Friday, October 4, 2013

The importance of NaNoWriMo

I can sympathize, really I can.

I'm sure there comes a time where people are like "For the love of God, if I hear NaNoWriMo one more time, I'm going to pistol whip somebody." I know there are people who bang out a novel in November and then merrily start subbing it to actual publishing professionals in December and January. I hear that and I cringe. I feel that agents must cringe as well, when they hear about NaNoWriMo, then grit their teeth and wait for the aftermath.

As you might guess, I'm not one of those writers. Other than Suzie Townsend's query critique thing she did last month, I've yet to contact an agent with a query (I'll occasionally tweet at/with one, or comment on a blog, but that's been it so far). Sure, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2007. Does it mean a single one of those novels is query-able? Not yet.

"But Jen," you ask, "doesn't that make it a waste of time?"

Well, no.

See, the beauty of NaNoWriMo, the magic of it, is that it's intended to be sheer madness. It's supposed to be pell-mell words on a page. Words you never have to read again, or words you can spit shin to your heart's content....after November. I've in fact discovered NaNoWriMo works best for me when it's a project I technically don't care about. When it's a project I'm not afraid of screwing up by throwing myself down its mountain.

It's a complex notion, for me. It doesn't really mean I don't care about the book. But if it's an idea that I thought was dreadfully clever, and have toyed around with and babied in my thought process....yeah, the first draft that NaNoWriMo will produce might not be what I envision for that project. Or I'll get all wound up about getting something right and choke halfway through (NaNoWriMo 2010, I'm looking at you).

I think that 2007 and 2008, my first two, were also my most complete. The novels are technically "finished", and though I've reread parts, I haven't edited, polished, nothing. Both would require severe rewrites, I daresay, but they have a story arc. 2009 was the year I wrote my Second Unfinished Steampunk Novel. 2010 I got to about 23k words and was dead in the water for three days before I started a new novel, blasted through 20k words, and ran out of time. So almost 50k total there, just not on the same novel. 2011 was Another Unfinished Steampunk novel, wherein I muddled my waters with zombies, and I won't be doing that again. 2012 I laid down the groundwork for The Wolf You Feed, the sequel to Learn to Howl.

And 2013, I have a plan, I've named my main character and changed it at least once already, and I've got a rough idea of the opening chapters.


  1. I hear what you're saying about its purpose being "sheer madness." And I love your approach to it and your view of what you produce. But I think there are a lot of people out there who think that by the time November 30 rolls around, they've written an honest-to-God novel that should be published. I've known some of them. It really makes me cringe. (I repeat, I don't mean you.) But until now, I've pretty much kept my mouth shut and not expressed any qualms about NaNoWriMo because I don't want to be the doomsayer who deflates someone's sense of accomplishment. So if nothing else, this post has allowed me to get THAT off my chest. LOL Now, back to you. I hope November is a wonderful month of discovery and self-expression for you.

    1. Oh yes, there are people who need to rein in their sense of Literary Godhood at the end of NaNoWriMo.....I always wonder if it's just the endorphins that cause them to be that way?

      Glad to have a place where you can get that off your chest ;) It can be hard to tactfully put somebody off when they're really really sure the book is ready, and they finished it last week.


    2. Love the phrase "literary godhood." I have a friend who lists herself as a freelance writer on Facebook. She's never actually sold a word she's written. She has 6 unpublished novels that are still in first draft stage because she refuses to edit. It's like if she has to change a word, her entire self-image will crumble. I find it rather sad.

    3. That is rather sad :(

      Change is necessary. The words you put down aren't necessarily the perfect words for the rest of time...they were the stairs you were climbing to the end of the novel. I can understand being resistant to the edits/comments of others; there are times I look at somebody's notes on my writing and go "nope, nope, get a dictionary then, nope, nope...oh, okay." It's those "oh, okay" moments that help the most, both from a stepping off my pedestal standpoint and a receiving feedback that I thought really clicked standpoint.

  2. I'm not sure I'll be able to participate this year, since I make my full-time living writing non-fiction now. But I may try! I also wonder how much people would accomplish in September and October, if they weren't waiting to start something new!

    1. Well, I know there are times I write MORE in September and October to keep my hands off of my NaNoWriMo idea ;)

      But, congrats on making your full time living writing! That's really awesome, even if it does keep you off NaNoWriMo.