Tuesday, November 30, 2010


For the last three years, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. I love the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month, which for Americans really isn’t a 30-day month because we have Thanksgiving thrown in there. It is hard, if not impossible to tell your family you can’t spend the four-day holiday with them because you have to write 1667 words (or more if you’ve fallen behind for some other reason) each of those four days. Who but another writer will understand that? Let us not even mention the after-Thanksgiving sales the three days following the day itself. Who wants to miss those?

No Outline, No Preconceived Notions

I don’t spend time outlining the book before NaNo starts, I don’t go back every time I open the document and edit, I don’t do anything but write. I don’t even know what I’m going to write about until November 1st, when NaNo starts, and I open a new document page. The results have surprised me year after year. I write cross-genre books, i.e., a mystery set in the future, etc. One year I wrote about six older friends. Another year I wrote a paranormal romance.

What am I Writing This Year? Who Knows?

As I write this in mid-November, I I don’t even know what genre to call it yet. I don’t know how it will end. One of the things that I love about NaNo is that I give myself permission to write whatever comes to mind. When I sit down to write my daily 1667 words, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. One morning, I killed off the main character’s second best friend. She needed to go - although I’m not sure why yet. I’ve introduced a character that I’m not sure whether she’s a good guy or a bad guy. I’ve got a character who may be the main character’s colleague and love interest, but maybe not. If he doesn’t shape up, she may drop him or I may kill him off.

Go with the Flow

I know several writers who get totally stressed over writing for NaNo. If they don’t write their 1667 words, they feel like they’ve failed. Heaven forbid that they not reach the 50,000 words by month’s end. That’s way too much stress for me. My first year doing NaNo, I don’t think I made 30,000 words. I was fine with that. I was happy knowing I had a heck of an idea for a good book. I finished that book over a year later and had 80,000 words. NaNo isn’t supposed to give you ulcers. Treat it like a month-long lesson in writing. Learn how to turn off that little editor sitting inside your head. Learn to go with the flow.

Agents and NaNo

I’ve seen agents ranting against NaNo on Twitter and in their blogs because they say too many people send their NaNo manuscript to them as is. It is hardly NaNo’s fault that writers do that. And agents rant year-round about people sending unpolished and unedited manuscripts to them. Writers need to heed agents’ advice about edit and edit again before sending your manuscript to an agent. Agents need to stop blaming NaNo for writers’ not listening to them.

Month’s End

Here we are at month’s end. I wrote my 50,000 words and then some. I had fun doing it and like the characters I created this time around. Will it ever be submitted? I don’t know. I only have 55,000 words. Maybe after I add another 20,000 words, I’ll have a novel. Maybe after I spend another four months editing and polishing, I’ll have something I can take to my critique group. Maybe after I make the changes they suggest I’ll have something I can submit to an agent or two.

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