Monday, October 26, 2009


As my writing friends are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo, and it's an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The biggest complaint I've heard (from publishing industry people) is that far too many of those writers then begin querying their novels on December 1st.

Those who know better (ahem *straightens lapels*) write another 20,000 words, minimum, then write several more drafts before declaring the novel complete. I participated for the first time last year and by November 30th I had 63,000 words. I didn't pick it back up until mid-summer, and I finished the first draft last month. Yes, I'm talking about After the Fall.

I've heard a lot of complaints about NaNo -- aside from the querying gripe -- and the most common is that "forcing yourself to write that many words daily" is just teaching bad habits. NaNo's manta is to let yourself write crap (or at least that's how I remember it) and these naysayers seem to think that no one is capable out a high daily output that's not crap.

Well I think that's crap.

Buzz on the street (ie the internet) is that professional writers, those who have a new book or two published every year, regularly write that much per day. 2000 words is roughly 6 pages, and if you're writing a 300-page book (*busts out calculator*) it would take 50 days to write 100,000 words. Now obviously most people won't keep up that pace, but even if you add a month or two extra, the quantity doesn't seem that far-fetched.

What I took away from NaNo is the knowledge that I can write 2000 words per day. Sure, I need to break my writing sessions into two or three sittings, and actually getting up from my desk is important, but I can do it.

That said, this year... I'm not doing it. I'm looking forward to the edits on "nanonovel08", as I lovingly called it while writing last November, and I'm not ready to start a new idea. To all of you who are -- GOOD LUCK!!


Adam said...

Thanks for the good luck. ;-)

This is my first year. I know I'm perfectly capable of writing 2,000 (and more) words a day, so I'm using it more as an exercise in routine. At the moment, my word counts are all over the place, ranging from 3,000+ to zero. Hopefully NaNo will help me raise the lower end a little. ;-)

As for submitting right after - pfft! I'd like to think that the first draft of the novel will be mostly finished (I'm hoping for around 80k), but I know it'll need a crap-ton of work after that. I are no foolz.

Also, *poke*


Janna Qualman said...

Good luck! To this year's NaNo'ers - to you with After the Fall - and to me with my WIP!

ElanaJ said...

Dude, I'm toying with turning NaNo into an editing month too. Problem is, I just did that for October, and I'm feeling burnt out on edits. I feel like I need to write. So I'm in.

Good luck on edits!

Melanie Avila said...

Adam, it's the routine that I needed help with too. Good luck!

Janna, good luck to you too!

Melanie Avila said...

Elana, I've somehow given myself an eternal cycle of edits, too. Maybe you need a break and should write.

JLC said...

Sending out positive writing vibes to this year's NANOers!! Good luck, but most important.. have fun!!

(Wishing they would make it JANONANO. November is one of my busiest months.)

Nadine said...

I will fully admit that I have commitment issues* and can't commit to Nano. I thought about it, but then I thought again and just know I wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace.

But I wish the best for everyone who is doing it!

*This is only in the case of Nano. I am fully committed to my wonderful husband. Just wanted to clarify.

Jenna said...

I agree Mel that the naysayers who say the only output from NaNo is crap are full of crap.

And really, someone said forcing yourself to write that many words daily is teaching bad habits??? Are they insane! Entrenching the habit of writing everyday is essential if we aspiring writers ever want to hit the big leagues.

I'm a big proponent of NaNo. What I wrote during NaNo '07 is some of my best stuff because I had to shut off the damn internal editor. And even though I bombed in '08 I still netted 16k on a new novel and actually feel like that too is some of my better work.

Now when I fret and ponder and think too much on it I don't write jack-crap.

NaNo, like everything other aspect or tool of writing, doesn't work the same for everyone--but that's not really a big "DUH!" is it :)?

What surprises me is how much crap is spewed toward NaNo. Sure some newbies do it and think at the end of the month they'll have something to send off but I guarantee the majority of those that do it do it to bust out that crappy first draft and then move on to the editing.

Anyway, after all that rambling...I've been thinking of doing it, maybe even unofficially or unannounced because it does help me get moving. But with all that we have going on with the job search and all I'm not sure it's such a smart move. I have a few more days to decide.

Natasha Fondren said...

Yeah, it sort of boggles my mind how people think 1,667 words a day is some mind-boggling, horrifying "hack" pace that produces only crap, LOL.

I've gotten pretty slow because I do a lot of editing while I'm working. This last one, I literally wrote two words for every word I kept, from about 60% of the way through and on. I stall out while I work through plot issues, and I often stop where I am to dig into the beginning or middle to "root" the scene I'm working on near the end. I re-read from the beginning and tweak and polish 4-6 times a week. I've come to wonder if, when I finish my story, it's the same amount of work people do in multiple drafts.

I either want one novel written and polished and finished, or two novels of crap I can fix later. But I'm doing this full-time and I'm sort of under the gun. I only have a year or two at this optimal lifestyle, unless I make more money. :-)

Melanie Avila said...

JLC, I hear that from a lot of people. The creators of NaNo explain that they chose November because "real writers" must know how to write when life makes it difficult, but come on!

Nadine, I don't think you needed to clarify. ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I'm so glad you get what I'm saying. I've left comments here and there whenever I see someone bad-mouthing it, but I realized I'd never really expressed my thoughts in an actual post. Learning how to be more efficient with your time and writing more isn't a bad thing.

Good luck if you do it unofficially!

Natasha, see ^^^. :) The way you write sounds like a lot of back and forth to me, but I'm sure if I wrote out my process it would sound equally confusing. What matters is that you are productive and finish what you're writing.

Robin said...

I agree. I think it's a great thing, if people can do it. You can always go back and fix it, but at least you've got something on the page to work with. I don't really understand the detractors. It seems a bit silly to denigrate it. (To me. But I am a bit silly.)

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, it really is silly.

(funny, I'm watching the Friends episode where Chandler and Monica talk about how much they like the silliness)

Aimless Writer said...

Yay Nano!
Stephen King wrote in his book "On Writing" that he writes 10 pages a day and doesn't get up till they're done. If he finishes by noon he gets the afternoon off, if he finishes by 5 p.m. then so be it. It's his thing and why he is such a prolific writer.
I think Nano is a great learning tool and it is possible to push out a book and turn crap into gold.
Sometimes no worrying about the fact that crap might be falling from your keyboard frees the mind to write what you need to write.

Erica said...

Thanks for the luck!

I could never imagine querying in December! I know it's going to be probably at least mid next year until I query anything!

63,000 words is great! I think you did it right, you wrote for November, put it away and went back to your other WIP, and got that one ready. I think that's what I'm going to do too.

I'm looking forward to seeing how I'm actually going to accomplish this goal, but I'm excited about my idea, so I'm sure it helps :)

Melanie Avila said...

Aimless, I'd forgotten that about King. Perfect example. I mean really, how can you expect to be a professional at something if you don't work hard at it? I love your point about crap falling from the keyboard.

Erica, good luck! Do you have the plot figured out yet?

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I think you could have your own following with NoNoNoNo Month! For real!

My problem with NaNo isn't the amount of work or words, it's that I am not always ready to start something on a particular day. For example, I'm rewriting and adding and deleting from the second half of my WIP - I have a personal goal for myself for a daily word count - with the novel being finished and ready for a full edit by mid-November. But, I couldn't wait until November 1 to begin, I was ready for this word-count craziness to start two weeks ago, so it did, for me. Some days I write nothing and other days I can write thousands of words. I tend to be a rebel too - so if everyone else is writing like a banshee I sit back.

I'm on track though, which is really all that matters!

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, I really wanted to do NaNo two years ago but I went home for half of November and I'd just finished the first draft of my first novel, so it just didn't work. Last year I planned for it because I was doing edits on that novel, and I forced myself to wait until Nov 1st. But I can see how that could be frustrating if you're trying to finish.

Erica said...

I do have my plot done. Now I'm outlining it. I'm excited about this one. Thanks for asking :) I hope I can get past 50,000 words!!

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, that's great!

Benjamin Solah said...

That is such a good point about pro writers writing that many words a day regularly.

We need a kick up the ass and a bit of delusional confidence one month a year and that's why I love NaNo.

Melanie Avila said...

Benjamin, I'm definitely impressed with those of you who do this every year. I'm sure I'll do it again, just not this year. Although it's looking like it'll be a NaNoEditMo for me. :P

Adam said...

Think I may not bother and do an AdzmoWriMo instead, since peeps keep moaning that I "cheated" for starting early. :-P

It's not as if I'd count the words I'd already wrote!


Melanie Avila said...

No! Still do it!!

Adam said...

I dunno, I'm kinda hurt right now...



Melanie Avila said...

How's about if I poke you?