December 1st 2009
I’ve always said that NaNoWriMo isn’t for me. (For those of you still in the dark, NaNoWriMo is fun Internet shorthand for National Novel Writing Month – thousands of brave authors designate November as the month when they’re going to draft a 50,000-word novel, from start to finish.)
My concerns about NaNo are legion. Most commercial novels (outside of category romance) are closer to 100,000 words than 50,000 words. Merely getting 50,000 words onto paper (or, more realistically, a computer file) is no guarantee that a single one of those words is publishable. Even if the 50,000-word chunk is good, it requires polishing and editing before it can be marketed. Too many people have made too much money bilking NaNo writers, selling “how to write 50,000-word novel” books or “coaching services” for the month. NaNo cheapens the hard work that hundreds of genre novelists invest in their non-NaNo novels, every year. (“What?!? It took you three months to write that? I hear that really dedicated people can write a novel in thirty days!”) The entire NaNo culture feels like a cross between a stunt (“Watch me leap from tall cliffs without a net!”) and a pep rally (“Leap! Leap!”)
And then, I went and wrote a 50,000-word novel in the last couple of weeks of November.
I really wasn’t doing NaNo. I didn’t sign up with the official site. I didn’t set up progress bars. I didn’t even start until around November 12.
But I was working in a genre new to me, one where published works are traditionally 50,000 words. And I had a break in my writing schedule that started after Veterans Day and ended on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. And I had a plot idea that was complex enough to carry a novel but simple enough not to go beyond the mandated length.
I’m fortunate – I’m a quick writer. I completed a couple of 5000-word days. I had one great 7300-word day. I had one incredible 11,000-word day, when my husband was out of town, and I was able to write until one in the morning, without interruption.
I used a new-to-me technique, doing no revision as I drafted. (I did go back and leave notes to myself in the first few chapters, pointing me toward revisions I’ll need to incorporate. Most of those revisions involve character motivations that transformed as the story evolved.)
I’m working on another project now, one that will take me until the end of this week. Then, I’ll have a couple of weeks when I can revise my November novel. (You’ll note – I’m still not calling it my NaNo novel….) After that, I’ll see if I can sell the thing.
So? How about you? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Will you do NaNoWriMo in the future?
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Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.
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