Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

NaNo–Nah, No

Today marks the second day of November, which means it is day number two of that much-heralded event, NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month). If you’ve never heard of NaNo, I suspect you of having lived in a cave for the past 3-5 years or of not being in any way connected to the writer community. Because NaNo haunts the consciousness of writers everywhere, even those of us who don’t “play.”

Just in case you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, let me explain the “rules” in brief. The idea is to start a fresh WIP on November 1 and to write 50,000 words by November 30th. If you write those 50,000 words, you’re a NaNo “winner.” If you don’t, well, I wouldn’t say you’re a loser, but you don’t get to call yourself a winner, either.

I know a lot of writers who swear by NaNo. It pushes them to set aside everything else and just pound on that WIP for a month. It forces them to turn off the nasty internal editor and write like the wind. And a fair number of folks have had amazing success with books they wrote for NaNo. Carrie Ryan, author of the much-celebrated YA novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, wrote that manuscript for NaNo in either 2006 or 2007. She “won” NaNo, then won a very nice contract with Delacorte Press and a movie deal (after, I have no doubt, my revising of the initial manuscript).

But for some of us, NaNo just doesn’t work. I’m one of those someones. I’ve tried a couple of times, but I’ve never managed to stick to it for more than a week or so. There are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I am, by nature, a slow, plodding writer. A 25,000 word month is cooking for me! But there are other factors as well.

First of all, what lunatic decided November, of all months, should be the one we use to pound out 50k? Did they forget Thanksgiving in the US is in November, not to mention Black Friday? (I never, ever shop on Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean I forget its importance.) In addition to the three days to a week kids usually get off from school for Thanksgiving, there’s also the Veteran’s Day holiday, and (in my school district) the dreaded weeklong early dismissal for parent-teacher conferences. Seriously, even if I thought I had a prayer of generating 50k in a month, it would never be in November (just as it would never be in the summer months, during the Christmas holidays, or spring break). Also, as an aside, why not choose a month with 31 days rather than a measly 30?

For me, I think the perfect NaNo month, were I to choose one, would be May. It has 31 days, only one brief holiday (the three-day weekend for Memorial Day), and the kids are in school full-time. The weather’s nice, but not so nice you can’t bear to be indoors.

But even then, I doubt I’d really ever be able to commit to NaNo to the point of being a winner. In the final analysis, it’s just not set up for the way I write. And while I have nothing but respect and encouragement for those who do NaNo, and I hope they’re all winners. Meanwhile, I’ll keep plodding away on my WIP at my 1k-per-weekday-if-I’m-lucky pace and watch you all fly by me.


  • Melissa Blue November 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I agree. NaNo is not for everyone. I know some people who can write tons of words in a day, in a month, but choke during NaNo. The only reason it works for me is that I prepare ahead of time and I turn off my editor. I don’t have the time to worry and re-word and wonder if I’m going in the right direction. Plus, I can write a lot only if I write every day.

    Lastly, time constraints make me write more. Don’t know why. If I have all day to write then I don’t write at all or if I do only a little. Knowing this may be the only 10-60 minutes I’ll have uninterrupted to write…well it works.

    But, you couldn’t pay me to do Fast Draft.

  • Ericka Scott November 3, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I’m just writing away…some days I get in 0 words…some days 2500. If I were to totally commit to 30 days/50K, I think I would have to be committed (as in ‘they are coming to take me away’)

    I tried NaNo one year and it just didn’t work for me. Plus, my kids have an entire week off at Thanksgiving (can you hear me screaming???)

  • B.E. Sanderson November 3, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I just use November as motivation to kick my writing in the butt. It’s been a slow year for my writing, and I really need a push right now. November’s done well for me in the past, so I’m hoping it’ll get me moving this year, too.

  • Kris Eton November 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I am in complete agreement with you, Jackie…WHY November? For me it is really all about Thanksgiving weekend. You get 4 days behind, and there is NO way to catch up by the end of the month. Bad, bad planning. I think this was made up by people who were very young (in their early 20s with no kids) who did not have any Thanksgiving commitments ever in their lives.

    I would choose something in the winter…like February or March. No big holidays going on in there. It’s pretty bleak out. Most spring sports have not geared up yet. November was a horrid choice!

  • Jody W. November 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    You know, I’m happy for people who can make NaNo and other fast-drafting techniques work for them. I’m happy for anyone who finds a functional way to write a book. But I get a little annoyed by the not-so-silent implication that if you’re not capable of doing something akin to NaNo, you’re not really capable of being a ::professional:: writer.

  • Zoe Winters November 22, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I’ve “won” nano one time. I always seem to have something else going on at the time and be too overloaded to do nano when it comes around. But I have enjoyed the times I’ve “tried” to participate, lol.


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