So, Who’s Actually Doing NaNoWriMo?


First up, I can tell you right now, despite my criticisms the general idea of NaNoWriMo is sound. I officially started MOCKINGBIRD at the front of October and I am now 60,000 words deep — and I’ve still got a week left in the month. Further, I don’t really write much on weekends. So, like I said: doable. That being said, it’s maybe kinda sorta important to note that writing is my job. Like, my full-time I-spend-all-my-hours-bleeding-imagination-juice-on-the-page job.

(Also worth the reference: I dunno if you saw, but the Mighty Matt Forbeck is doing his “12-for-12” project, meaning, 12 novels in 12 months. An impressive and, even for me, mind-boggling endeavor.)

Whatever the case, National Novel Writing Month is nearly upon us, a great heaving swarm of hungry writers getting ready to attack their stories with rabid creativity and wanton penmonkey lunacy.

So, the questions I have are these:

Who out there is doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Who’s done it before?

How did you prepare for it, and what happened to those novels that you completed?

What were your experiences?

What are your thoughts?

Any wisdom to pass down to future participants?

Like it? Love it? Hate it?


(Oh, and as a generally shameless point-of-pimpage, I should advise you that the current Penmonkey Promotion — wherein you buy one of the PENMONKEY books and get 250 THING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WRITING — ends at the close of October. Details here.)

110 responses to “So, Who’s Actually Doing NaNoWriMo?”

  1. I’m not doing it — not because I judge it (although I do), but because I’m working on a novel that I think needs much more than a month’s consideration and I just don’t want to take a break from it to write something from scratch. I encourage my students to give it a shot, if only to give them an appreciation for just how damned hard it is to pound out 1-2K words a day and maintain a narrative structure. Sometimes they do — a couple of years ago, three seniors managed it and came to school brandishing their vanity-press editions. So, I suppose it’s good for a sense of completion and accomplishment, especially for non-writers.

  2. This will be my fourth year doing NaNo. Year number one (2005), I think I wrote less than 10,000 words, none of them were good, and I have no idea if I even have them saved anywhere.

    Year two (2008), I participated and didn’t win, which is exactly what I expected to have happen. I finished Aigaion Girl in four months (I think I broke 50,000 in two or three), and it took me another eleven to get it edited, to do the layout, etc. (That book, Aigaion Girl, I have since published, and it can be found in all sorts of places around the web) As has been mentioned by others, NaNoWriMo is a great springboard to get the thing written, but even if you win, you’re less than halfway done at the end of November. I had done huge amounts of outlining prior to November that year, because the idea wouldn’t leave me alone and I didn’t want to cheat and actually *write* it until I was supposed to – and the outlining helped a lot. In fact, I’ve gone from a panster to writing 10+ pages of outline for most of my bigger projects.

    Last year (I spent Nov ’09 editing Aigaion Girl) I won NaNo, through an absolute refusal to let myself sleep until I got through my wordcount (bonus that I was working nights, so I could get some writing done at work). There was a great sense of accomplishment at the end of it all, but In December, rather than editing this year’s novel, I’ll be revisiting last year’s, in the hopes that it will be submission ready by the spring.

    This year… well, my outline is 16 pages long and includes a scene-by-scene description of each of the three plots and fancy cross-references and I’m mostly done the coverart. All that remains is to write the damn thing. I’m spending some time in Prague at the beginning of the month, too, so I’ve upped my daily WC goal to 2000, rather than 1667, but I definitely think it’s doable.

  3. NaNo Rebel for the 6th year in a row. Winner in 2008 and 2010. The 2009 story is in the torture chamber for bad plotting and is currently being salvaged for characters (not to be used for this year’s challenge, however). This year, I’m attempting my first murder mystery – a serial killer who sucks vital organs from his victims. If I get stuck, I will revert to melancholic personal essays until such time as my Muse decides to leave Her pity party and return to the scene of the crime.

  4. What CT said – I’m pretty decently into another novel and I don’t want to set it aside to start something new from scratch. Finish what you fucking started, as our host would say.

    That said, I finished last year and it was a blast. I deliberately chose to write a swashbuckling adventure novel to maximize the chances of finishing and minimize the pain. First, because FFS, how hard can it be to figure out what comes next? “Okay, we just *had* a carriage chase. Now we need a flashback.” And if it gets boring, have two guys come through the doors flourishing rapiers. This also kept the overall tone light-hearted rather than grimdark, because it’s pretty hard to keep up grimdark for 30 days in a row at that pace. And what do you know, it wasn’t half bad.

    For me the benefit of the exercise was not just Getting It Done but writing in a linear fashion, which is not how I usually do things; I tend to skip around a lot until it gets to the point where I have to sit down and write a fucking outline. NaNo’s format meant it really was easier to just write Scene 1 followed by Scene 2, especially because it was a genre that’s tailor-made for pantsers.

  5. This is my first time. Every year I would think about doing it, but since I am normally working full-time (relatively high-stress jobs as project manager for social networking and ecommerce startups, not a lot of mental or creative energy left over at the end of the day) it allowed me an excuse to not risk it. This year I have no excuse whatsoever, and am going to go for it!

    I have a story fully outlined and planned (yep, those old project management skills sneaking in) and ready to start. I’m excited and terrified in equal portions. I’m doing a steampunk/fantasy twist on an old story that my father read to me as a child. It’s been in my head for years.

  6. I’ve done Nanowrimo, and got 60K done on a trunk novel that has some marvelous bits but completely ran out of steam near the end. I may yet finish it, but the notion of untangling the various threads leaves me exhausted.

    These days, I’m so damn busy and have so many projects on various burners that last year I started doing NaNoFiMo–National Novel Finishing Month. I managed to move a couple of projects along, anyway, to points where they were either A) done or B) in a stage suitable for sending to my agent.

    Doing it again this year, in hopes of wrapping two books that have deadlines on the horizon. Should I have free time left at the end, I will throw words at some of the other projects and see if I can inch them closer to the end myself.

  7. This is my third attempt over the last eight years. Never finished before, was always in school, but got pretty close. I wasn’t even aware it was that time of year again until I got their email. Started on a lark with an idea I had for a graphic novel this time, and now I’m on task at the 25,000 word point. Hoping to have a nice lump of clay at the end that I can rework into something serviceable. The deadline is what I need most, without it I tend to wander all over the place.

    What I wonder, is what everyone does with their manuscripts once they’re done. Do they sit for ever, do they get hacked and slashed, and do they ever come out the other end like a contestant on The Swan? I’d love to know how people go about editing them.

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