Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Quick NaNo Update

Linda Joy took time out from NaNo to offer this update:

“Two weeks + — My initial energy is fading. I’m still going to accomplish a lot of pages, but it may take an extra few weeks to hit 200 pages. I still feel that writing about 100 pages is 2 weeks is a great accomplish and no matter if I Nano Fail or Success, I feel good about this challenge.”

Spec bloggers and readers who are NaNoItes this time — how’s it going? Worthwhile either way?



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NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 5

It’s been suggested that instead of celebrating writers as NaNo does, we should spend the month celebrating readers instead. After all, without readers, those novels remain silent. What do you think?

ParkerWriters need just as much encouragement as readers do.

PJ: Hmmm…why not do both?

Kari: This idea makes me want to say, “Really?” One month out of the year dedicated to fostering discipline and writing and fun is going to obliterate readers? Sure, I think celebrating readers is a great idea, but does it have to be a them vs. us scenario? Is there not room enough to celebrate both writing AND reading? I think this is silly and creates a conflict where conflict is unnecessary.

Linda JoyWriters ARE readers. I love to read as much as I love to write (probably more!). Most of the fans I hear from want to write to, and I’ll never discourage them. Celebrating hard work is never a bad thing. YAY for writers!

Greg: Again, Laura Miller misses the point. She seems to be imagining that readers and writers are mutually exclusive personality types. In reality, people who write, even just as a hobby, are more likely to read. They’re more likely to understand and appreciate the structure and conventions of story. They are more likely to become critical, knowledgeable, discriminating readers. They are more likely to love books. They are consequently less likely to wait for the movie version or to tune out altogether.

Chris: That sounds nice in theory, but how would we go about it? Kids may have summer reading programs, contests and so forth, but adults either read for pleasure or not at all. Anything that celebrates reading will probably primarily reach people who already love to read. The best way to keep adults reading is to write great books.

One thing we might consider, though, is trying to support professional writers more, especially early in their careers. It takes years to develop the skills necessary to be a professional writer, and then hundreds or thousands of hours to produce a single publishable manuscript. If writers can’t make a living off of their work, you’ll wind up with mostly mediocre work from people who have not been able to devote the time to fully develop their skills. We can support writers early in their professional careers by being open to reading new writers, supporting independent bookstores (which are more likely to take chances on new writers), supporting libraries to buy new work, discouraging illegal downloading, encouraging writing organizations to provide grants and awards to writers who have one or a handful of published books but haven’t yet made it big, and by talking about new talents when we find them. Those of us who are writers can build communities (like The Spectacle!) that help give new and mid-list authors a voice.

Joni: What Kari and Chris said. It’s a symbiotic relationship, so support for one builds the other.

What do you think might celebrate and help promote more reading?

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NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 4

Today’s NaNo question: Instead of celebrating writing by the pound, even if its crap, should NaNo or some other organization switch the focus to revising, which many writers feel is the more important and neglected skill?

Kari: Maybe NaNo could be followed up by NaReMo, where everyone has to revise the drafts they created in November. Though I think revision is it’s own beast. Unless you’re on deadline, it’s not really something that can be rushed. Your first draft is your foundation, but when you’re spackling the walls and painting the rooms, you want to make sure you’ve got it right, and that can take some time.

PJ: No. There’s nothing to stop some other group from forming and focusing on revision, but NaNo serves its purpose and should stay that way.

Parker: How can you learn to revise until you’ve written something? Writers who have already completed a first or second draft will learn to seek out revision methods on their own, if only after several rejections. But first they need to have finished that draft. Still, it would be great to see a NaNoReviseMo in January or February or something, after everyone has finished NaNoWriMo and has let that draft sit for a bit.

Linda Joy: I’m all for freedom of choice. Writing crap is a choice (g). But who’s to say it’s crap? Go forth and write for fun or profit or to fulfill some need for inner insanity.

Chris: I believe there is also a revision month. I don’t know how valuable it would be to people to just spend a month revising, though, unless they have the tools to do it successfully. Perhaps NaNo could follow up with a year-long series of monthly articles and tasks to help people revise their manuscripts.

In any case, I don’t think NaNo is nearly as much of a culprit as the self-publishing industry, which encourages people to ignore professional editorial feedback telling them their work isn’t ready, and to focus on marketing their work rather than on improving their writing.

Greg: Check out  National Novel Editing Month. It’s in March, which allows three months for your NaNo draft to age like a fine wine (or unripe cheese) before you pull it out again. Looking at it with a fresh eye and committing to 50 hours of editing time should give you a much improved manuscript by the time April 1st rolls around and some good practice at the art of self-editing.

Have you checked out NaNoEdMo? Ever participated? Tell us about it!

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NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 3

NaNoWriMo — who needs it? Each year, thousands of participants scribble out most or all of a novel. But do you think most of that work would eventually get done regardless? Laura Miller recently wrote in Salon: “I’m confident those novels would still get written even if NaNoWriMo should vanish from the earth.” Do you agree?

PJ: The key word here is “those.” I don’t agree that the same novels would get written. I do agree that some novels would still be written. But some people thrive off the energy supplied by NaNo.

Parker: Probably the novels that deserve to get written still would be, but that doesn’t mean NaNo can’t be the vehicle through which those novels are drafted.

Greg: A person needs to write about a million words of crap before the good stuff starts to flow. A NaNoWriMo novel gets a person 5% of the way there and comes with an injection of encouragement to keep them going for more.  By contrast, it would take about 39 of Laura Miller’scrappy articles about NaNoWriMo to equal the wordcount of a single NaNoWriMo novel. Hope you’re hungry, Laura!

Except for a few rare prodigies, most writers start by churning out putrid drafts and gradually improve their craft until their work becomes polished and salable. I can easily imagine some of the young writers doing NaNo this year will discover the joy of writing, burn through a million words of crap, and end up publishing some amazing books that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

What do you think? Does NaNo help birth books that would otherwise be silent?

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NaNo Noise and Notes, Part 2

Is NaNoWriMo evil, as suggested recently by Laura Miller in Salon? (Well, she didn’t use the word evil, exactly, but close.) We asked The Spectacle writers for their thoughts:

Does NaNo encourage the wrong folks to write (crap)?

Kari: There are a lot of people who want to write, or who joke about writing, “the great American novel.” I think it’s fine if non-writers want to jump in the fray. If anything, it will (hopefully) give them more respect for authors and how difficult our job can be. Plus, maybe a few will discover they really can write and that they love it. Why couldn’t NaNo result in the discovery of the Next Great Writer?

PJ: I would not encourage a non-writer to try it. It’s aimed at people who have already tried their hand at writing and have worked through lots of the basics. There are too many things to be learned in writing a first novel. That’s not to say there won’t be exceptions to this for some non-writers, but this won’t be the general case.

Parker: I wouldn’t encourage non-writers to try it. I don’t care to torture newbies this way.

Linda Joy: I’m all for freedom of choice. It can be a great exercise for new writers and a focused challenge for experienced writers. Why would anyone want to do it if they aren’t a writer? Writing is hard work. I recently explained what it was like to stress over 8 pages a day to a non-writing friend: “Imagine you’re concentrating on something really hard, struggling to remember or come up with an idea — then imagine doing it all day while staring at a computer screen.

Thinking hard is HARD work.  And embarking on NaNoWriMo without any writing skills is like going on a journey blindfolded. I’d rather travel with a map.

Greg: I believe everyone has a novel in them, struggling to get out. Tell me I’m naive, or idealistic, or just trying to justify the voices in my head that keep screaming for me to “write, write, write,” but I’m absolutely certain we’re all born with an innate urge to tell stories. Even if it’s not well written — first attempts rarely are — and even if nobody else will ever read it, dumping that novel out of your brain and onto paper or a computer screen will help to keep you sane.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than 30 days to complete a draft or if your story ends up shorter than 50,000 words. If the NaNo rules don’t suit your work style, make up your own set of rules.

Joni: Greg is naive, or idealistic, or just trying to justify the voices in his head. (Just doing what you said to do, Greg!) I guess I’m too tired of hearing from nonwriters (and, usually, nonREADERS) who have “a great story idea” and are sure they could whip out a bestseller — just as soon as they can get around to jotting it down — to have much support for non-writers lured by NaNo. On one hand, as Kari notes, maybe it helps them appreciate some of the work that goes into a book. On the other, it reinforces the impression that anyone can do it in a few weeks and that it’s nothing like a full-time job or takes any persistence, talent, or skill. On the other other hand, I loved WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (a NaNo book), so clearly good stuff can come of it.

Which leads us to tomorrow’s question. In the meantime, have you known anyone who participated in NaNo who wasn’t already writing anyway?


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NaNo Noise and Notes

The excitement that goes along with National Novel Writing Month is often, in recent years, accompanied by voices of skepticism or downright distaste, like this one by Laura Miller in Salon. There are also, of course, many books and classes dedicated to the idea of writing books fast. We asked The Spectacle’s contributors what they thought. (Writers participating in NaNo this year are coded in red.)

Have you ever done NaNo, and if so, what did you get out of it?

Kari: I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year. Last year I tried a version of it, where I wrote a short story a day on my blog, but that only lasted a week or so. This time I’m really trying to meet the 50,000 word goal.

PJ: This year, 2010, is my first time.

Parker: No, but I have done my own fast draft in a month before — after spending months outlining. I got the draft done, but the prose wasn’t very fresh or interesting. I did discover some plot ideas I hadn’t thought of until I was writing in a mad rush. Overall, I didn’t think the experiment worked very well for me. Even revision couldn’t breathe life into some of the stale stuff I had pounded out.

Greg: I never have before now, mainly because my book wordcounts have always been under the magical 50,000 limit.  One year I actually started my own version, called InChiBoFo (short for International Children’s Book Fortnight) to challenge myself and others to write a chapter book in two weeks, but I didn’t have the energy to keep InChiBoFo going year after year.

This year, having a book under contract that could be in NaNo range, I signed up with the intention of having a draft completed by the end of November. But I spent the first week of November writing an author’s note, glossary, and series bible for Galaxy Games. The second week of November has been unexpectedly hectic with planning for the annual New England SCBWI regional conference. The third week of November’s not looking much better.  At this rate I’ll be lucky to start my NaNo novel by December, let alone finish it.

Linda Joy: This is my first year. Before I’ve been in the middle of a book so the timing was never right. Also I preferred to write slowly and edit as I go. But that took about 6 months to finish a book. On the good side, that book was pretty solid since it had been edited a lot.

This year all the planets lined up perfectly to try NaNo. I had one chapter of a dystopian book which excited me but scared me, too, because writing a planned trilogy is daunting. I’m good at cliffhangers, fast-paced scenes and romantic mystery. So I thought if I could write the book really fast, I would figure out the rest of the stuff (you know, global disaster, wicked villains, science….) So far, I’ve met my 2,000 word/5 days a week goal.

Joni: Nope, but most of my first drafts get written in a mad three to five weeks anyway. It’s the revisions that take time.

What benefits do you think NaNo provides?

Kari: NaNo is a great way to learn how to discipline yourself. You have to write everyday, whether you want to or not, whether you can think of anything or not. You. Must. Write. It gives you a freedom to not worry if your idea is too crazy, or you’re only producing red herrings, or your story suddenly veers off down a rocky path. You’re allowed to let creativity run free, and in doing this, you have the potential to create some really amazing stories. Plus, if you sign up on the NaNo website you can see your buddies’ word counts everyday. I think healthy competition makes writing fun.

PJ: Anyone can get the sense of accomplishment gained by finishing the first draft of a novel.

Parker: It teaches discipline, one of the most important parts of being a writer. Participants’ future novels might not be written in a month, but they might be written with more discipline.

Greg: Anything that gets people excited about books and writing is good for the industry. Finishing a 50,000-word draft in 30 days is a real accomplishment, like running a marathon using only your fingers. Everyone who does it should feel really proud, so that’s good for individuals as well.

Linda Joy: Some people just want to know they can finish a book. But writers need to be realistic and act professionally. I don’t think editors want to receive zillions of NaNo books, unedited, in December, which could be a result since it’s so easy to fall in love with your words. I think NaNo is fun, a nice community and a way to focus writing into better habits. But a book written in a month will usually need months of work before it’s ready for submission.

Ah, months of work… that’s a good segue to more discussion tomorrow about potential NaNo problems. Until then — Do you have NaNo experience? What did (do) you think of it?


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