NaNoWriMo No Mo

I first heard of NaNoWriMo way back in 2009. My daughter, Carol and I had been writing together via Skype and she encouraged me to give it a try. Up until then I had written mostly non-fiction, but we had been writing 5 minute flash fiction from writing prompts and it was fun, so I thought, why not give it a try.

I had no plot going into NaNo, but wrote furiously. Throwing my characters into one situation after another, loving the twists and turns that the story was taking. I squeaked across the finish line on November 30th with just a little over 50,000 words. I had done it! I'd written a rough draft of my first novel. I was a novelist!

I let it sit for about a month and then went back to start revisions. I started reading through the manuscript and cringed about every five minutes. The writing was bad...really bad. The characters were fun, but acted inconsistently. The plot...what there was of it...was badly in need of a plot doctor.

In short, I was so overwhelmed by what it would take to fix the novel, that I put it back in a drawer and gave up.  Then I started reading book after book about writing fiction. By the next time NaNo rolled around I thought I was ready to write a real novel.

In 2010, I got to about the 10,000 word mark and fizzled out. Same with 2011 and 2012. This year thought I was ready. 2013 would be the year that I finished a NaNoWriMo novel. It didn't happen.  This year I got to 11,587 words and fizzled. I didn't know where to go next with my story. I got uptight. I liked the story so far, but I didn't want to just push through for the sake of a winning word count only to have to go back and fix the whole thing. I gave up. Not on the book, but on NaNoWriMo.

I was feeling like an utter failure until I read a post on Chip MacGregor's blog by Amanda Luedeke titled "Why I Hate NaNoWriMo" and suddenly a huge weight was lifted from my writerly shoulders.

excerpt from Amanda's post...

This is why I hate NaNoWriMo. It sets writers up to fail.
As if writers need yet another reason to question their craft. To doubt whether they’re cut out for this author gig. As if they need another reminder that they can’t do it. They’re failures. They should quit while they’re ahead.
NaNo does this to tens of thousands if not HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of writers each and every year. There are over 300,000 signed up for the program this year. Let’s say a two-thirds achieve the 50k in one month goal. That’s 100,000 WRITERS WHO HAVE FAILED.
I hate this. I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.
(read the entire article HERE)

Thank you, Amanda, for setting helping me see that failure to finish NaNoWriMo is not failure as a writer!

I'll finish my book, but I'll take my time and do it at a pace that won't make me crazy. I'll spend more time on character development and plotting and when I'm finished, I'll have a revisable book, not a heap of hopelessly confused words.

How about you? Did you start NaNoWriMo, but not finish? Did it make you feel like a failure? Are you going to finish your novel or did you give up? 

PS - for those of you who did NaNo and will finish - CONGRATULATIONS! I know it works for so many people and I'm glad. I'm just not one of them and that's OK.

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Carol Moncado said...

As the aforementioned daughter... ;)

This is how I write anyway. I open a blank document and my internal editor heads for the Bahamas [one of these times, I should go to the Bahamas and let her stay home]. Yes, it requires lots of fixing, but I do this even not in NaNo. What I've found is when I try to do a slower pace, and make sure my first draft is fairly shiny, it stifles my creativity and I end up hating it.

Things like NaNo and Seekerville's SpeedBo force me to get. the. words. out.

That said, today's first draft is usually way better than the first draft from three years ago...

The plot inconsistencies are often still there [because, hey, I didn't know that guy was married until page 140 - literally], but they're fixable.

For me, the fast draft writing, the discovery, all of that is what's fun about writing. I don't love the editing. The months of picking it apart and putting it back together. I love being DONE and the sense of accomplishment and having a finished product, but not the process of doing it.

But I do it anyway.

Is NaNo for everyone? Nope. And that's okay. I hate that people who don't hit 50K feel like failures, especially if life gets in the way. Unavoidable things not Google searches for the best kind of white paint for your heroine to use. For eighteen hours.

For me, this year, I really questioned if I'd make it. I'm ALMOST caught up now [only about a thousand words behind where I should have been by the end of the day yesterday], but I also spent most of my writing time during those first 14 days editing a requested manuscript. After two big days this weekend, I'm good, but you know what? If I hadn't made it, it would have been okay [though I really am looking forward to a couple of the winner discounts/prizes ;)].

I'm *not* going to make my personal goal of a 70-75K rough draft. And that's okay.

Love you.


Jan Christiansen said...

I love that NaNoWriMo can work for some people. It's a fun thing if you can do it...and you, my dear daughter, CAN DO IT! I have no doubt that you'll finish. You go, girl! Mama's cheerin' you on.

Linda Wordinger said...

Hi Jan,
I can certainly relate. I'm taking a Creative Writing class at our local community college and I wanted to share a poem I had to do for an assignment with a due date, but nothing was inspiring me. Maybe it's the same way you've felt with this goal. I KNOW that you're a writer because I've been blessed by your book that I have with YOU as the author :)

Maybe Another Day

I’m waiting for my muse to show up here
It’s taking so long I begin to fear
It won’t meet my deadline and I’ll be late
Or when it comes the ideas won’t be great.

I’m waiting and waiting my pen is poised
I hear a rustle, a very faint noise
Is it my muse slipping into my mind
Ready to help me pen a poem in time?

An idea is here, but can’t be expressed
The longer this takes I’m under duress
I try to force rhymes, of course they don’t work
My brain’s working hard - beginning to hurt.

I say a quick prayer, take a deep breath
And think for today my muse met its death.

Jan Christiansen said...

You made me smile, Linda! Love your poem and now I know for sure we're soul sisters! You totally "get" me. Love ya!

Lou Ann Keiser said...

Fun to read this, since I'm writing my first novel, and I forgot all about NaNoWriMo. I have no idea where I am on words, and I have had a few stuck plot moments. Some days I write a lot, others less. I hope it will be good enough to give a copy to my kids, at least. :o) We shall see! I am sure your tries might bud and bloom after they come out of that drawer. It helps not to look at things for a while and go at it with a fresh and clear mind. You can do it!

Jan Christiansen said...

Thank you, Lou Ann. I'm sure I'll enjoy writing at a slower pace and with a little more (or a lot more) planning. Congrats on the progress you're making on your book.

the beave said...

I have never done it, but like the idea. You should never put pressure on yourself while doing something you love. Take your time and enjoy the fact you like writing. Like a drug dealer, most other writers will tell you to keep doing it, unlike them we have no reason for you to keep doing it other than we know how much it makes you happy. We all have the same vice. Take your time and enjoy the process. Savor it.

Jan Christiansen said...

Well said - when I'm pushing myself to pound out the words, I am not enjoying myself. Not gonna do that anymore!

Elise M Stone said...

Chiming in late here, but having been both a winner and a non-winner, I have a few things to say on this topic.

First of all, I will be forever grateful to NaNoWriMo for teaching me to turn off the inner editor and just write a story, no matter how bad. I'm a perfectionist and, the year I first entered, had never been able to get very far with any of my fiction because what I wrote was crap, not The Great American Novel.

I've found that just because I do all the legwork--character sketches, research, outlining--before starting to write and carefully craft a story (or so I think), working at a deliberate pace , it does not mean I'll get a better first draft. I have been working for months on the revision of a book drafted that way and it is such a big, gooey mess that I'm spending an incredible amount of time just figuring out what I've got.

I think you have to mentally be in the right place to enjoy NaNo. I was fortunate this year in that I had an idea (not much more than that) that opened up a story to me as I wrote it. I've also had my share of NaNo novels that dried up after 15,000 words.

It's also a matter of practice. I remember how daunting 1667 words a day seemed that first year. Since I've now been writing for about ten years and gotten into the habit of writing hundreds of words in a day, I was usually able to turn out 2,000 words a day without a lot of effort.

And there's one additional benefit to NaNo. All those people who thought it was so easy to write a novel? Maybe they have an appreciation of how hard it really is.

Elise M Stone said...

For my take on NaNoWriMo this year, my blog entry is at:

Jan Christiansen said...

Hi Elise! Thanks for dropping by and giving us your take on NaNoWriMo. I'm doing a little happy dance for you that you completed it this year - YAY! I think you're right - you have to be in the right frame of mind to do NaNo and's very hard to write a book. Maybe one fine November I'll be at the place where I'm ready for the 30 day challenge again, but until then, I'll just keep happily writing and encouraging others writers, because we can all use a little encouragement, right?

Happy Writing!