25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of the year, then, that normal everyday men and women get a hankering for the taste of ink and misery, thus choosing to step into the arena to tangle with the NaNoWriMo beast.

Here, then, are 25 of my thoughts regarding this month-long pilgrimage into the mouth of the novel — peruse, digest, then discuss. Feel free to hit the comments and add your own thoughts to the tangle.

1. Writing Requires Writing

The oft-repeated refrain, “Writers write,” is as true a sentiment as one can find, and yet so many self-declared writers seem to ignore it just the same. National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo, which sounds like like the more formalized greeting used by Mork when calling home to Ork — demands that writers shit or get off the pot. It says, you’re a writer, so get to scrawling, motherfucker.

2. Writing Requires Finishing

The other giant sucking chest wound that afflicts a great many so-called writers is the inability to finish a single fucking thing. Not a novel, not a script, not a short story. (One wonders how many unfinished manuscripts sit collecting dust like a shelf full of Hummel figurines in an old cat lady’s decrepit Victorian manse.) NaNoWriMo lays down the law: you have a goal and that goal is to finish.

3. Discipline, With A Capital “Do That Shit Every Day, Son”

The way you survive NaNoWriMo is the same way any novelist survives: by spot-welding one’s ass to the office chair every day and putting the words to screen and paper no matter what. Got a headache? Better write. Kid won’t stop crying? Better write. Life is hard and weepy-pissy-sadfaced-panda-noises? Fuck you and write. Covered in killer bees? Maybe today’s not the best day to write. You might want to call somebody. Just don’t pee in fear. Bees can smell fear-urine. Pee is to bees as catnip is to cats.

4. The Magic Number Is 1666

Ahh. The Devil’s vintage. Ahem. Anyway. To hit 50,000 words in one month, you must write at least 1,666 words per day over the 30 day period. I write about 1000 words in an hour, so you’re probably looking at two to three hours worth of work per day. If you choose to not work weekends, you’ll probably need to hit around 2300 words per day. If you’re only working weekends, then ~6000 per day.

5. The Problem With 50,000 Words

Be advised: 50,000 words does not a novel make. It may technically count, but publishers don’t want to hear it. Even in the young adult market I’d say that most novels hover around 60,000 words. You go to a publisher with 50k in hand and call it a novel, they’re going to laugh at you. And whip your naked ass with a towel. And put that shit on YouTube so everybody can have a chortle or three. Someone out there is surely saying, “Yes, but what if I’m self-publishing?” Oh, don’t worry, you intrepid DIY’ers. I’ll get to you.

6. The True Nature Of “Finishing”

For the record, I’m not a fan of referring to one’s sexual climax as “finishing.” It’s so… final. “I have finished. I am complete. Snooze Mode, engaged!” I prefer “arrived.” Sounds so much more festive! As if there’s more on the way! This party’s just getting started! … wait, I’m talking about the wrong type of finishing, aren’t I? Hm. Damn. Ah, yes, NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words is your technical goal — completing a novel in those 50,000 words is not. You can turn in an unfinished novel and be good to go. The only concern there is that 50,000 words serves only as a milestone and come December it again becomes oh-so-easy to settle in with the “I’ve Written Part Of A Novel” crowd. Always remember: the only way through is through.

7. Draft Zero

It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”). But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory.

8. Quantity Above Quality

Put differently, the end result of any written novel is quality. You’re looking for that thing to shine like a stiletto and be just as sharp. NaNoWriMo doesn’t ask for or judge quality as part of its end goal. To “win” the month, you could theoretically write the phrase “nipple sandwich” 25,000 times and earn yourself a little certificate. Quantity must be spun into quality. You’ve got all the sticks. Now build yourself a house.

9. Beware “Win” Conditions

If you complete NaNoWriMo, I give you permission to feel like a winner. If you don’t, I do not — repeat, awooga, awooga, do not — give you permission to feel like a loser. This is one of the perils of the gamification of novel-writing, the belief that by racking up a certain score (word count) in a pre-set time-frame (one month for everybody), you win. And by not doing this, well, fuck you, put another quarter in the machine, dongface. Which leads me to:

10. We’re Not All Robots Who Follow The Same Pre-Described Program

NaNoWriMo assumes a single way of writing a novel. Part of this equation — “smash brain against keyboard until story bleeds out” — is fairly universal. The rest is not. For every novelist comes a new path cut through the jungle. Some novelists write 1000 words a day. Some 5000 words a day. Some spend more time on planning, others spend a year or more writing. Be advised that NaNoWriMo is not a guaranteed solution, nor is your “failure to thrive” in that program in any way meaningful. I tried it years back and found it just didn’t fit for me. (And yet I remain!) It is not a bellwether of your ability or talent.

11. November Is A Shitty Month

November. The month of Thanksgiving. The month where people start shopping for Christmas. The month where we celebrate National Pomegranate Month (NaPoGraMo?). Yeah. Not a great month to pick to get stuff done. Just be aware that November presents its own unique challenges to novelists of any stripe, much less those doing a combat landing during NaNoWriMo. Know this going in.

12. The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good

NaNoWriMo gets one lesson right: writing can at times be like a sprint and you can’t hover over every day’s worth of writing, picking ticks and mites from its hair — you will always find more ticks, more mites. The desire for perfection is like a pit of wet coal silt: it will grab your boots like iron hands and never let you go.

13. Total Suckity-Ass Donkey Crap Is Also The Enemy Of The Good

On the other hand, is this novel is the equivalent of you shitting your diaper and then rubbing your poopy butt up against the walls of your plexiglass enclosure, then what’s the fucking point?

14. You Have Permission To Suck — Temporarily

The point is, you’re not aiming to be a shitty writer with prose on par with a mouthful of toilet water, but you must allow yourself permission to embrace imperfection. You’re not trying to write irreparable fiction, you’re trying to make a go at a flawed story whose bones are good but whose components may need rebuilding. Imperfect is not the same as impossible.

15. NaStoPlaMo

Take October. Name it “National Story Planning Month.” Whatever you’re going to do in November, you don’t have to go in blind. You’ve no requirement, after all, to suddenly leap out of bed on November 1st, crack open your head with an ice ax, and let the story come pouring from the cleft. Spontaneous generation is a myth in science as it is in creative spheres. Plan. Prep. Take a month. Get your mise en place in place.

16. NaEdYoShiMo

December then becomes “National Edit Your Shit Month.” Or, if you need a month away from it, maybe you come back to it in January — but the point is, always come back to it. If you want to do this novel writing thing then you must come to terms with the fact that rewriting is part of a novel’s life-cycle. Repeat the mantra: Writing is when I make the words. Editing is when I make them not shitty.

17. The Stats Bear Ogling

In 2009, NaNo had 167,150 participants, and 32,178 “winners.” That’s a pretty good rate, just shy of 20% completion. The numbers get a bit more telling when you look at the number of published novels that have come out of the entire ten-year program, and that number appears to be below 200 books. Out of the 500,000 or so total participants of NaNo over the years, that’s a very minor 0.04%. This isn’t an indictment against NaNoWriMo but is, however, an illustrative number just the same: it’s harder than the Devil’s dangle-rod in a cobalt-tungsten condom to get published these days.

18. Why Some Authors Dismiss NaNoWriMo

Professional authors — perhaps unfairly — sometimes look at the program with a dismissive sniff or a condescending eye roll. Look at it from their perspective: NaNo participants might seem on par with tourists. Professional authors live here all year. We are what we are all the time. And then others come along and, for one month, dance around on our beaches and poop in the water and pretend to be native. The point is, don’t act like a haole, haole. Don’t be like that girl in college who kissed girls and called herself a lesbian even though she was really just doing it to get other guys hot under the scrotum collar. And pro authors, don’t act like prigs and pricks, either. Drop the dismissal. Most of us are all trying to share the same weird wordmonkey dream, and that’s a thing to be celebrated, not denigrated.

19. Why Some Agents And Editors Despise NaNoWriMo

If the story holds true, agents and editors receive a flush of slush from NaNoWriMo in the months following November. A heaping midden pile of bad prose which, for the record, only serves to block the door for everybody else with its stinky robustness. You may say, “But I’m not going to do that.” Of course you’re not, but somebody probably is. And those that spam every agent or editor with their half-cocked garbage novel should be dragged around by their balls or labia and then fed to a pen full of rutting pigs.

20. The Self-Publishing Marketplace Is Not Your Vomit Bag

Just as you should not run to agents and editors with your fetal draft, you should not instantly fling it like a booger into the marketplace. Novels, like whisky and wine, need time.

21. The NaNoWriMo Website Isn’t Doing Itself Any Favors

The text on the NaNoWriMo website is, for me, a point of dismissal and does little to engender respect from professional writers (as opposed to, say, the participants, who often do earn that respect). Check, for example, the text identifying why you should participate: “The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.” Yes, we stupid novelists, what with our interest in quality and our inability to produce a perfect draft in 30 days. Sometimes I want to kick the NaNoWriMo website in its non-existent digital crotch.

22. Engage The Community (But Realize That Writing Is Up To You)

November sees a flurry of activity on the novel-writing front, and you can harness that energy by engaging with the community. Just the same — at the end of the day it’s you and your word count. Nobody can do this shit for you. When it all comes down to it, you’re the one motherfucker who can slay this dragon and make a hat from his skull, a coat from his scales, and a tale from his tongue.

23. Fuck The Police

NaNoWriMo has a lot of rules: you’re supposed to “start fresh,” you’re not really meant to work on non-fiction, blah blah blah. This is all just made-up stuff. It’s not government mandated. This isn’t taxes, for fuck’s sake. Do what you like. Even better: do what the story needs. Hell with the rules. Fuck the police. Write. Write endlessly. Don’t be constrained by this program. It’s just a springboard: use it to launch your way to awesomeness. Anything you don’t like about it, toss it out the window. That certificate you get at the end doesn’t mean dog dick. The only thing that matters is you and your writing.

24. Be Aware Of Variants

Have you seen ROW80, or, A Round of Words in 80 Days? I’ve also seen smaller variants about writing scripts and non-fiction projects. Come up with your own variant if you must. NaNoWriMo is just a means to an end — it’s just one path up the mountain. Other exist, so find them if this one doesn’t seem your speed.

25. November Is Just Your Beginning

If you get to the end of the month with a manuscript — finished or not — in hand, celebrate. Do a little dance. Eat a microwaved pizza, do a shot of tequila, take off your pants and burn them in the fireplace. And then think, “Tomorrow, I’ve got more to do.” Because this is just the start. I don’t mean that to sound punishing — if it sounds punishing, you shouldn’t be a writer. It should be fucking liberating. It should fill your heart with a flutter of eager wings: “Holy shit! I can do this tomorrow, too! I can do this in December and January and any day of the goddamn week I so choose.” Don’t stop on November 30th. You want to do this thing, do this thing. Your energy and effort can turn NaNoWriMo from a month-long gimmick to a life-long love and possibly even a career. Let this foster in you a love of storytelling made real through discipline — and don’t let that love or that discipline wither on the vine come December 1st.

* * *

Want another booze-soaked, profanity-laden shotgun blast of dubious writing advice?

Try: CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY

$4.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

Or its sequel: REVENGE OF THE PENMONKEY

$2.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

And: 250 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WRITING

$0.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

252 comments

  • NaNoWriMo – The 30 day stretch where everyone who thinks it’s easy to pound out a novel gets to eat their words, then tries to vomit them back up to make the day’s count.

  • I use NaNoWriMo and its small-scale counterpart, Write or Die, as a mental re-set. I don’t need to go to the Write or Die website most days. I just need to remember the mindset and get on with the scribbling. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of not writing because you can’t write brilliantly at the moment. To not write any first draft because you can’t write something polished and perfect. Sometimes we need to be reminded to just get the words on the page already.

  • I really should go to bed, I have surgery in the morning. (Having it done to me, not doing one. You don’t want me to have something sharp in my hand.)
    I agree with you, especially the “take their format, website, and rules in stride.” It’s not even a means to an end, but a means to get somewhere out there in the middle.
    As excited as I am about it, I’m not throwing myself into their community, buying a shirt, or having NaNoWriMo tattooed on the underside of my testicles.
    But this is what it did give me: I looked at my body of unfinished work and scribbled ideas, and whittled it down to something that I could say, “Okay, if I really am going to write a novel, this is the one I am at peace with attempting.”
    And it also gave me a goal, albeit an arbitrary one, and goals are good. It’s a the whole mental thing.
    And it gave me a schedule–right now I’m planning, although to the untrained eye it might look like I’m drinking and playing online poker. But the month to do the writing is a deadline, and I need that. I work better under pressure. I think a lot of humans do.
    I consider you and the many writers who comment here to be my “writing community.” It’s a fine line between anarchy and…whatever this is. But the words of encouragement, both general and specific, make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Like belly button lint.

  • I threw away my first NaNo novel (2007) after a couple of years because it sucked greasy green donkey dicks. However, I have gotten 2 good (I’m biased, but readers have been agreeing so far…) stories with a 3 my beta readers liked.

    Each stewed for a year or more after their NaNo birth before I pulled’em out to revise and polish. Well, that third one is still waiting its turn.

    What I love, love, love about NaNoWriMo is that it is the ONE month every year my family totally gives me all the space and time I need to write. No interruptions until after my end of NaNo business hours each day. That’s gold, man. 😉

  • Smart words, dude. I love them all, especially #10. Even after being published, I used to kick myself for not being the “write religiously every single day” person. Even though I always met my deadlines and I juggled what was then a full-time 65 hrs/week job.

    I finally accepted that I write in spurts. A lot of thinking in my head, then a disgorging of many, many words. My personal best: 30,000 words in a weekend. That was hours and hours of sitting at the desk, but the book had come to a saturation point in my brain and all that was left was to physically type the words. I do not recommend this method for, well, most anyone, but it seems to be the way I’m wired.

  • Ah, yes, NaNo. I’m more of a fan of NaNo’s baby, livejournal-based sister, “Write Something, You Miserable Fuck” (where we commit to ten minutes each day, and the community is brilliant fun), but this reminded me that this year I was going to attempt NaNo again.

    Goals are good! And hell, nothing wrong with having a bunch of stories lined up and resolving to WRITE WORDS on them until they are done and then moving onto the next. And going ‘first draft, first draft, first draft is drafty mcdraft, EDIT AFTER’ isn’t a bad habit to get into.

    (Any actual novel attempting can be saved once I’ve world-built my universes so far – I’m a research and world-building girl at heart)

  • I really like NaNoWriMo. I wrote Aigaion Girl (well, the first 20,000 words or so) for NaNo 2008. Last year I won (woot!) and I have 50,000 words of absolute dreck that I need to strip down and rewrite in December (and beyond). If NaNo is supposed to give me a zero draft, 2010’s gave me a negative one draft.

    I started planning in August and have a 13 page outline and cover art for this year’s book. Obviously, I’m super excited.

    Except. #21… Yeah, I completely thought you were being hyperbolic about the reasons the website gives for participating. I was already near the end of your post when I thought “…he is joking… right?” and then went to check for myself. I lost a lot of respect for NaNoWriMo today 🙁

  • NaNo has always sort of evaded me in terms of rules. Still, I really like using it as a break from whatever else I’m ballsing around with. I have a tendency to mull over outlining for so long that it takes me years to poop out 50k. If I’m lucky. NaNo really helps me reset my brain in that aspect. It’s like. Hey. WRITE SHIT. WRITE IT NOW. Sure, the shit I write may be akin to cat vomit eaten and puked up multiple times, but it at least helps remind me that I’m not going to be stabbed by angry sword wielding bees if I don’t take forever to outline.

    Oh god that was a rant. A tiny, sleep deprived rant.

    Forgive me.

  • Here’s my thing: I need a deadline. I mean yeah, ok, without one I *might* get stuff done….*eventually*. With one? It’s suddenly much more possible, and much more likely. The stuff I slide under the door two minutes before the absolute last minute is the best stuff I make, generally. The only stuff better is the stuff I turn in two days late, after a week of no sleep and increasing conversations with my shoelaces.

    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo (not yet), but I have done FAWM the last two years. February Album Writing Month – write and record fourteen songs (an album!) in one month. It’s incredible! I MAKE stuff! It’s just that NanoWriMo is so daunting. But who says I have to write 50,000 words? I think I’ll ride that wave to just make something, and be happy I’ve made it.

  • My first year, I did NaNoWriMo all wrong–I didn’t plan ahead, I hadn’t read anything on how to write, and I had a bloated idea of my skills. But I wrote. Every day. I banged out my story, and I realized that I loved to write. What I wrote that month wasn’t worth much, except it did teach me how to write everyday.
    So I became a writer.
    NaNoWriMo isn’t really for people who write all year long and are already in the habit (though it can be an awful helpful tool). It’s for the green writers, those fresh and enchanted with their skills and their stories. I think it’ll help new writers know if they want to pursue their writerling leaning, or forsake it.
    That’s why the article on Writer Unboxed about NaNoWriMo was so … troubling. Why would we want to discourage new writers from NaNoWriMo by calling everything crap? I feel for the agents who get swamped with crappy 50k MS in December, but there are also some agents who’ve earned thousands off of those MS that came out of NaNoWriMo.
    It’s like if the Quilter’s Club had a Complete-A-Quilt-In-A-Day party and then laughed at all the new quilters for being not as good as “real” quilters.

  • Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough not to only finish NaNoWriMo but also turn TWO of them into publishable AND published novels. (One’s out with Samhain Publishing and part of a series and the second is being released in January by Carina Press, the digital division of Harlequin.)

    But it’s a helluva slog from that first wailing babe you have on December 1st to the beast you send off to publishers.

    I encouarge people to do NaNo but NOT to think about sending their books off until well into the next year, at least six months after the first draft. Polish, polish, cut and edit that baby to death because just because you wrote 50K words doesn’t mean that 50K words are good enough to be published.

    But it’s a great place to start.

    🙂

  • You’ve gotta love any list that includes, “Fuck The Police.” NaNo is my way of lighting a fire under my ass, pure and simple, and the rules are merely suggestions.

    And I’m with @Maria Lima. I’m never gonna be one of those authors that releases several books a year. I’ve got a full-time day job, a chronic illness, and a husband that likes me to pay attention to him every once in a while. If I only manage to write one book a year during NaNo, I’m happy with that 🙂

  • NaNoWriMo makes my holiday season very unhappy. Throughout October, I get an influx of new clients and soon-to-be-participants all wanting rudimentary (and repetitive) advice on how to get started. Then in November, I’m deluged by people looking for pats on the head and encouragement. And then in December, people talk about the process like they just survived a war zone, dismissing too easily the fact that some people do this every day of every month.

    Am I excited to see people put down 50k words in a month? Sure, I think that’s awesome.
    Does it bother me that most people don’t do anything with the manuscript after November? Entirely.

    If you’re serious about it, I mean really serious about being a writer, then you should be writing every day and when the manuscript is done get it edited and think about marketing and publishing it. Do something with it, else you’re labeling writing as frivolous, something you can breeze into and out of without concern for the future – and that’s crappy.

    I’m still waiting to see National Surgery Performing Month and National Pro Bono Public Defender Month…if it’s so easy to do this job in thirty days, let’s take the show on the road and mock it like it’s hot.

    • @Kerry —

      No worries, just wanted to turn people toward Maria’s work!

      Everybody has to find their own pace and path in this writing thing, methinks. Good for you for finding yours.

      — c.

  • I’m using NaNoWriMo as a good excuse to turn the 60 page start of novel 3 into a fleshed out draft. My current state of struggle through the end game of novel 2’s second draft has inspired me to take the advice offered at number 15, despite a bunch of past dizzy cheerleader affirmations about being a “pantser.”

  • Just one note. Some places do accept 50-60k words for a novel but they are mostly for category romance. Still a good quick read once it’s polished. I think I’ll sign up this year just to get in a good habit of writing every day.

  • Great post. Perspective about what NaNo is, and isn’t, needs to be drummed into the heads of participants and haters.

    I’ve attempted it twice. Once I was more-or-less prepared and it went great, resulting in the bare bones of a novel that’s still making agent rounds. Once I tanked after two days because I realized I had no clue what I was trying to do.

    I will agree with Scath above, though–it’s a great opportunity for me to have a “reason” to write that friends, family, coworkers, etc., can put their fingers on. It’s not just a hobby I love that makes me anxious and earns me no money–which my wife can never quite wrap her head around why I do these things that make me so cranky (because I must!)–it’s an international contest/event and people can say “oh, writing…I’ll leave you alone.” Which is rare and wonderful.

  • I just finished editing my first novella last month and I heard about this NanoWriMo thingy and decided to give it a try. Thanks to you Chuck, I’m reconsidering it, because from reading your valid points, people’s comments and reevaluating my mindset, I realize this might actually bring me to hate writing. Last time I hated writing, it took me two years to come back to it. I think I’m starting to know myself as a writer and finishing this novella gave me the boost I needed to pursue all my other writing projects. So just like you said: Fuck the police. I will make up my own rules for the rest of this year and finish the shit I started!!!!

  • @Chuck – thanks for the shout-out!

    @Kerry – finding your own path/method is *key*. You have to live in your world and work how you best work, that’s the only way to succeed, IMHO.

  • I signed up yesterday and now I am freaking out. BIG TIME. Writing is not a problem, I am just afraid that speed and rush and anxiety will kill my creativity. But I am going to do it no matter what! 🙂

  • DRAFT ZERO is damn right! I wrote 115k words in about 7 weeks. About 75% through I began getting my real voice, not yammering every thought in my head, and I tied up a decent everyman thriller. Then I let it sit a month or two and tackled the “second” draft and just couldn’t get off the ground. I realized I was writing about the wrong character. The boring single dad we all want to see get the girl, as Trent would say in Swingers, instead of the dangerous guy we’re not sure we like. So draft one is in progress, and a lot cleaner. Light edits as I go.
    NaNoWriMo was a great kick in the ass, but little else. Some great novels were written in less time, but even Hemingway’s first draft of The Sun Also Rises – 6 weeks- came long after he’d written many well-crafted short stories and learned to whittle his drafts to the bone. Also he had a typewriter, and had to think a lot more before tapping keys.
    For a new writer, NaNoWriMo’s best use, in my opinion, is getting out those 100k to One Million words of Crap we all write before we’ve fine tuned our craft and can sit down and write a good draft once our ideas are stewing.

  • Some people look at NaNoWriMo as the be all and end all of writing a novel. Feh. I used it my first time to do the one thing I had NEVER done before – finish a story. This taught me that I could finish something I started.

    Would I try to sell it? Are you out of your mind? 50K words consisting of “nipple sandwich” would constitute better reading than what I came up with.

    But it was a FINISHED STORY. For those of us who get involved in it, it can be a way of driving ourselves. It can be a way to say “Fine. It’s not a contest, but I’ve now got a damned REAL deadline, rather than one I set for myself.” (Don’t know why external ones work better sometimes, but they do.)

    I intend to work on a real novel this November. I’ve been spending the past few days on plot/outline for it. I’ve got pics for the main characters, I’ve got destinations worked out, and all sorts of things. I’ve even written out a handful of scenes already.

    Really, NaNoWriMo is no different than Starbucks, in a way. Both develop the gathering of dorkfish who sit there pretentiously and use it to say “I am an artiste, because I am here.” They also get real people who are motivated, but just need that little push.

    I can honestly say that getting that little push led to me getting a story published in an anthology, and I’ve got a second one in the pipeline for another anthology. All because NaNo taught me I could finish a story.

  • I’m one of those published NaNo’ers — trilogy with HarperCollins and memoir with Chronicle — and I worship at the altar that is NaNo. My first NaNo was my first published novel, and I’ll be working on the fourth in the series this November. The thing I love the most? That they get SO MANY PEOPLE WRITING. A lot of people I know are writers who will never write a novel. You know the type. They want to be writers so badly, but normally, they can’t get the drive together on their own. NaNo is that push, that rush, that gets them to actually fucking write something already and quit whining about it. Sure, they may only complete 10k during the month, but that’s 10k more than they’ve managed to put on paper in the last seven years, so that’s worth throwing a party for. Some people (like me and you) can sit down and write even when (especially when) we don’t want to. Others really need an artificial structure and support system, and there are a lot of them out there, but I think NaNo is one of the best.

    Putting the kool-aid down, and off to the cafe where I will finish the first polished draft of my fifth book TODAY WOOOOOT!
    Rachael

  • I thought I was going to have some good news for you, Chuck, but as it turns out, this page is NOT the number 1 result Google returns for “Nipple Sandwich.” That’s kind of a bummer.

    But it did give me an idea, if I lose my day job, I’m going to buy a deli cart and sling Nipple Sammiches on the street. Like a boss.

  • Never Tried the Nanoblabla but loved this little tirate enough might actually try this shit. It this piece of shit keyboard last that long. Nice to see someone of a like mind (warped).

  • There’s always National Novel Editing Month. I failed that spectacularly, but it was there! 😀

    I actually love NaNoWriMo because I feel like I have permission to lock my kid in the closet and neglect my husband. It also eventually led to me meeting a writer’s group in our new town. Good things forever!

    Granted, I’m still working on editing and perfecting last year’s novel — oh the fool I am, I always think the writing is the hard part — but I’m thrilled for this year as well.

  • Isn’t the magic number 1667? Gotta round it up.

    3rd year of doing NaNoWriMo. First year, lost. Last year, won by writing 24K words in the last two days. Discipline isn’t one of my strengths, to say the least.
    Awesome post.

  • I think nano os great. I worked on my book “Boots on the Ground” for all of nano. I didn’t finish it, but it gave me a really great start. I finally subbed it to publishers in July and now have a contract to publish in the spring of 2012! Everything you said it oh so true! As is the fact thta NaNo is in the end about writing! We all do it in our own way and hey! As long as we’re having fun I’m good with it!

  • I did NaNo one year, and stopped when I realized that I was churning out crap just to make the word count. I’ve since gone back to that POS, and started rewriting it. I’m embarrassed by what I had on the page.

    Thanks for the link to Around the Words. I just may sign up for that. I do love me a deadline…

  • Good points, and you made me laugh. Thanks! I needed that. I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year. For me, the point is to prove to myself that I have the staying power to write 50,000 words on anything. I also know that if I get that far I’ll be able to finish it.

  • While I love the community aspect of NaNo, it usually doesn’t fit my time schedule or I’m already knee-deep in the murky swamp of a manuscript. This year though, I’ll be finishing up the final draft of one right about mid-October (according to THE PLAN), so I could dig out an unfinished idea and expound on that…

  • As an add on to notion number 10… no one wants to be the bellwether of writerly fortune because it means you had to give up something precious to get there… orgin of the word bellwether – castrated bulls with bells around their neck so you knew where the flock was.
    Don’t castrate yourself by predicting your outcome… just strive to do one leap further than you’re used to and no matter the destination, know that you’re where you are meant to be. Writers unit! With our powers combined… wait totally chanelling captain planet
    That is all

  • How funny (at least to me) that you posted this on the day I decide to take my final, 10th trip through this maddness. I agree with every word of this. I’m using it to hopefully jump start a very dead battery.

  • I started my first novel on NaNoWriMo but didn’t make the 50k mark in time. However, I did finish my book and am now off to market.

    One beef with it stems from the fact it encourages intentionally bad writing. People freely admin they wrote 10K of crap on a lunchbreak and they want some kind of medal for it. Also, it encourages writer-fetishism, “I’m writing. See. Me make words on paper. Writing is just like a drum circle, except the drum circle is paper. You must love me!” It’s like the uber-Christians who are so self-consciously family oriented. You don’t get accolades for doing what you’re supposed to. Just do the ‘effing thing and fill that soul hole with something proper, like booze.

  • Ooo. I’d forgotten all about the word awooga! 😀

    I thnk this list is great. It’s so great that I’ll put it up on my walk or something. I am one who suffers the non-finisher syndrome and I can’t hear the ‘finish the shit you started’ rule. With NaNo, I have learned to push because of the satisfaction at the end, but with actually finish-finishing a novel, I have to do a lot more pushing. Thanks, Chuck. 🙂

  • I tend to avoid reading comments on posts because I’m lazy. Sometimes it’s because to lose faith in the idea that humans are an intelligent species. I’m glad that I did this time, though. People kept their heads about them and said useful stuff. Combined with the useful stuff in the post, I think I’ll go into my first NaNoWriMo with the right attitude.

  • There’s something wrong with writing crap? Seems like it works out pretty well for lots of published authors out there *cough* stepheniemeyer *cough*

  • I’ve just registered to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo and this post makes me feel like less of a dumb ass for doing it. It’s a means to an end, and a way of setting parameters so I’ll get the hell on with actually writing this book that I’ve been “writing” for so long.

  • Like Ellie Ann said, NaNoWriMo is what spurred me to start writing in the first place, and as such, it has a warm little fuzzy spot in my heart. But I totally agree with what you’re saying here – yeah, I’ve completed NaNo five times, but do I have an edited, finished thing out of it to show for it? Nope, sure don’t, but I’ll always be grateful to it for making me realize that I wanted to be a writer. I’m considering using it as a work-on-the-novel-for-at-least-that-two-or-three-hours-a-day month this year though, instead of working on a whole new thing. Gotta finish what I started, right?

  • Draft Zero is exactly right.
    It was only after finishing my first NaNo last year that I realised how much work needed to be done on my novel just to get it to the first draft stage.
    NaNo is a great way of testing a story for strengths and weaknesses before putting in the real work of knocking it all down and rebuilding it.
    Starting out with that in your mind might also help to avoid feeling like a loser when you review your work each day. Yes you might be writing drivel, but your only testing and pushing things.
    Best of all, you’ll prove to yourself that you can do it. So doing it again with a new story at ANY time of year becomes less ominous.

    Good luck to all who are taking part.

  • Nanowrimo is amazing. I did it last year, alone, and have been gnawing at the bit to do it again ever since.

    I don’t think there has to be any differentiation between Nanowriting and normal writing. I write every day, I revise what I write, I work hard to get better. Still, having said that, Nano is a good excuse to go apeshit for thirty days and write a bunch of crazy stuff. My last nano-novel was about a Jenkem-addicted death metal band.

    The folks in my writing group (all three of us) are pretty psyched about it. I think it’ll be even better this year, with a group of us working at it. There will be challenges, bloody fingertips and keyboards, gritty eyes, and hopefully some decent writing.

    So yeah, write all year – but go apeshit and do nano in November. No one gets hurt.

  • Two NaNoWriMos got me writing, and got a friend writing, and so on and so on.

    My story qualified as a novel under the website’s guidelines and since Hemmingway said the first draft of anything is crap – I at least wrote a crappy first draft of a short bad novel.

    What was most fun was not knowing where the main character was going and how much I laughed when she got there.

  • I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2006. Yes, I was guilty of bragging “I wrote a novel!”. Yes, I realize far later on, that novel was utter crap.

    I’m on a love and hate relationship with NaNoWriMo. I mostly agree with you on your points, and that was why I hated it. None of the stuff I wrote for NaNo was actually good for publication. My first drafts are crap, and my speedy first drafts are… well… even more so.

    But this year I plan on joining in again. I realized I missed being able to just pour out everything unfiltered from my brain, without worrying if the quality is any good. For once a year, it’s a welcome change for my writing routine.

1 2 3 5

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds