Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNo or NaNot?

by Pamela

I can’t believe it’s already November. Seems just yesterday my kids were discussing what to be for Halloween. Now, with thoughts bending toward Christmas, it’s hard to think of shopping when it’s 70 and sunny today in north Texas.

Today is a perfect day to write.

Today is a perfect day to begin writing a novel.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to write a novel, there are thousands of folks out there who can say, “It only takes a month.”

I wrote my first manuscript in a month. I let the idea marinate for more than a year, but once I committed to writing it, the story flowed and a month later I had about 70,000 words in a file. They weren’t all good words, but they were there. The editing process took a lot longer and now that story is tucked away after I realized that, not unlike parenting a first child, I had learned and made my mistakes on that one. And, even though I love it dearly (again, like my first child!), it probably isn’t meant to be published. (The first-child analogy stops here; mine turned out great in spite of my pitfall-parenting.)

A few weeks ago I posed this question to my fellow women writers of this blog: Who is doing NaNo? Julie, Joan and I had met for lunch, and Julie mentioned she was going to NaNo. Having successfully completed her goal of 40K on a manuscript two years ago, she was ready to NaNo again. Having unsuccessfully participated in it last year, I was ready to try again. Joan had not tried it (although having considered it) and decided she’d up her usual writing goal in the spirit of the event.

NaNo is short-shorthand for NaNoWriMo which is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. According to the official Web site (, NaNo is a fun, write-on-the-fly approach to writing a novel. Participants start November 1 (see, you are already a day behind if you haven’t started) with the goal of completing a 175-page book or 50,000 words by November 30. It began in 1999 when Chris Baty and 20 others in the San Fransisco Bay area decided to band together and each write a novel. Ten years later, the idea has grown into quite a literary free-for-all.

The goal here is quantity over quality. You don’t edit as you go, which is something I struggle with. You give yourself permission to make mistakes, take risks and embrace your reckless side. Be uninhibited. Have fun. And take comfort in the fact that there are 150,000 other crazy people in more than 90 countries doing the same.

NaNo organizers track participants' progresses via their Web site (and list fun write-ins by area), predicting an 18 percent success rate. And if you need validation that good does come out of NaNo, look no further than Sara Gruen, whose NYT best-seller Water for Elephants began as a NaNoWriMo novel.

So, we at What Women Write are all participating on some level. I know Elizabeth has already weighed in this morning with her word count for yesterday: 1862! on a new story. My goal is to finish a manuscript I started some time ago but haven’t touched for months, other than to weave it into a short story. I have about 13,000 words, so I have set a goal of completing the story—however many words it takes. Joan is going to add to her WiP (work-in-progress) and so are Susan and Kim. Julie’s goal is adding 50K words to her current manuscript.

Whenever you commit to putting words to paper, it’s more fun when you have support. Maybe you have a family member or friend who enthusiastically gives you positive reinforcement or offers a hug when the words just won’t flow. Support and encouragement can make a huge difference in your writing. If you don’t have a cheerleader or you don’t want anyone to know you are writing, finding online support via NaNo might just be what you need.

I know we’ll have a huge morale boost mid-stride when we all head to a cabin for our inaugural writing retreat. The six of us are going to hole-up for a long weekend of writing. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

How about you…are you on board for NaNo or some version of frenzied writing for November?


  1. I'm in. As of a few minutes ago, I am 3,992 words into my WIP, 984 of them done today in the interstices of the work world. I want to boost that to 2,000 before the night is done. I've never NaNo-ed before, so this is all very exciting. I'm sandara_bc at NaNo, and I'd be delighted to cheer you on.

  2. I greatly fear I would only end up rewriting everything I did during NaNo. Iit goes against my every instint to write that way - hence the reason I'm merely trying to get to a certain point in my WIP.

    With two small children, life gets in the way far too much to make that kind of goal, IMHO.

  3. Wow, Sandra! Keep it up!

    Kim, we all work differently, and it's just nice to have a doable goal to work toward, isn't it? As we don't have bosses breathing down our necks on deadlines (some of us ... not yet, anyway!), it's good to be accountable, even if it's simply to yourself or your fellow writers.

    I'm checking in to say I haven't written a single new word yet toward that 50K! Oops. I did spend the day reviewing what I've already written and kind of working up a game plan, though. I tend to work harder the closer I get to my deadline as opposed to breaking things up logically. Silly me. But it worked the last time, so if it ain't broke, as they say...

  4. Taking a break to chime in. I'm at 1,276 for the day, but I didn't write yesterday.

    Kim, I expect many of the final words will be chopped, but it's a good exercise (for me) to write a draft without editing every word before I move on.

  5. WAY TO GO JOAN! I'll cheer you and everyone else on even though I'm setting a much more modest goal. I got about 400 words today, but they are good quality words, and so I'm happy.

  6. Not only am I participating (and I wrote last night! I did! Up to 3951 words in two days, woo hoo!), both my kids are. They've set their goals for 2K and 5K words, and I'm pleased to say they are both ahead of schedule (Lucky for me, since computer ills have forced me to let them dictate in the interest of time and sanity for all of us) and really excited. Heads-up to all you mom and dad writers out there: they can set their own word goal AND if they meet it, NaNo lined up a company to print an ARC of their work. Not a bad deal, and how many nine-year-olds have their own "published" book? We're excited! And I plan to hit the keyboard again tonight for my daily minimum of 1500 words.

  7. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the reminder about the youth portion of NaNo. I remembered your mentioning it to me earlier and I forgot to write about that option. Yea for your kids!

  8. I'm cheering you all on. I've some modest writing goals I'm tossing in for completion by the 23rd, the day I head to California for two weeks.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...