Greetings fellow writers. It’s officially September which means it’s just two months until November. For many, the month of November means turkey dinners, family get–togethers, and the kick-off to the official Christmas shopping season.
If that wasn’t enough, for authors, scribblers, story tellers and aspiring big-name authors (heh), November also means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s often called.
What is NaNoWriMo? It’s a month-long writing challenge. Each participant pledges to pen 50,000 words in 30 days. Some won’t make it. But many will. Participating in the challenge is key though, for many reasons.
First, the author learns to write fast. With a goal of 50,000 words in one month, there isn’t much time for vacations or goofing around. It’s a self-imposed deadline, but think of it this way. What if your novel was accepted by a publisher and they wanted edits done in the full manuscript in 30 days? Say they had a lot of edits. Edits that would take time to complete. And there’s a timeline. Well, here’s your practice round. If that happened could you re-write the first ten chapters, change the ending, and insert a new middle – say roughly 30,000 words or more – in one month? NaNoWriMo gives one a sense of that ticking clock.
Second, the author learns to write in quantity. You don’t necessarily have to write fast to complete NaNoWriMo. For some, sixteen hundred words a day is pretty slow. But if you wanted to, you could write 10,000 words a day for five days and be done. Or 5,000 words each for ten days and then hang up the pen. What would it matter? It’s about quantity. Now, 50,000 words for me is a couple of good sized novellas. Or maybe three short stories. Or four. But for others, 50,000 is a scant half a novel. For those, putting these many words down on the page – the ones that have been kicking around in their head for eons – is the real challenge. Quantity, quantity, quantity is as good a mantra as location, location, location in that case!
Thirdly, the author learns to ignore quality. Yep. Don’t go back and edit every day. Just hold your nose and bash out that first draft. Or in my case, maybe more than one. I still have a Harlequin romance I wrote in 2011 sitting on my hard drive. It’s done at 50,000 but it’s not edited. In fact I haven’t touched it since the end of November that year! But it’s complete. And some day, I’ll go back and take this very same idea and re-write it. Bring it to life again, but bigger and better. With more pizazz and using the tools I’ve learned since then to re-create the story. Keeping in mind that things have a tendency to grow in subsequent drafts… I’m currently on the third draft of a science fiction romance that started out at 15,000 and is now 26,000. But it needed to be fleshed out. Believe me. And don’t worry. The first draft you complete during NaNoWriMo may sit in your hard drive for the next five years as well. That’s normal. It’s doing the bang-it-out job of the very first draft that’s the first stepping stone toward its publication.
Lastly, the author learns how to achieve a goal. In some cases, to finish a story. In others, to write half of the whole. In my mind, I don’t see myself sitting down to write a 50,000 word piece. Nope. Sorry. I have learned my limits. I get nervous beyond the gates of the novella. Even considering 80,000 makes my muse shake in her boots. Really! So what’s wrong with completing the first draft of two or three stories as your NaNoWriMo goal? For a short fiction writer like me, my NaNo goals might look something like this:
- 1. Science Fiction romance – 15k – robot story.
- 2. Contemporary romance – 10k – expand and add second story to initial short read or use as book 2 of a series.
- 3. Book 3 in FF series – 25k – finish the series as envisioned.
- 4. OR — book 2 in the MM bull riding series – 25k – and plan out book 3.
Whew. I only used the word “plan” once. See how I snuck that in there? Well with NaNoWriMo it doesn’t matter what style you favor. You can pants or you can plot. Your choice. I’m not a plotter, I’m more of a general-idea-where-this-story’s-going kind of gal. X happens to Y and then Z is the outcome.
But see how I did that? I didn’t commit to writing 50,000 words of one work and you don’t have to either. Will I write 50,000 words if I participate? Sure. Look at the list. If I happen to write the science fiction romance before November, I’ll just move to the next project on the list. The list might even grow before then, offering me more to choose from. Who knows when you’ll get gob-smacked by a plot bunneh and have to write for your life, eh?
It happens to everybody. Which is why I think you should be flexible with yourself. Write 50,000 total. Achieve the goal. But don’t bite off a bigger single nibble than you can chew. You have a writing size, whether you know it or not. Commit to your size and feel the freedom! Aaahhh.
By the way, another NaNoWriMo story: in 2008 I started a vampire novella, but got stuck half way. You guessed it – without a plot! So I stopped writing that story and began a historical romance. I got partway through that one and realized one day while I was in the shower that I’d written myself into a corner with the character’s ages. I still have that one my hard drive as well. At some point, I gave up on both and started a fanfic story from Ghost in the Shell. When the month was over I’d written 50,000 words but it was all mish-mash. Still, they weren’t wasted words. Every word you write counts. Every word you write teaches you. That’s my mantra!
I’ve won NaNoWriMo in 2008, 2010 and 2011. I am doing it again for 2013. I encourage you all to join me if you have time!
Eva Lefoy writes and reads all kinds of romance, and is a certified Trekkie. She’s also terribly addicted to chocolate, tea, and hiking. One of these days, she’ll figure out the meaning of life, quit her job, and go travel the galaxy. Until then, she’s writing down all her dirty thoughts for the sake of future explorers.
Riding the waves of a sugar high, Violet Cunningham seduces the town’s newest pastry chef, slathering him with whipped cream in his secret kitchen. But all that is made of sugar melts, and her brazenness vanishes soon after their tryst, leaving her battling old insecurities about her waistline and appetites, courtesy of her mother. Positive she’s only made a fool of herself, she’s mortified when her boss sends her back to sexy Chef Max’s kitchen and into the proverbial frying pan.
After a red-hot date, her chef disappears, and Violet’s emotions simmer to a boil, forcing her to confront the awful truth: there’s more to life than pastry.