As the month of NaNoWriMo looms in the near future, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the one time I did it – and won – why I don’t do it every year, and what I’d suggest to those who want to succeed with it.
Here’s the thing: you can NoWri every day. Novel writing need not be packed into a month a year. However, for some of us, the sheer challenge of the thing is a great way to kick start the project at hand into action, or to complete something you started and haven’t been able to finish, or simply as a social event where for a while, writing is socially acceptable and even laudable.
The year that I did NaNo, at the request of my eldest daughter, I was working full time in an office, and I used my lunch break for a lot of the writing. I could fit about a thousand words, fingers flying madly over the keyboard of my decrepit laptop, into that hour. The rest of my two thousand daily word goal was done late at night, when the kids were in their beds. I didn’t stop to edit, or overthink what I was writing, I just wrote.
In the end, I had a manuscript that was longer than anything I’d ever written, and one that was very close to completion. Sure, it’s a YA novel so it didn’t need to be 100K words long, but for me it was enough to call it a novel. That broke me of the habit of saying “I can only write short stuff.”
I can still – and do, on occasion, like the flash fiction piece I put on my blog this week – write the short stuff. But as an independent publisher, the short stuff isn’t where the money is. And this is why you should make every day NoWri day. If you want to be successful in this business, you need to have quantity. Quality comes with time, and practice, and not writing is not practicing.
Personally, I haven’t done a NaNoWriMo since Vulcan’s Kittens simply because I started school the year after. I haven’t had the brainpower to write, and do school, and work, and… all the other stuff that is a vital part of life. Which hasn’t stopped me from writing at other times of the year. If the schedule for NaNo doesn’t work for you, do NOT let it stop you from writing. If all you can manage is a few hundred words a week, keep at it. You’ll get there in time, as the hare said to the tortoise.
For me, right now, fitting a few weeks of writing like a madwoman (current personal best was 10K words in a day. My arms were numb, but it was totally worth it) in between semesters seems to be working best. I simply haven’t time or brainpower to spare from homework in school. I keep thinking that will change, but if anything as I enter my Senior year, it’s worse. Like most of you, I have a family that would like some of my time, too.
I am blessed, however, with a family that (mostly) understands what I’m doing. I had a lovely moment yesterday where my son was telling me that he was reading Vulcan’s Kittens (he wasn’t old enough to read when it came out. Good heavens how time flies!). He wanted to know if I plan a third book in the series, and when I assured him I did, he lit up and told me what he wanted to see in that book. So now I have notes, and my marching orders… Then, he asked me “can you send me that book? The man, the dog, and the spaceship?”
“Sure honey, who wrote that… Oh. You mean you want my book?”
Yes, he did, and I was thrilled, and sorry to have to tell him it’s not finished yet. Maybe I do need to do NaNo this year!
It’s these moments that keep us all writing. Writing sucks, sometimes, and it’s hard, and there are much more important things we could be doing, like washing the houseplants or dusting the bookshelves. Rotating the cat (but not on a spit!) or… But then you take the dog for a long walk, and this character waltzes into your head, sits down, leans forward with that intent look on their face…
“Write me. Write me, or I will haunt your every waking moment and wake you up in the night. Write me…”
I really enjoyed Vulcan’s Kittens. Yay for NaNo giving you the opportunity to finish it. I’ve done NaNo – both formally and informally. One year a friend and I were too busy in November, so we did what I called HoHoWriMo in December. This year my September was free, so I used my NaNo skills to write like a madwoman and finish a book I’ll put out next year. Some of the books I’ve done were worth it and I went on to finish them. Others are still hovering at the place where I stopped on 11/30. I think it’s an awesome exercise in how to write quickly and not worry over every single word. Editing is for after. =o)
That’s an excellent point – and one that most writers need to learn to apply to their daily writing. Strip away the editor hat, just like when you’re rushing to make the NaNo goal, and what you write will be fresher, more energetic, and the better for not having been second-guessed every step of the way.
That’s why I do NaNo. Shut the editor up and write every day. The structure, the bloody stupid graph, keeps me on track. I really hate admitting that I need it . . . but one month a year really seems to help my over all production.
I’m the same way. I’ve gotten better at keeping myself on a schedule and writing/editing every day, or close to it, but Nano really gives me a kick in the butt. Last year I kept up the production long after November because Nano helped get me back into the habit.
NaNo. No doubt named for its Orkian origins.
I don’t have characters haunting me to “write them”, but Betsy does. Shows my wriiting skill isn’t into the fiction.
Not that I won’t write “The Great American Novel” someday. Unfortunately no one reads such literary dreck except a bunch of people I don’t really care if they read it or not. On the other hand,what is “The Great American Novel” anymore? There are no great Americans to write it about — they are all American-plus or American-minus anymore.
But yes, sometimes you need to let the editor take a break while you write, and then turn it over to him when you are done, and not before. Goes for non-fiction as well. Even this term paper that isn’t going to write itself today
I hear you on the paper… I have one I need to be working on, but instead I was writing for my blog.
Paper is due tomorrow, started it last night — though I spent the whole week stewing about what my “ethical action plan in an organization” was going to focus on. Now I can write it, and then go back in and put the sources in later — once I find which class readings I pulled them all from — sounds backwards, I know….
Enjoy your paper!
I have this same problem. I need a secure container to lock my editor in for the duration. I’m stuck in a recursive loop. The more I write the longer it takes me to re-edit it every time I sit down, until no time is left to write and the story stalls.
A problem I solved by learning to edit on the fly. At this point, my first draft is very nearly final draft. It may get more added to it later, but it does not require revision or major edits. This made the editor in my head happy and made me a much better writer.
Can I count words for lesson plans and tests toward my NaNoWriMo total? No? Bummer. But yeah, when I can write in solid chunks for an hour or two, or a day or two at a stretch, no editing, just go, boy can I be productive. It’s making myself work when I only have an hour or two that is so difficult.
I have that trouble, too. Especially as I’m always tired when I get those pieces of time.
I may have to do something like “no ‘Net till 1000 words” or something drastic. (After papers are graded, lessons are written, handouts are prepared . . .)
And that is the other problem. :o)
Hmmm. I wonder if November is a good month to start writing the second book in a series? Or whether I should take the whole month to carefully turn into my system everything I learned from Book 1 (about to be published) so that Book2 2 and 3 don’t take so darn long to write?
Problem is, give me a deadline – and I immediately look like the thing in the headlights you don’t want on your road: I freeze.
Oh, well. It’ll get done when it gets done.
Well, I decided to unofficially do this thing. See how much I can produce in November, since October has been just one thing after another (some real, some excuses).
I have the problem that if I officially sign up for something, I too easily go into a guilt spiral if I get even slightly off track. That doesn’t cut it either…
BTW, that waking up in the middle of the night I think I have licked. Wake up, telegraph down on the pad that is always next to me, go back to sleep. Works when just running around, too. (I just had this afternoon about 45 minutes of “sitting around waiting” time – and wrote down about 2/3 of a chapter’s scenes.)
The portfolio (or mini recorder, or phone with recording, or what have you) is probably one of the most essential and cheapest possible tools for a writer.
Please report how the November goes – I find it fun to watch OTHER people with deadlines; me, they crush.
I did what I wanted: my latest blog post is the softest of launches for my first book, and I hope to have it up for sale BEFORE November, and then go back to writing IN November.
I finally got to the point where it was all done except for the mopping up details part – and started mopping. I think the Journals I kept on every aspect of the process have about 10 million words in them. Enough is enough. I’m a writer, not a publisher/marketer/jack of all trades. Though it’s been a LOT of fun.
I’ve done it a few times.
One taught that I should never ever ever rush the outline to have it read, which has been a limited factor.
But I’m ready this year.
I’ve never officially participated, but I did use it to push out a chunk of writing a few years back. This year we are talking about using it to start on book 2. Since #2’s structure is almost a collection of ‘novellas’, we’re hoping to get at least one set done. (Okay, I want to do the story about the dragon first, never mind that it is halfway through the book.)
Do what’s in your head, you can always shuffle when you have everything ready.
Does anyone use scrivener? Is it worth learning how to work it or just another way to waste time instead of writing.
I do have trouble staying organized.