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From the Desk Of


NaNoWriMo Wrap-up and Review

I decided to do National Novel Writing Month (known as NaNoWriMo or NaNo) this year because I’ve been toying with a novel idea for a while. If you’re not familiar with the process, NaNoWriMo challenges writers to finish a 50,000 word manuscript in the month of November. In order to reach the goal, participants need to crank out ~1,667 words per day. Depending on how quickly you write, this could be an hour or an evening. At the end of the month, participants with 50,000 words or more are considered winners and are given a certificate and some prizes. Most of the prizes are discounts on software, editing, and self-publishing.

I chose to call my novel Samsara as it had a heavy emphasis on reincarnation. I’d been mulling over the idea of it for quite some time and decided to just go for it. Gumption is all you really need to write a book. Getting it published takes a bit more work ;).

We’ll get to how well I did in a bit, but here are some things that I learned:

  1. Plan. Don’t show up with a vague idea and expect to jot it down on paper quickly. I was always really good at bullshitting myself through academic papers, but I really should have planned for this a bit better. Next year I’ll lay things out in October and spend November filling in the blanks.
  2. Screw the rules. NaNoWriMo’s rules state that you should start with a blank slate. I say start with whatever you have. If you have a 120,000 word manuscript to dust off and polish, do it. If you have a non-fiction novel (also against the rules), write the shit out of it. Absolutely no one will come to your house and break your knee caps for doing so. I have several drafts of other stories I could have started with instead of adding another one to the mix.
  3. Make it a habit. I had to force myself to come home after bending my mind all day at work and write. It sucked ass but it sucked MORE ass to make up for the missed sessions in later sessions.
  4. Just write. No, seriously. You’ll think that the book is going in a direction you don’t want it to, and before you know it you’ve devised a completely new plot point or character that was better than the one you’d planned.
  5. Remember this is a draft. If you go into this expecting to have a polished novel ready for publishing you’re going to have a bad time. I mean it. Writing for a month will not make you the next Hemingway/J.K. Rowling/$favoriteauthor.
  6. Writing makes you a writer – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I got a few scoffs from people who considered themselves “real writers” who insisted that a month of writing didn’t make me a writer. Well, writing is the act of composing coherent text, and that’s what I did most of the time. If you’re making words and those words are making sense, you’re a writer.
  7. Don’t stop writing after November 30th. Take your awesome draft and KEEP WRITING. Spoiler: You don’t need to designate a month to write. You can do it at any time you damn well please. Need some support? I’m always looking for writing buddies!

And now the moment of truth.

I didn’t win. In fact, I only made it to 14,144 words of 50,000 (~28% of my goal). As it turns out, I was a lot busier in November than I thought I’d be. I also started to develop an RSI issue that I wanted to get looked at before it got any worse. The doctor told me to lay off the computer in the evenings so I did.

But here’s the cool part: I was so stoked to write that I wrote all of that in under 2 weeks. Am I sad that I stopped? A little bit. However, I’m also glad that I didn’t win because it would have been much harder for me going forward. My plot started to not make sense (hence #1 up there) and it was going to take some serious work to get it back on track. I realized that I was defecating words on the page instead of writing sensible things. Desperate to make my word count, I found myself making things up that I knew would be axed later on. My novel deserved better than half-assed writing for the sake of meeting an arbitrary goal. What NaNoWriMo did for me was give me an awesome starting place to make this novel into something great. Knowing that the goal is damn near impossible if I want to have any semblance of a life, I’ll be back in 2014. I hope to see you there!

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