Happy NaNoWriMo Day!

It’s Opening Day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it’s a day that usually fills agents with dread. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write an entire novel in a month. It’s basically a month-long cram session, only there is no final exam. The reason agents get antsy about it is because once November is over, December queries pile up with hastily written novels from hundreds of eager writers. And right in the middle of the holiday season when we’re all trying to clean out our inboxes, no less!

Personally, I think NaNoWriMo is great. It’s completely unnecessary and necessary at the same time. In my head, it’s no different than holidays like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving. Sure, we should always show the person we love that we appreciate them and yes, we should always be thankful for what we have. And how many of us have used “but it’s my birthday!” to have an excuse to do something out of character or take an expensive trip or just get all of your friends in one place when life interrupts other plans?

Just like writers should always be working on their next novel, sometimes we need something like NaNoWriMo to get us to just sit down and write. It’s easy to take time for granted (it is infinite, after all), so creating days to specifically set aside for what we should be doing year-round is a good way to make sure nothing else can get in the way.

To have a successful NaNoWriMo, remember these things:

1) Take it seriously. This is your excuse to finally finish that novel you’ve been “meaning to get to.” Don’t waste it. Set a word count goal for each day, and don’t go to sleep until you reach that goal.
2) Don’t expect what you write to be brilliant. See above. As long as you reach your goal, then you’re golden. Don’t worry about plot holes, character continuity, or whether the prose is even pleasing to read. Just write.
3) Push yourself to go further. One of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to have a “50,000 word novel by the end of the month.” That is not a long novel. If you’re writing a YA or adult novel, you’ll need to add 10K-30K to that amount. Don’t do the bare minimum just to reach the goal of the project. Reach your own goal.
4) Be smart with revisions. You just ran a marathon. Rest before you start over again. Try not to even think about whatever it is you just wrote in November (you were probably blacked out half the time anyway). Sometime in the first two weeks of December, read it from start to finish and see which parts need revising. Try not to do more than simple copy-editing while reading it over. Then once you get a feel for the entire scope of the novel, take another month, or longer, to go into heavier revisions.
5) Have a life. Eat, sleep, go out, play with your kids, be a normal functioning human. As we already established, the Great American Novel will not be ready by December 1st. NaNoWriMo is just your way of getting it all down on paper. So enjoy your life and don’t let it consume you.

And finally, Be Smart About Querying. This is a race to get your novel written, not a race to get it published. Treat it the way you would anything else you’ve written. Research which agents would like your genre, what their guidelines are, and which agents are open to submission (remember holidays seasons and even early January are typical “closed to queries” months for many agents).

Are any of my readers participating in NaNoWriMo this month? What are your plans for reaching your goals?

Happy writing, everyone!

18 thoughts on “Happy NaNoWriMo Day!

  1. I'll be nano-ing! And I'll also be prepared to toss it and start over with a new draft in January. Fast draft – explore characters, situations, settings. Second draft – plot and write.


  2. That's great advice, Sarah. I've thought about doing NaNo for the last two years, but both times have decided to focus on revisions for the manuscript I was working on at the time instead. I can only imagine the flood of emails you get on 1 December – some of us joke about putting “This is NOT a NaNo novel” in any December queries we might submit *grins*


  3. Nope, no NaNo for me. I will still probably get more than 50,000 words written in November, anyway. That's typical for my writing schedule. I'm in the midst of outlining and plotting my first draft of book three.

    Hope everyone enjoys the NaNo ride this month, regardless! 🙂


  4. I don't do NaNo. I like the idea behind it and know that it works for some people, but I like to take my time and try to make coherent and non-crappy words, even in my first drafts. It's just how I write. :\

    Major props to everyone who participates and reaches their goals though!


  5. I might have done NaNo to finish up my novel, but I entered this month with an enormous (and ongoing) writer's block. So nope.

    Just a lot of reading The Name of the Wind for me.


  6. I love your “you were probably blacked out half the time anyway.” It made me laugh.

    This'll be my third year participating in NaNo, and I decided to take it a step further and try from two first drafts of novels in a month. So far, so good, but it's only day one. Toward the end, I'll probably be at the “blacked out” stage. *laughs*


  7. Yes, I'm participating. It is my first year that I'm going to do it as the several years I've already been in the middle of a draft or revising. I love tip #2- that is my one and only goal: To finish.


  8. I did it last year and it was a great experience to settle down and write everyday at the same time – a habit that I've kept. It was also good to not worry about being good, to just write. My novel was okay – a little wordy – but the reward of discipline and accomplishment was wonderful.


  9. Nano is super cool, I went in blind to it last year and it was great experience. It would be totally different if I tried again this year, but instead I'll plug away at finishing my current WIPs. Great advice, too. The first draft result is a first draft, not a ready-to-publish work!


  10. This is my first NaNoWriMo and I see it as the perfect excuse to carve time out of my schedule and use up some vacation time (yes, there's a 9 to 5 complication) to write a novel. I signed up six months ago when I first heard about the challenge, so I have had a lot of time to think about plot, characters, and setting. I scheduled research time in advance and planned my approach to include more than enough hours to finish 50k words. I am shooting for 80K because I think it's going to take that to tell the story well.

    Having completed a narrative non-fiction MS that is ready for its third, and hopefully final, round of revisions, I “get” the edit and rewrite process. It took me 3 years to get that thing drafted in my spare time.

    I'm estimating that my NaNo project will not be ready for submission until at least April 2012, but that doesn't bother me one bit. At least the draft will be completed by 11/30 and I can check “write a novel” off my Bucket List.


  11. First time trying it out! And thanks for the heads up – I'll not try querying my first novel again until after the holiday season 🙂 You folks deserve a break!


  12. Thank you for this post! I see NaNoWriMo as the perfect opportunity to cultivate a successful habit of writing for at least one hour a day. And to set a deadline for completing a first draft. Those are my goals for nanowrimo this year. ^_^

    Good luck to you in the month of December, I hope more writers will follow your last paragraph of advice and be smart about querying their finished product! 😉

    Kelly Said


  13. This is my first NaNo! (And my word count is currently at 0 because I'm at work and haven't gotten a chance to start yet.)

    I spent all of October outlining, and this isn't my first attempt at writing a novel, so I'm feeling pretty good. Very excited to begin! I recently discovered WriteorDie.com, which I plan to use everyday this month. What an annoying godsend!


  14. PLans. write and hope I can get it all down. It's been a little less then a year since I've sat down and actually written more then notes – so I'm a bit rusty and a lot intimidated. So just put the nose to the grindstone and get 'er done.

    Also, i already started a very loose plot and some character notes. So will see.


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