The negative side of NaNoWriMo

Are you amped up for National Novel Writing Month? Itching to start? Have your plot outlines, your character whatevers, your coloured pens and timelines tacked to the wall? All the research done, your pencils sharpened, alarms set for midnight, 1 November, all stocked up on coffee and chocolate? Lovely. I’m happy to hear it.

But …

Gather round, kidlets. We need to have a little talk about the negative side of NaNoWriMo (NaNo). Let’s just clear this up right away. I love NaNo, but it’s not without its faults. So,¬†for the love of the written word, the muse who brings us here, and every publishers’ sanity, keep a few things in mind.

50 000 words is not a novel
It just scrapes by. These days, people want more bang for their buck, that means more words per novel, not less, and unless you write a spectacular, mind-blowing, life-altering, never-before-seen book, no one’s going to publish it. You can publish it yourself, but don’t be surprised if sales are a little on the low side. True, novellas are published, but rarely – if you don’t have a big name to back it up, you need to write something that’s gonna set off fireworks, and that almost never happens.

Your NaNo novel is a first draft
It is not a marketable book. You can not, must not, should not, submit your first draft to a publisher. Ever! You can not, must not, should not, self publish your first draft. Ever! First drafts are for your eyes only, and maybe a close writing buddy who can offer feedback. For the love of all that is good and right in this world, take some time, put your NaNo novel aside for a month or two and wait. Come back to it with fresh eyes in January, then edit and redraft as needed. I know you probably think you’ve just written an earth-shatteringly good book, but odds are you didn’t. I know, I’ve had those thoughts myself. Looking back, I rather enjoy my naivety and often have a good, long, hard laugh at myself.

What you write in November is a first draft, and given that the rules state you shouldn’t go back and change anything, it’s probably not a very good first draft at that. So please, do us all a favour, don’t publish, or submit to a publisher, your first draft NaNo novel, especially if you’ve never written a novel before November. Publishers and readers will thank you for it.

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National Novel Writing Month

nanoSo, it’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month again. This year, as last year, I’m not fully prepared. I do not work with plot outlines, I draw timelines as I write, and I do research as I go along. I’m a stickler for facts, and if in doubt I’ll look it up. The exception being history, if I know I’m gonna work on anything historical I’ll do my research beforehand and make notes, but plotting the story before I start writing? Never. I tried that once. It didn’t work. Within an hour, my characters took over and ran riot. NaNo prep for me, is making sure I have enough coffee and chocolate in the house to keep me going.

Unlike last year, when I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I wanted to do until a day or so into November, this year I know exactly what I’m gonna write, and I’m excited about the project. That’s all I’m gonna say about it. I don’t particularly enjoy talking about works in progress.

While I can not give any pointers to help you prep for NaNo, I can talk about things that will help you through November.

You only have to write 1667 words a day
That may seem like a lot, but it’s really not. Currently, I write anywhere between 2000 and 5000 words a day. Last year though, 1667 words a day seemed like an almost impossible task. To make it easier, break your daily word requirement into chunks of 500 at a time. Get up an hour earlier and write 600 words, 500 during your lunch break, and another 600 before bed.

Just write
Don’t worry about getting it “just right” – perfection is nearly impossible anyway. You can worry about ‘nearly perfect’ during the editing phase. In November, your goal is to write, write, write – forget about spelling mistakes, syntax, grammar, tenses and whatever else the English language throws at you. After November, there will be enough time to go back and fix it (never use the backspace button).

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