit places and in groups, naturally). This gives writers the chance to commiserate about their struggles, and struggles in a situation like this are inevitable, and provides a sounding board for ideas. Writing can be lonely under the best of circumstances. The marathon writing sessions that getting 50,000 words in 30 days requires can be even more isolating. ("Sorry, I can't go out tonight, I have to find some way to ad 1,600 words to a story that I have NO IDEA where it's going." "Sorry, I accidentally went to bed on time last night, so I'm 400 words behind.") This option to connect with other writers in your region--or around the nation--is a huge boon.

Honestly, my stance on all things writing is pretty much "do whatever lets you get the work done." If NaNoWriMo lets you finish a draft, then that is great (so long as you're realistic--it's not a finished product; it's a draft, and that is honestly still a crazy impressive achievement). NaNoWriMo has worked for me in the past. I'm hoping it'll work again.

I guess this post is basically my long way of saying that I'm going to be a NaNoWriMo participant this year. Since Project 2016 has expanded to a trilogy, I'm going to try to use the next month to pin down as much of the first draft of the first book as I can. I'm actually starting early (it's going to be considerably more than 50,000 words, so I'm giving myself more than 30 days).

What all of this means as far as the blog is concerned is that the blog will not be updating on the usual once weekly schedule. How often I post will depend on my where wordcount is. There'll be at least one post in the month of November, though I can't promise any more than that. If you're interested in keeping up with how things are progressing, check out my author Facebook page and/or my Twitter, where I'll be posting periodic updates.

Good luck to my fellow NaNos. See you in December.

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