Sunday, October 27, 2013

To NaNo or Not To Nano

Well here it is, the tail end of October, and here I am, staring down NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated -- when thousands of would-be* novelists commit to turning out the first draft of an entire novel.

Yes, thousands.  More than 150,000 are signed up on the official website.  And a bunch of us participate under the radar, too.  And there's even a Young Writers program that encourages 16 year olds to eschew A.P. Bio homework in favor of The Greater Good.  The NaNo motto, after all, is "The world needs your novel."

I think that NaNo purists actually start their novels on Nov. 1, but I am staring down a partial novel, and my thought is, let's do this thing! (With a gung-ho all-American "yee-ha!" plus a nod to all the chocolate chip ice cream this is going to entail.  Note that NaNo is not a slimming experience.)  Or not.

Here's the thing: I already have a way that I write novels, and having been raised as a somewhat superstitious person (somewhat? my grandma tied red ribbons on me to ward off the Evil Eye) I'm terrified to screw with it.  I mean, I tried NaNo once and I ended up with a bunch of prose that I was hugely excited about.  Until I had time to read it.

On the other hand, my way of writing novels involves rereading pretty much everything I've written daily before I write new stuff.  It involves putting my hands over my ears and going "neeeny-neeny-neeny" whenever anyone utters the word "outline."  It involves coming up with new and improved ways to tell the story up until moments before the book is printed.

There has to be a better way.

So all right, I'm spending every weekend in November other than Thanksgiving on the road at book festivals.  All right, so I can't finish the thing until I've talked with a hacker, a private detective, and someone driven out of Homeland Security due to a propensity to spill state secrets to eager YA writers.  All right, so hope springs eternal, and that spring does not feed the water park at the corner of Realistic and Sensible.

But the idea of having an entire draft finished by the end of November is just so appealing.

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question...

Does it work for you?

*1. (Yes, it's a footnote.  I'm an English major, sue me)  I'm two novels down (Afterparty will be here January 7th, huge squee!!!! moment) but when I have a blank piece of paper or screen or pristine Starbuck napkin in front of me, I am back to would-be and I stay would-be until I'm putting the final touches on a book.


  1. As a NaNoWriMo veteran (oooh... that makes me sound old!) with 7 drafts behind me and my fingers itching to get started on the next one, I would say do it. The travel stuff is no excuse: I was on the road for half November in 2012 and still hit 50K words. However, a book you have already started and care about may not be your best choice for a project.

    NaNoWriMo does work for me. But this is what it does: helps me to write fast, turn my imagination loose, run into the dark woods or dive in the dark water to see what's there, and really have fun writing. Some of the stuff I get this way is great, some of it is junk. All of it needs editing.

    NaNoWriMo is really fabulous practice. It's also a muse-magnet. A few years ago my writing was drying up, the book I was working on was dead in the water, and I was in despair. I gave myself permission to put it all aside and play for November, taking the NaNo challenge, and damn if my creativity didn't come back in a huge way as a result. So I adore NaNo and would always recommend it. It's my annual busman's holiday. But I also don't have to sell my writing to eat nor do I have any contracts to fulfill (yet).

    Good luck deciding what to do!

    1. Thanks for this! The idea of using NaNoWriMo to do something entirely new hadn't crossed my mind, I'm so focused on the current project, but...hmmmmm!!! Thanks!!!

  2. Na-ah, no NaNo for me. I'm just one of those who does not do so well with the crowd...
    But if having others word-count with you gets you going, take a deep breath and jump. What works for you is what you should do.

    1. I've actually enjoyed being on twitter when other writers have suggested an hour-long writing sprint. I liked what I came up with and I liked the sense of having company (in spirit) as I sprinted. But a month-long sprint -- I'm not so sure.

  3. Good luck to you if you do Nano! I've never thought it would be a good idea for me- too slow of a writer! =)

  4. I'm going to try it for the first time this year. I've had a novel I've been sitting on for far too long. It's time to kick it in gear for me and I hope NaNo will help.