NaNoWriMo

The best books start here.

NaNoWriMo

keyboard-on-fireAnother November is upon is, and, as I’m sure you savvy writers know, that means it’s once again time for NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month, for those afraid of acronyms).

Agents and editors sometimes cringe when we think of NaNoWriMo, because we envision a gigantic pile of rushed, ill-conceived manuscripts being wheeled our way. And let’s be honest–in the case of first-time writers blasting out 50,000 words in one month, this is probably pretty accurate. Before everyone gets upset and starts shouting that NaNoWriMo is about inspiration and enthusiasm more than craft and you’re not supposed to be completing something perfect, let me say that I get it: I know that the fun and excitement and cheerleading can really help motivate writers. And I think it’s great, I really do.

But.

I can also say, going on what I remember from the Query Holiday that we put on at my former agency last December, that many people set their keyboards aflame and sent the resulting charred manuscript out into the world with nary a thought for editing, restructuring, or any other “ing” needed to make a first draft something more. And that’s typically a very bad idea.

So this year, I propose that if you’re going to go through with NaNoWriMo (and you totally should), you should think of also doing a JaNoEdMo (January Novel Editing Month), where you take a month away from your masterpiece and get second opinions from yourself and others. And maybe then you can do FebNoReMo (February Novel Revising Month) or even MarThroONo&StarOMo (March Throw Out That First Novel and Start Over Month), where you use the motivation you built up on your first novel and work on a second, better idea, now that you have more of the tools to do it.

How many of you will be participating this year, and does anyone have any success stories from previos NaNoWriMos to share?

  1. Bravo. I completely agree with you on this one. Nicely put.

    I have a NoWriLi (Novel Writing Life) in which I write everyday already, so this month I’m doing NaSuPerMo. Which has a much cooler acronym.

    Reply

  2. I’m doing it this year, but it is primarily for me to get of my lazy writing backside and do something. I tend to get stuck in editing mode and forget about moving on to the next project.

    Reply

  3. Thanks, that’s very useful. I’d been wondering what the profesional agents might think of NaNoWriMo – and was kind of picturing you huddled under your desk.

    I’m taking the position that the novel I am writing for the month (my first time participating) is one that I never would have written otherwise, so it’s only purpose at this point is to strengthen my writing muscles. If what I produce turns out to be worth revising and submitting, based on feedback from readers, then… bonus.

    Reply

  4. People really submit their NaNo writings as is? Yikes.

    Some writing buddies and I are spending this month doing what we’re calling NahNoWriMo: like NaNoWriMo only Nah. Specifically we’re dumping whichever rules don’t fit our individual purposes and using the marathon as an excuse/incentive to get ourselves writing consistently. For me, it’s about getting back onto a schedule and making progress on a nonfiction book; for others, it’s about committing time to poetry, fan fiction, a novel already in progress, blog posts, even transcribing research material. We’re taking the motivation and mutual support aspects, plus the push to get through the first draft and edit later, and customizing the project to what’s best for each of us.

    Reply

  5. I completed three NaNoWriMo’s, ’05, ’06, and ’07–just to get a whole first draft down on paper. I really gets you into the flow of sitting down to write.

    Those novels are still waiting for second drafts, character development, arcs, plot, threads, scene, structure, and you-name-it editing. They have only met the eyes of trusted friends that have no problem with honest critiques.

    Last year, I decided not to participate. Since I have so much material that needs editing, I thought I’d use the month of November to work through them. *sigh* There is something to that deadline that is motivating.

    By the way, there *is* a NaNoEdMo in March. The idea being to work your November novel –provided you haven’t already submitted it. ;)

    ~Leni

    Reply

    • @Leni: Thanks for the info on the real NaNoEdMo. I should have known it already existed :-)
      @Kellie: I love the idea for the NahNoWriMo. Sounds very productive!

      Reply

  6. I’m not participating. I’m nearing the end of my first draft of a YA novel I’m crazy excited about. There was no way anything was going to take me away from that. However, I’m in awe of people taking on the challenge and wish each and every one of my NaNoWriMo writing friends the very best of luck.

    BTW: My latest post is on the same subject. It’s titled: NaNoWriMo…NOT! or I Totally Don’t Rock. ;-)

    (I’m tweeting this post, btw.)

    Reply

  7. Good luck to Krystal and Karin!

    My advice: if you get stuck and need more words, throw in a conversation. For some reason they add to the count like crazy. :)

    ~Leni

    Reply

  8. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, but only as a much-needed break from working on my “real” manuscript. I was getting too close to the story, circling it nervously instead of working on it – not a good mindset. So I’m taking the month off to write a ridiculous, not-to-be-published mystery caper to get myself out of the funk.

    Reply

  9. Your post made me laugh. I’m participating this year, but I have no plans to send my agent the results until I’ve had a few months to edit and hack away with a chisel.

    Reply

  10. I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. I tend to get stuck in the loop of editing as I go. I like each bit to be polished and perfect before I go on to the next one. I end up reworking the same chapter umpteen times before I move forward with the next one. The challenge for me here is to not go back and read what I’ve written, just keep going, knowing that the editing will come later.

    Reply

  11. Fantastic post, Chris!

    Reply

  12. NaNoWriMo isn’t all that appealing to me, but that’s just a personal thing. My challenge isn’t to finish a novel. Nor is it to write every day. I also know what happens when I write just to get the words out. It fills me with the toxic brew of frustration and self loathing. I like to know where my project is going, and I like to hit the notes I’m aiming for along the way (though new notes always work their way in).

    So, I prefer to use the month to accomplish one goal that supports my own growth as a writer. Last year, I finished a draft of a novel. It was a mess and I knew I’d sort of missed the boat on my main character. But finishing was a discipline in and of itself. This year, I’m spending November doing plotting and character development for something I’m really excited about, so that I don’t take a good idea and insert a half-baked protagonist yet again.

    I forced myself to wait till yesterday to start, so I had lots of pent-up enthusiasm. It was one of my best creative days ever. They won’t all be like that, but I do think I’m going to love this month. The only pressure is to come up with cool ideas and details, and think loosely about how they might come together in a story. To me, that is no pressure at all.

    I guess what I’m saying is, use the month to serve you. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing to benefit from the momentum and group support. You just have to know what you need and give it to yourself.

    Reply

  13. I’m participating, but I have for the last…uh, seven years? I never send my first draft out. I know that I’m a rock star writer. *dead pan stare* However, in the first draft, there are a few missed periods, and sometimes I forget to spell words correctly. You know, a few MINOR things that need tweaked.

    Well, and there’s the the character take-overs, and the 387 SIGHs, and the 617 SMILES, countered by the 456 FROWNS, and the five chapters of dialogue at the same table and the–

    Yeah, I never send out the first draft.

    Reply

  14. No, I’m too close to the final revision on my manuscript and I’m in the middle of moving as my lease is up November 30.

    I understand the concept and if it helps people get in the habit of writing every day, I’m all for it. I think there are far too many who go, “Phew! I did it. Now where did that agent list go.”

    Writing Far Rider was easy. The umpteen rewrites that came later were solid labor and each good book requires those rewrites.

    Reply

  15. This is my first year to participate. I had been revising another novel and getting bogged down. I decided NaNo would be refreshing, if scary. The night before it started, I got panicked since all I’ve got is characters and story idea–no solid research or outline or anything. But then I had a very calming realization that my story is about a family and that’s what I will get down in rough draft during this month. The rest can be added in revision. So on this second day (yikes, long way to go) I’m feeling so on fire I even blogged about it. We shall see.

    Reply

  16. I feel for agents who have to slog through rough enthusiasm. NaNo is like a good habit gone bad.

    I was all gung-ho about NaNo, started writing, and was immediately derailed by an important phone call. I figure if I don’t get the story done by November 30, then so be it. I can still finish it — and do so correctly!

    They should also have NaNoQuerWriMo – National Novel Query Writing Month, which would logically come after the other months you propose.

    May you have the best of luck in December!

    – Julie

    Reply

  17. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo every year since 2006. In fact, my 2006 story is represented bt the world’s most fabulous agent. **wink wink**.

    I think the moral of that story is I didn’t seek representation until 2008; after multiple rewrites, revisions, and several crit group thrashings.

    Reply

  18. Do people really submit their Nanowrimo stuff? As in they admit they wrote it during Nanowrimo and sent it to you the first week of December? I’ve heard of some writers actually getting book deals with their Nano books but I always assumed they revised it for a year before submitting.

    I’ve participated in Nanowrimo in the past and the thing will forever remain in a drawer. I had a blast though. It’s pretty liberating to just write without any expectation of quality. You can come up with some pretty good ideas that way.

    This year I’m participating in spirit by trying to revise my WIP to the point of being ready for beta-readers. But I do love Nanowrimo.

    Reply

  19. Anyone motivated to write by a bunch of other people writing probably shouldn’t be a writer. It’s not a group-y kind of career. The job is to keep writing when you have no support, no contract, no connections, and when you’re being sneered at, dismissed and rejected.

    Writing with cheerleading? It’s like gardening with a Souza band.

    Reply

  20. I tried last year with a regional group that met weekly to report our progress and “encourage” each other. Within two meetings, I discovered I’m not the NaNoWriMo type. I dropped out of the group, few of whom ever had attended writers conferences or belonged to actual critique groups, and most of whom shared their opening pages that were extensive descriptions of either main character or setting or both.

    I still work periodically on last year’s idea, but I’ve had to rewrite a lot of what I gushed out quickly.

    Reply

  21. You have to admit, NaNoWriMo is one scary acronym.

    I’ll be participating in the frightful-acronym-month for the first time, only because I have this novel idea the just won’t leave me alone, as I’m busily working on edits for my first book. Maybe 30 days of writing will exorcise the demon from my head, and I can get back to work on the first one!

    Reply

  22. I would really like to garden with a Sousa band. That is all.

    Reply

  23. I’m particpating in NaNoWriMo & agree with everything you just wrote! I use Nov as a little gas to get inspired!

    Reply

  24. I’m not participating, but only because I can’t stand typing “NaNoWriMo.”

    Reply

  25. Wow. I’m new to NaNoWriMo and am not going to finish. I am thorough to a fault and hope my idea works and if it does I want to plan it and pefect it and edit and revise. I just need NaNo to start me off planning and writing. I need the fellowship.

    Reply

  26. Ditto Cole, but with my 2007 story. I’d say about 20% of those original 50,000 words still exists. Still in revision — still getting better.

    Reply

  27. I did it last year and went through the month viewing what I wrote as practice and only practice. If the novel came out with potential, I’d rewrite the whole thing from scratch. I’m attempting it again this year with the same attitude.

    Reply

  28. This is my first year of nano and after I finish I’m going to edit like crazy. My inner editor is trying to kill me.

    Reply

  29. I’ve been lucky enough to have sold my last two NaNoWriMo books, but not until after putting them through the wringer with edits and just walking away for a few weeks to let them simmer.

    There’s nothing wrong with walking away, letting it all congeal in your mind, then coming back and seeing if it’s as good as you thought when you finished it. Never send it out in December unless it’s from the year BEFORE!!!

    Reply

  30. I’m in query mode with a polished novel and needed to get writing to take my mind off the wait. It was a great thing to do! I’m totally engrossed and excited about the writing side of writing again. I think the motivation factor is key. I thought about not doing it… but as a writer, every time I get an invitation to write, I can’t seem to turn it down. :)

    Reply

  31. I am doing pretty much what Anna Claire is — using NaNo as a break from a more serious project. So far it’s just what the doctor ordered.

    I am absolutely boggled at the idea that anyone would think that a first draft they banged out in a month would be suitable for even the most forgiving of crit groups, let alone publishing professionals. I am a sad kitty now. :(

    Reply

  32. great advice! I ‘ve always dreamed of publishing a book, I’m using this month as a way to make writing a priority on my scheldule and i do well when i’m accountable, I know the outcome may need m,ore work.

    Reply

  33. Wow. I can’t imagine a NaNoWriMo manuscript being ready for several heavy edit and congealing months after the “contest” has ended.

    Someone asked one of the other agents if they noticed a spike in December from this (I think it was Janet Reid) and she said she got more novels in January from New Year’s Resolutions… I think. I found it interesting that there was a spike then.

    I’ve been peeking around at people’s ages and I see a lot of people under the age of twenty-one participating. NaNoWriMo is probably a good opportunity to get that first big boost of writing done.

    Anyway, I’m doing it, but I’d be writing about that much in a month anyway, so I feel like a cheater for having insomnia every night.

    Reply

  34. Ha. I mean, r e a l l y.

    Writing is hard enough as it is!

    Yikes. I mean, Yanks. Go Yanks!!

    Reply

  35. Bah! Wyh shold i waist my time edting and rivisng? Thats’ what editrs r 4!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  36. I’m not participating. It seems too manic a process for me; however, the comments posted about using it to force yourself into a writing routine sounds smart to me. Maybe I’ll participate (late) and informally . . .

    Reply

  37. For the record, I too, would like to garden with a Sousa Band.

    Reply

  38. The other three women in one of my critique groups are doing NaNoWriMo and are doing great so far. I’m not as I want to finish revisions on my YA ms but followed the same principles when I wrote it in Sept – I did 2,000 words a day until I was finished. My third draft will go to my crit group in Dec. and then I’ll do another draft in Jan. and see what it looks like. I’m hoping to start querying in March so we’ll see. Good luck to all the NaNo’ers. :)

    Reply

  39. This is the first good news I’ve stumbled on! I already did this verbatim last year! I am sooo relieved!

    And thanking my wonderful group of English major friends for helping me hone it all those many, many, many, many… weeks!

    I’m FINALLY ready to send it in! You will see it soon! I think you’ll like it! ;)

    Reply

  40. […] NaNoWriMo – Upstart Crow Literary Agency […]

    Reply

  41. I’m participating and working on a novel I first started in 2000 or so.
    Writing in a different genre is quite inspiring.
    I’m really enjoying the ride.
    However, NaNoWriMo keeps bringing Mork from Mork & Mindy to mind…
    I keep thinking “NaNo, NaNo!” which makes me think of “Nanu, Nanu!”
    Very scary!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>