The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: “Let Me Stop You Right There”

Me: Hey, whatcha doing? Doodling more dongs on all my books? Because that’s mature.

YouNo. For your information, I’m planning my next steps with this novel, since the month is almost over and I will soon be scoring a bullseye on the ol’ 50,000 words target. Boom.

Me: Congratulations to you.

You: Thank you. I plan on celebrating.

Me: And what manner of celebration are you planning?

You: You know, I’m a writer, so, the yoozh — I’ll sit around in a dark room drinking hard liquor and laughing at all my jokes until I start crying.

Me: That’s a myth, by the way. One I admittedly persist in transmitting, but all writers are not drunks. Hell, some authors don’t even drink.


Me: *stares hot iron pokers through your soul*

You: Fine, I’ll amend my celebration. I seem to recall Delilah Dawson said something about cupcake cannons, so I’ll head down to Party City and grab a couple of those badboys and fire off a 21-cupcake-salute. Red velvet. Right into my deserving belly. CHOOM CHOOM.

Me: So, liquor and cupcakes.

You: Breakfast of Champions, man. And then, soon as I shake off the hangover and the diabetes, it’s onto making this novel the bonafide motherfucking bestseller it is destined to be. That’s what I’m scribbling here — a list of agents and editors who —

Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Captain Howdy, let me stop you right there.

You: Wha? Wha’d I say?

Me: I — I just — whhh — vuhhh — muhhhh. MUHGRBLE NNNNGH no! No. No. Is your plan really to finish this book and then just start flinging your story-shaped poo-ball into the inbox of every agent and editor you have chosen to punish? As if they’re dung beetles awaiting your crap?

You: Well. Yeah?

Me: Oh, goddamnit.

You: Hey, now. That’s the whole point of this NaNoWriMo adventure, isn’t it? To write a book, then to get that book published. I mean, holy shit, I’m sure whatever I wrote is better than what Snooki wrote. I figure whatever she turned in was just a ream of papers coated in smeary bronze tanner Snooki-prints. Grumpy Cat gets a book deal. Guy Fieri is still allowed to put words inside of things and sell them to us. You know what I heard? The giant wrecking ball from the Miley Cyrus video has a book deal. I’m not kidding. It’s called, LIFE WITH CHLAMYDIA.

Me: That’s mean. You’re saying Miley Cyrus has chlamydia.

You: No, the wrecking ball caught it from unprotected sex with other wrecking balls. God, you’re very insensitive, you know that? Check your privilege, son. No, Miley Cyrus does not have chlamydia. She has, however, had her tongue replaced with an angry eel. Which is very sad that kids these days feel they need to have these procedures to feel cool and to fit in at —

Me: Just shut up. Shut your sugar hole. No more talky. We need to get back to this poison pill of a plan you’re trying to get me to swallow. Sending off your NaNoWriMo manuscript on December 1st is — to quote Chris Traegerliterally the worst idea you have ever had. Ever. Ever! Ever.

You: Even worse than the time I —

Me: This is not Family Guy. Stop that.

You: Ugh, blech, blergh, whatever. I wrote this fancy book and now I’m not supposed to do anything with it? Just sit on it like it’s a chair? You’re not my Dad. (Wait, or are you?) Whatever. Point is: I did the hard part. Now I need to reap sweet reward.

Me: The hard part. The hard part? The hard part?! Hey, hold on, I’m gonna laugh for 17 minutes.

*18 minutes passes*

Me: There we go. *wipes eyes, blows nose*

You: That was eighteen minutes.

Me: Well, turns out what you said was extra stupid. The hard part is not writing a book. That is actually the easiest part. Writing a book is the Play-Doh phase. It’s just you smooshing words together and screaming out ideas and making your action figure characters do shit and say shit. It’s a drunken clumsy race to the finish line. It’s inelegant. It’s the braying of a donkey. What comes next is not fill up this super-soaker with my word-vomit and hose down the publishing industry with it. What comes next is edit this thing into something resembling a great novel.

You: No, nope, mm-mm, I know what’s happening here. You’re just trying to keep me from competing with you. I know that agents and editors have a job and that job is to take my word-barf and delicately shape it into the flower it’s yearning to become.

Me: December 1st, do you know what agents and editors do?

You: Uh, celebrate all the sweet reads they’re about to get?

Me: They have an underground bunker in Greenbriar, West Virginia. They leave Manhattan in these shadowy buses and drive there. They don’t get to spend Christmas with family or friends, because they go to the bunker for the whole month. The bunker has concrete walls thick enough to withstand a howitzer shelling. They have a supply of food and water. They bring lots of books. Good books. Real books. But the most important thing they don’t bring is a goddamn internet connection because as soon as they jump onto the Information Superhighway they’re gonna get pulped into bloody asphalt treacle by the 18-wheeler mega-truck carrying a flat-bed stacked high with a million shitty NaNoWriMo manuscripts. It’s crazytown up in there. I hear last year they ran out of coffee and Hot Pockets and had to eat a few junior editors and agent interns.

You: So, this bunker — it has a mailing address? I can put together a SASE, which is technically a thing I don’t know, uh, what it is, but I assume it’s an artifact from the forgotten “VCR Epoch” of man that I still see on submission guidelines sometimes, so I’ll just whip one of those together and send it off as soon as you give me the —

Me: I’m not giving you the address. What I will give you is a kick to the face. I will kick you so hard, your face will mold around my foot and become a comfortable flesh-slipper. As I will not have a second slipper, I will then proceed to do the same to some other part of your body. Kidneys. Solar plexus. Ass. Genitals. Whatever. I will wear you as slippers, is what I’m saying, because increasingly, that’s all you’re good for.

You: You know what? The publishing industry doesn’t want my genius, fuck ’em. Gatekeepers! That’s what they’re called, right? They’re like flying babies with flaming swords keeping the riff-raff out of Eden — oh, ho, ho, but we have built our own Eden called self-publishing. Boom. Done. Just click publish! *rips shirt off, starts to tattoo that phrase on chest*

Me: Sure, because that’s what the audience needs. Just piles and piles of garbage floating around their book-shopping experience. You know why I go to a store? To buy products curated by that store. I go to Target because I want to buy a loaf of bread from approved bread-providers, not because I want to look through a thousand different breads from a thousand different amateur hour bread-makers that range from, “Okay, this could be good” to “Oh, someone poured a half-pound of all-purpose-flour in a dirty gym sock and hit it with a flamethrower.” You don’t see a shitpile and go and shit on it in order to make it bigger, do you?

You: What if I do?

Me: Weirdo.

You: Well, somebody doesn’t like self-publishing.

Me: Hey, shut up. I love self-publishing. It’s a fantastic option. It’s changed everything. I just happen to like author-publishers who treat this thing as if they’re goddamn professionals. I like self-publishers who want to compete with traditional publishing instead of competing with rats in an alleyway fighting over a spent condom. And being professional means taking it through all the steps to make your book the best book it can become.

You: Ugh, god, fine. I won’t send it off to agents and editors. I won’t just stick it up on Amazon with this really cool MS Paint cover I did of a velociraptor making love to a helicopter. (Spoiler: it’s called RAPTORCOPTER.) I will wait. And I guess you’re going to tell me I need to blah blah blah edit my book so flippity floppity floo it doesn’t suck or something.

Me: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you. Repeat after me: writing is when we make the words, editing is when we make the words not shitty.


Me: *kicks face, wears it like a slipper*

You: *whimper*

Me: Tomorrow, we talk about editing. Good day. I SAID GOOD DAY.


  • I’d like to say that I can’t believe people write a novel in November and then fire it off to agents and editors and what have you in December. But I know they do. And it makes me cringe and do the “apologetic smile face”. I have not done that, nor will I, regardless of how many years I’ve done NaNoWriMo. For Christ’s sake.

    Submit wisely, kids!

    • Amen. (I do wincey face) I appreciate the enthusiasm, but yeah… make haste… slowly.

      My NaNo Region is planning up follow up events such as – Finishing the first draft.
      Reviewing… You know… the easy stuff 😉

  • November 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM // Reply

    What Jen said.

    Have they no pride? I won’t even post samples of the WIP on my blog until they’ve had the holy hades edited out of them.

  • I’m actually looking forward to the editing part of my (non-NaNoWriMo) novel when I finish it because I already know I’m good at editing – other people’s stuff, anyway. For me, getting some stuff down on the blank page is the hard part. Making that stuff better, that is the easi(er) bit.

  • I have to keep reminding myself that this thing I’m writing, not fit for human (or any other) eyes, is just some fancy word vomit that will need lots of clean up. Thanks for theh reminder.

  • Not to mention that agents and editors go into hiding in December. They’re not necessarily in a bunker, but they’re not looking at queries or manuscripts. Which is probably wise.

  • I’ve been loving these ‘conversations’ thus far, and this one the most. And you know what I’d love to see on this blog? An interveiw w/your wife. Because I have a feeling life with you is quite interesting… =)

  • It just suddenly occurred to me that the novel that I have–literally–been working on for two years, is ready to go to agents at the same time as all the NaNo dross.

  • Chuck, I LOVED the “making your action figure characters do shit and say shit” analogy. That is darn near LITERALLY how the first draft of my current w-i-p looked (and still looks, from about Chapter seventeen onwards..!)

    I will admit to being baffled by that special kind of Premature NaNo-whatsit Ejaculation Syndrome though. If the same people completed a first draft of a novel in any other month that WASN’T November, would they still zip it off to publishers and agents with such reckless enthusiasm? Or if it took them November AND December to complete the same first draft instead of just the NaNo-required one (does the NaNo-magic ‘wear off’ after November, so that, like Cinderella after midnight, it then turns back into an ‘ordinary’ novel that might require a bit of tweaking?)

    Poor agents and publishers. They must already be packing their emergency rations and warm pjs.

  • Speaking as a copyeditor, I can definitely confirm that you DO want to go to a content editor first. I don’t care how good a writer you are, your work can always use another set of professional eyes story-wise. In the spirit of Chuck’s post, you’ve gotta wipe, flush and pull up your pants before you can go on your merry way, or it’s all gonna come to sh*t. 🙂

  • I don’t know about you, but I feel a little shocked by the fact that Wendig thinks his readers are dodos who send off novels willy-nilly the minute they get that NaNo-Winner badge. Personally I’ll wait a couple of weeks, or maybe three. Get a little closer to Christmas, you know. The editors will be in a charitable mood and hopefully hopped up on holiday-fudge… December 1st? Tss. What a bunch of clueless newbs.

  • As I told someone today, in these exact words (well, not exact as I was speaking Danish, but you get the idea): “Calling it good would be something of a stretch. But I now have a draft, which is more than I had a month ago.” For me, NaNoRhiNo is all about taking my story out for a test-drive. I get to play around with the characters, plot, setting, theme, important scenes, everything.
    Now, at the end of the month, I have a much better idea of what my story is about, than I had 30 days ago. I basically have a 50.000 word outline. I can not get down to writing the actual story. Some of the prose from this draft will even make it into the next draft.
    And if November had ended with me hating the story and deciding it was not worth continuing working on? *shrugs* It’s only a month. And I would have salvaged what I could from the manuscript and taken the rest as valuable experience.

  • I always thought that was an urban myth or something told to baby editors to make them go to bed on time. Because, c’mon, nobody can be THAT stupid.

    *laughs for eighteen minutes*

    Ahahaha… heehee… oof. So, am I the only one who wants to actually see some of these legendary early-December Nano submissions? Anyone know any editors or agents or slushpile readers we can bribe into giving us tidbits?

  • Can we just go back a minute- Target sells bread? What hell-realm aisle did I miss en route to comfy t-shirts and socks?

    I won’t be at the bunker come December 1, but I know a whole stack of horsefeathers, applesauce and watery excrement will be there waiting for me. I am not pleased about this fact, but having had this experience for the last several years has made it inescapable.

    It makes me want to hide. As does the idea that “December 1 is when everyone is going to do it, so I’ll wait until December 2”.

  • This is definitely something that should be on the NaNo website… You are totally right, of course, and more NaNoers should listen to this “advice” (more like rules of life)

  • Recently, after four rounds of edits and revisions, I thought my novel was ready to self publish. Throughout the process I cut it down from 100k – 80k words. Well, I self published it, and although I’m finding that people like the story…I’m getting comments that it has minor editing issues. Like it has been said, I think even if you’re determined to polish your work as much as possible, it’s incredibly hard to be able to see everything that is wrong with your own work. I like to think that my book, due to the large amount of effort I put into editing, is better than the general vomitus mass you will find where somebody didn’t even try to edit, but at the same time, I am quite sure it’s not at the same level as a professionally edited and published book. It’s a frustrating feeling.

  • Love this post up to the part where you never said much except NanoNoobs tend to get too excited when they finish.

    I’m all about that. I’m totally an idiot.

    Which is why I was SO thrilled to see you posted a post about the post-nano moment… WHAT NEXT.

    Except you never told me what next, except what not to do. And I love that. I do. This would have been mind-blowing a year ago. Today? I want to be smarter about it, want to hear from The Wendig on what YOU do when you finish your first-draft.

    Do you walk away and forget it for 6 months, like the stupid writing book things all say I should do, or do you start analyzing your overall story, immediately thinking about what would make it suck less and rage boners more?

    I’m hoping for option two. I’m just bummed you never really got around to THAT part. But hey as a bonus, I just bought the shit out of your nano bundle.

  • Hey Chuck! Love the post. I comfort myself by thinking that I’ve produced 50,000 words, in chapters, that from a long way away looks like it could be a novel. Yay me! But that’s only the start. If I want to *do* something with this 50k pile of paper and tears, I have to take the next step and edit, rewrite, and shape it into something others might want to read (or perhaps even buy).
    Absent that, it’s just a month’s worth of wordage that sort of resembles a novel but will only sit in my hard drive, along with my dandy certificate for “winning” NaNoWriMo.
    I’m not a winner until this thing is ready for the world. At best, getting through this month made me a contender, and that’s okay for one month’s work. Gotta see what I can do this month coming up and the month after that.

  • Looks like I picked the wrong NaNo Region… oh wait.. I picked the right one… we’re working on being a writing community that’s together post NaNo to work on all that easy editing/rewriting/polishing stuff. 😉

  • I know the “1 December submission” gets talked about almost as often as NaNoWriMo does, but I have to ask: how come no-one worries about this happening when the Labour Day weekend novel-writing contests happen? Surely a three-day novel contest invites a different kind of crazy in writers? Or are people worrying about that too, and it just doesn’t get the same publicity?

    It’s just hard to believe this is a major thing when there’s mentions of “editing later” in January or March (or the following summer) every other place you look on the NaNoWriMo site. A minor thing, sure, because there’s always someone. But not major.

  • *hides all the large envelopes and postage she bought*

    What huh?! No no no hahahaha I wasn’t going to use those to send manuscripts to publishers. That’s for . . . for Christmas presents! Yeah! That’s it! Christmas presents!

  • Write. Finish. Pat self on back. Print out copy. Place in drawer for one week. Begin rereading. Shriek and cover one’s eyes in horror at the passive voiced clichés littering the page. Put manuscript away. Take out again in two months. Red pen. Now the real work begins. Unless you spend too much time surfing writer’s blogs.

  • You should wait until closer to Christmas, then send the mss. out with a complimentary fruitcake. Agents and publishers love fruitcake. They are also partial to those massive tins of multi-flavored popcorn.

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