The Gift of NaNoWriMo

Let me state this right up front: I have never participated in NaNoWriMo before, nor have I ever been a big fan. Oh, I’m all for NaNo when it comes to other people. I love to cheer my fellow writers from the sidelines and marvel at their wordcounts. But NaNoWriMo has never been for me.

I’m a slow, deliberate writer. I finesse each sentence, writing and unwriting and writing again until it does what I need it to do… until the sentence builds on what came before and sets up what is to come and adds a unique flavor or twist of its own.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

In reality, I spend way too much time on each sentence and my inner critic is allowed to run amok through my manuscript, obsessing over semi-colons and word choices and telling me everything is crap, crap, crap.

Lately, I’ve become mired in the rewrite of a book I care very much about. The process has been frustrating and slow, and I’ve found very little joy in it, despite the fact that I still love the book and its characters and truly want to make them sing.

After consulting with some wise and beloved friends, I’ve decided to give myself the gift of NaNoWriMo this year. I’m putting aside my “real” novel and writing a new novel, a novel for which I have no expectations.

There are no rules with this NaNo novel, except to have fun. I don’t need to show it to anyone, ever, and I definitely don’t need to worry about selling it or promoting it or justifying anything about it. This novel is a playground, and November is my month to indulge in as much play as I want.

That’s the plan, anyway. And maybe when December rolls around, I’ll be able to dive into revisions of  my “real” novel with a bit more joy and abandon.

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  1. 1. Tom Gallier

    This is my first NaNo. I haven’t written anything since last December. Lots of bad news this year, that kept me down, so nothing got done writing wise. So…I decided to try it, which had the desired results. I was forced to work out an outline, and today I was forced (only by myself) to start work on the novel.

    So far today, I have over 4800 words. NaNo starting on a Saturday really helped. I should get a good start before the weekdays hit, and bring everything back down to normal.

    NaNo is a good fit for me. I’m a very fast first drafter. I used to work over and stress over every page, and that resulted in it taking years to write a novel, if the novel was ever finished. Fast first draft, editing forbidden until 1st draft done, works best for me.

  2. 2. Jenn Reese

    I’ve heard that I lucked out in starting Nano this year: 5 weekends in November! I’m not complainin’.

    I’m curious, Tom, if you ever try writing incredibly slowly with lots of editing as you go… Just to shake things up. Or is it that once we have found our natural rhythms, we’re stuck with them? I’m not sure I’ll ever be a fast first drafter, though I’d really like to be.

  3. 3. Tom Gallier

    I’ve tried slow, with working over every sentence, paragraph and page with an eye of making it perfect from the start. Mostly, I lost interest in the story about 2/3 through. But when I just throw it all down without editing I always finish. It might not be as pretty, but it is finished.

    And yes, I think we all have our own speed and writing methods. It seems you found yours, and I found mine.

  4. 4. Simon Haynes

    This is my fourth NanoWrimo, and the previous three resulted in one published novel and a couple of handy drafts. I’m a big fan and recommend it to all and sundry – if nothing else, it’s a different set of priorities, a hard deadline, and a chance to focus on hammering out words instead of ritin’ great literature off the bat.

  5. 5. cindy

    i used nano to struggle through THE MIDDLe
    of my debut. i scared myself so much that
    i stopped writing for six months. i got 35k
    that month and in my mind, i def “won”.
    i always use nano for my own selfish devices,
    not to write 50k, but usually to overcome hurdles
    and establish a good writing routine.

    i’m starting my contracted sequel this year
    with nano. good luck!

  6. 6. Jenn Reese

    Yes, I really like the idea of “a different set of priorities”– I’m finding that to be more liberating than I thought it would be.

    I saw you up there on the “These folks published their Nano Novels!” section of the website. Very cool!

  7. 7. Matthew Claxton

    Try the 3-Day Novel contest if you want a real challenge. Forget the marathon, go for the sprint!

  8. 8. K.C. Shaw

    Heh, I did the 3-day novel contest for the first time this year, and it is way different from Nano! I loved it, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Nano, now, is always fun. This is my fourth year and I always try to do something different. The first year I tried writing in the style of Dorothy Sayers (in a fantasy!), the second year I tried dictating part of the story while I commuted, the third year I tried to make each chapter stand-alone (not so successful, that one). This year I’m writing without any kind of outline–which freaks me out.

  9. 9. M. D. Benoit

    I registered for Nano a third time this year, thinking that even if I didn’t meet the goal, at least I’d get some words written. I just came back from World Fantasy 2008, so I’m behind, but now I’m starting to think Nano, Nano, Nano…

  10. 10. Christine Ashworth

    This is my second NaNo. The first time, 5 years ago, I “won”, but I hated the novel and couldn’t look at it for a year, because the emphasis used to be, just write.

    This time around, having a few more novels under my belt, I started with a cast of characters but no outline. This time, it’s coming together. There’s a definite plot. There are places I’ll need to fill out, as it’ll be a 100k novel eventually, but I’m really happy with both my progress and with the quality of my output. It just goes to show me that when I focus, I can write fast and well. I’ve already doubled my word output from last month!

    So glad to see you in Nano, Jenn! Keep writing!

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Author Information

Jenn Reese

Jenn Reese is the author of JADE TIGER (Juno Books, 2007), an action-adventure kung fu romance, with tigers. Her short stories have appeared online at Strange Horizons and Lone Star Stories, and in various print anthologies like Japanese Dreams, Sword & Sorceress, and Polyphony 4. When she's not writing, Jenn is practicing martial arts, playing World of Warcraft, or dreaming of rain. Visit site.

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