By Eleanor Shelton
Originally posted November 7, 2019
We’re seven days into November, and for many writers, that means they are doggedly working National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In case you are one of those intrepid sprinters who have committed to producing at least 50,000 words by the end of the month, this isn’t a blog about how to write a novel in thirty days. Technically, twenty-three days.
For those unaware of the significance of these thirty days, many a novel will be written with lots of blood, sweat, tears, angst, and jubilation.
Many grand sentences have been conceived in mere moments. And stunning plot twists and ingenious characterization tactics can be employed to produce dancing prose. But NaNoWriMo is about words. Getting the words to the page.
For you first timers, there are things to keep in mind when you type the 50,000th word.
IT MAY BE GOOD, BUT IT’S UNLIKELY TO BE GREAT.
Depending on the genre you are writing, you will have finished a goodly portion of a novel. That’s awesome! You may need to tamper your excitement after your initial celebratory lap. You might be eager to query agents and find representation for your masterpiece. DON’T DO IT!
According to Fuse Literary Agency, their agents dread their December 1st email inbox. And they aren’t the only ones. Fuse has gone so far now as to close their submissions for the entire month of December, why? NaNoWriMo fever.
“NANOWRIMO EXCITEMENT LEADS TO EUPHORIC QUERYING. ALAS, IT ALSO LEADS TO OBLIGATORY REJECTIONS, AND NEITHER PARTY WANTS THAT. IT’S A WASTE OF YOUR TIME AND THE AGENTS.”
—FUSE LITERARY AGENCY
Please don’t query agents the minute NaNoWriMo ends. You may have loads of good stuff, a coherent story, and unique characters, however, it’s probably not ready for prime time. Put that book away for a couple of weeks. Ring in the holiday season however you celebrate.
Resist the urge to shoot that manuscript off to an agent. It’s a rough draft. Maybe your beginning is tight and perhaps your ending is fresh. Much like brownies, the middles . . . maybe not so much.
Committing to 1667 words a day for thirty days (that adds up to 50,000ish words) is a lot. At the end of the first week, you’ve skewered your opening first chapters with a saber. Over the next couple of weeks, your inspiration may start to wane. 50,000 words is work. This is where you need your enthusiasm more than ever! But your fervor has gone to the vet and been snipped. Now what?
Kristin Owens, who teaches a Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo classes, has seen it all. “The hardest part for most writers is finding the motivation to keep at it. Here’s where you need writing friends. Not just friends but WRITING friends. Because they get it. All of it.”
No splainin necessary. Find a critique group, a write-in, local writing organization (most of my writer friends I found through NCW) to connect. Writing is a crazy lonely gig, don’t make it any harder by suffering alone,” she advises.
DON’T FORGET, YOU HAVE A LIFE.
You’ve signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and you’ve connected with some other NaNoWriMo inmates. You now have a mentor who is encouraging you to get your daily words done. But don’t neglect your children, spouses, pets, day job, and friends. Remember, NaNoWriMo is just thirty days. Come December 1st, the frenzy is over. Make sure you still have a real life when you emerge.
Take breaks. Step outside for fresh air. Venture into the world periodically, so you get inspiration for your writing. More importantly, you may have a partner who you need to live with for years to come and friends who will buy your book. Don’t be so focused on your novel in progress that your wife/husband/friends are gone when you look up from your computer.
COMPARISONS ARE AS BAD AS CLICHÉS.
Or as my mother said frequently, “Comparisons are odious.” Did your mother ever tell you that? Of course it’s true, but we’re human, you can’t help it. No matter how many words you write someone in your NaNoWriMo circle will have more. That’s OK. The idea is to provide a kick-in-the-pants to get your story down in black and white.
So at the end of the month, ideally, you have around 50,000 words? Now you have to take a hard look. Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Are there characters that have wants, needs, and obstacles? Do your scenes move the plot forward?
It’s of no matter if someone in your group wrote 125,000 words or 50,000 words. The revision must happen regardless. You may be faced with some difficult choices, but getting started won’t be one of them. You did it! You wrote all of the words!
Two years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, and it has made me more productive than ever. In order to get my word count in, I had to get up early before any other work had to start. Now, I get up every morning by 5 am to write. I built the habit during those thirty days.
You may have created the seeds of a best seller. Or something you may have to sit on for a little while longer before it’s cooked. The bottomline is you have established your ability to write most of a novel beginning to end. Use NaNoWriMo as a fantastic springboard towards a rewarding writing life. Just please don’t let all those words go right to your head.
For more information about NaNoWriMo visit https://www.nanowrimo.org/