Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Getting Ready for National Novel Writing Month 2017

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 23, 2017

November is “National Novel Writing Month” (NaNoWriMo, and yes, it’s a weird abbreviation). It’s the month for aspiring and amateur authors to kick their butts in gear and getting that draft done on that novel. (The professionals–the ones who make at least part of their living through writing–live it every month of the year.)

So what’s the point? If you know other people who are participating, it can be pretty motivating to try and pace each other. Having a visual graph to show progress over time is also a good motivating factor. The 30-day time horizon can help people get over the mental hurdle… it feels temporary and therefore achievable. Going after a specific goal is valuable.

Now, here’s the thing: The draft that comes out of NaNoWriMo is probably not a masterpiece. I’ve heard critics blast NaNoWriMo for producing thousands of manuscripts of unpublishable garbage. Yeah. So what? That’s like criticizing someone trying to lose 50 pounds for wanting to spend the evening at the gym. They won’t hit their goal in one night, but they’ll be that much further along. The resulting draft might not even be worth polishing up, but it’s good practice. Practice, goal-setting, establishing the work habit, accomplishment, and getting over the mental hurdle of “someday” are much more important than the actual manuscript that comes out at the end of the month. IMO, nobody should wait for November to get started. However… if it’s a useful tool to kickstart your productivity, then take advantage of it.

Last year was my first time attempting it, and I did not “win.” It was a psycho month, and I only produced about 42,000 words instead of 50k. But that’s okay. My novel was about 90k words in length anyway, so even hitting the goal would have gotten me only a little over halfway anyway. However, it was motivating, and I felt that especially in light of the difficulty of the month, it helped me realize what I could do. While I’ve written plenty of shorter stories, it was time to actually complete a novel (I have several horrible half-finished manuscripts sitting on my hard drive). It also established a pretty good habit, so that I was able to keep the same average pace in December and finish the novel.

The resulting manuscript was… well, “unpublishable” in the same sense that most first drafts are. In between writing several short stories, I spent the next few months cleaning it up and polishing it. I submitted it to a publisher, and the acquisitions editor thought it was good enough to accept for publication… with yet more work (which I’m in the middle of now). We’re on track for a March release. So…  HEY, it does work!

I’ve already started on the sequel, and I’ll be spending NaNoWriMo finishing it up… plus maybe a short story or two besides, if I hit my goals (a little higher than the base NaNo goals, silly me…).

Over at StoryBundle, they do have their annual NaNo Writing Tools Bundle. I haven’t read any of these books yet, and I confess the list doesn’t seem as strong as previous years, but it may be valuable for you if you are going to tackle it in November.

So I should ask… who else is planning on participating?

Filed Under: Events, Writing - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Cuthalion said,

    I’m idly considering using NaNoWriMo to finish my tabletop RPG rulebook. It’s about about 65,000 right now and needs to hit 125-150,000 (~250pp) by my estimation of what’s left. Of course, as an RPG book, most of that is reference material like spell lists, lists and descriptions of races, classes, abilities, monsters… otherwise no one in their right mind would play a game with a 250-page rulebook! (Or 500-600 pages for some of the girthier tomes…)

  • A NaNoWriMo Winner is Me. But… said,

    […] what’s the point? Seriously, the whole “the world needs your novel!” crap at the nano website rubs me […]