Parting thoughts about NaNo



Well, it’s December 1st and those of us who participated in NaNo, likely are taking a collective breath and saying, “I can’t believe I did the whole thing.”

Technically, I was a ‘winner’ because I hit the 50K mark, although the draft wasn’t finished at that point. In fact, I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday but forgot to post it, so even my word count is off. Still, it was an experience and something I can now cross off my bucket list. And you can too.

Why I did it

A lot of people may wonder why any writer would try to write a novel in 30 days. For a long time, I did too. But this time around, I had a few reasons:

  • I’d tried before and failed, so I wanted to see if I could do it.
  • I was writing a novel anyway, so what could it hurt?
  • I hoped to connect with other writers.
  • I thought the deadline would serve as extra motivation.

What was good?

The good things that came out of NaNo for me were:

I met the target. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but setting a goal and accomplishing it is good for your ego. And it was good for mine.

I met two lovely writers. I ‘buddied up’ with two other writers for sounding board stuff and encouragement. Both writers were kind, intelligent, and fun. And I hope to stay in touch with them.

It made writing a priority for me. While I am always writing because I make my living that way, I don’t always work on my stuff. The non-client stuff. NaNo changed that because I had a deadline and was forced to make my novel a priority.

The time limit made my internal editor shut the heck up. One of the things that writers go through is endless conversations/arguments with their internal editor. And it can be a real sticking point and stop you dead in your tracks if the dialogue gets out of hand. Because of the finite time period I had in which to meet my goal, I had to force my internal editor into silence. The good thing about this is that I learned I could do it.

What was not so good?

That’s right, at least for me, NaNo is not all sunshine and unicorns. It presented a few problems for me which I didn’t expect:

The external pressure seemed a little artificial and unnatural. I have no problem with deadlines – actually in my line of work they are a way of life. But the arbitrary deadline of x number of words within x number of days felt a little forced. And it created an unnecessary anxiety in me. Like somebody was peering over my shoulder, ruler in hand, waiting for me to crap out.

I went out of touch with friends, family, and colleagues. Participating something like NaNo requires tremendous focus. You have to make choices and usually those choices have to do with cutting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary out of your life temporarily. So, I didn’t chat with friends on the phone, barely took a minute for the holiday, and my social media buds probably think I’m dead.

It stressed me out. Even though I participated in NaNo willingly – the tight deadline and the volume demanded stressed me out. I dreamed about writing. I barely left my desk and I was pretty grumpy throughout. Oddly, it reminded me of working a regular ‘job’ where someone else was in charge of my time and energy.

It forced me to decide. Now, making decisions is not a bad thing. However, again because of the pressure and short deadline I was forced to make decisions about the story that had I had more time to consider might not have made. I had to ignore glaring outpoints in the storyline and plot and gloss over a lot, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I can fix those things during the editing/revision stage in subsequent drafts, so it’s not permanent. However, in some ways I wonder if I ended up making more work for myself than I otherwise would have.

What didn’t matter?

NaNo has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings and there are a lot of non-writing activities offered, as well as other things. Most of them, unnecessary in my opinion:

The write-ins. I didn’t do any travel to do any IRL write-ins but I tried a virtual one. After about ten minutes I logged off because it wasn’t conducive to writing for me. Mostly it was a couple of cute guys who liked to giggle a lot, giving timed exercises to the participants. I could see how that might’ve helped other writers but it did nothing for me.

The offers, sponsored products, and freebies. I didn’t decide to participate in NaNo so I could receive discounted products or freebies. It’s nice that they offer such things but I already have 25 books on writing, structure, marketing and so forth that I haven’t yet read so more wouldn’t have helped any. And who had time? Also, I’m pretty old school, a simple word processing program works just fine for me when I write.

All in all, I’m glad that I participated in NaNo and can now check that off on my bucket list. It was an experience and I did get a pleasant little high when I reached the 50K mark, and met a couple of people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t. And by the end of the day my draft will be complete. So, yay. And thank you NaNo for being there.

What about you? Did you participate? Did you love it or hate it? Did you finish? Did it change the way you write or your process? Was it a help or a hindrance? Regale us with your NaNo experiences in the comments.

In the meantime, write on brothas and sistahs.


I did it! Yay!


I’d like to thank my father, my mother and all the little people who…ah…er…oops, sorry that’s my academy award speech.

I broke 50K on the novel today. NaNo says I’m a winner. I’ll take it. Still have a bit more to do to actually finish the draft but it does feel like an accomplishment nonetheless. And it was fun to challenge myself.

So, all you NaNo-ites out there, keep going. You can do it. I have my pom poms ready to cheer you through the finish line too. 😀


NaNo Report – Week Two


So, Chuck Wendig did a quick little post, asking everybody who was participatingin NaNo to give him a status update.

Turns out, I liked his questions, so I thought I’d answer them here:

How are you doing?
I’m doing okay. I had a little chat with one of my writing buddies and it was fun because I was able to help her just by being a sounding board. I love that writerly connection.

How has it (NaNo) been for you?
Honestly, it’s different than what I expected. I had visions of hooking up with a bunch of new writer buds and cheering each other on – and then of course talking shop. But really, aside from my chat as mentioned above. Not very much socializing going on.
I did attempt to participate in a virtual write in. But for some reason I had to open a YouTube account in order to participate in the chat, which I didn’t feel like doing. And the live stream was cute – the two young men who were conducting the write in (which as it turns out is just a series of timed prompts, designed I tink, to get your creative juices going) certainly were having fun. But after about 20 minutes I gave up and went back to the book to write.

How is the book?
The book is actually going much better than I expected. I have somehow managed to overlook the ugly prose, sketchy descriptions and conflicting plot points, in order to surge forward. Knowing that I will tend to all those things on the next run-through.
I did hit a snag for a couple of days where it seemed that every word was an absolute effort. But then I just decided to let the characters go where they wanted and I ended up with a plot twist I totally did not see coming and really like a lot.

Also, character relationships are developing in unexpected ways, which I am pleasantly surprised about as well.

How and what is your process?
My process is essentially to do my best to get at least 2,000 words a day. Not always easy if the plot is sluggish or I have freelance work to do. But I have managed to average that or more every day so far. I’m a pantster who outlines vaguely. Meaning I know the broad strokes of the story and how it will resolve as well as the subplot resolutions. But I don’t plan out how the characters will get there. In fact in Book One, my MC (Lottie Stark) suddenly has her dad visiting. A character I never dreamed of until he just appeared. I try to write first thing in the morning if possible. But also have high energy in the mid-afternoon and try to get in time then as well. If things get sticky. I take a break, do something else, read, work on a freelance gig, fool around on social media, then go back to it. Or I do research germane to the story. I found a cool book on Police Procedure, which I’ve been reading and it’s been quite helpful and oddly has shown me that I knew more about police procedure than I thought I knew – which was zero. But mostly, my process is just to write and to trust myself and my characters. Not sexy but it does the job.

If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, how do you find it?
This is not my first time doing NaNo. However, my previous attempt at NaNo lasted perhaps 3 or 4 days. So maybe in essence I am a newbie at this. I am finding it helpful. I do get a little thrill when I update my word count. Even though nobody else notices. It still makes me proud of my accomplishment. And they have this cool little dashboard where you can see your stats and how far you have to go. So, it’s a fun nerdy writerly thing.

Today I hit the 40K mark. According to NaNo I am 80% done. But to complete a full first draft I’m more like 50-60% done. Still, I think I might actually finish the full draft by the end of the month.

Parting thought: It is funny that if you just decide that you’re going to do something. That you just are. That you can. And that is probably the coolest thing about NaNo for me. I just decided I was doing it – no matter what – and I’ll be damned – I am. Yay for discipline.

Hope you’re all having a great week.


NaNo Report – Week One


As many of you know, I’ve committed to doing NaNo this month and so I thought I’d just write a little post about how it’s going, my thoughts and accomplishments (such as they are.)

Jonesing during the lead-in

First, since I had finished the previous book a few days early, I was without a creative writing project for a few days. This was very odd because I have essentially written pretty much non-stop for the last two years. I felt like I did when I quit smoking. Anxious, nervous, worried. But I vowed I was saving this book for NaNo, so I managed to stave off getting my fix for those few days and caught up on some reading. Wrote a few reviews. And got a little sleep.

How many words?

The night before the start of NaNo I couldn’t sleep (also day of the change back from daylight savings time which didn’t help any) and got up at 5:30 a.m. I knocked out about 4,500 words on the first day. I guess because I had a few days of jonesing leading into it.

Naturally, I got so jazzed about that, I figured I’d knock out that kind of production every day. But well, no, didn’t happen. Although, I’m averaging about 2,700 words a day which will definitely keep me on target.

As of today I’ve written 19,343 words. Before you get impressed or anything about it, realize that most of those words will never reach another person’s eyes because… You know? It’s a first draft. And it’s possible this is the butt ugliest first draft I’ve ever written. Still, I am tooling along and hope that the remaining three weeks go as well. Especially since my total word count will be more like 80,000 not 50,000.

The writer connection

One of the reasons I decided to write this book during NaNo was because I thought it would be a good idea to connect up with other writers, get involved in some other writerly activities and so forth. But oddly, I’m finding that not only do I not have time for most of that – it just isn’t my nature to write with the herd. I thought I might try a couple write-ins but I’m thinking I’ll pass.

I have made a couple of writing buddies and we chat a bit, and have agreed to be there for each other for support. Which is nice. And it is nice to meet a couple of other writers who are pursuing the same goal I am.

Best lesson

The most interesting thing to me is that all the motivation that gets talked about during NaNo and that people experience doesn’t seem to be affecting me one way or the other. And I think it’s because I’ve been sort of doing my own self imposed NaNo for quite a while now. So external motivation has little if anything to do with it. The good thing about that, for me, is that I’ve realized that somewhere in the last couple of years I’ve developed real discipline in my writing. And that I write no matter how I’m feeling, whether I’m sick or well, happy or sad, busy or have lots of free time. And that alone was worth joining in with the bagillions of other writers out there in the NaNo mode.

What about you guys? How’s NaNo going for you? Keeping up with the pack? Getting ahead? Falling behind? Given up? Can’t get your internal editor to shut the hell up? Let me know how it’s going in the comments.

In the meantime, write on, brotha’s and sistahs.

The seven best things about first drafts


With the kickoff of NaNo this month, first drafts are on a lot of writer’s minds. Or at least they should be. Much as any writer would like to believe they could write an awesome book on the first run through, most of us know that such a feat is pretty much impossible. Although secretly, I think we all fantasize that we will someday achieve perfection on that first run-through. And maybe someday, it could happen. But in the meantime, there’s lots to love about a first draft, and I give you my list:

1. Freedom. You’ll experience the most freedom in your story during your first draft. You’re in that zone of just getting the darn thing down on paper. There is no time for editing, second guessing, or judging. You have to get it while it’s hot. Rules, internal editor, judgy people be damned.

2. No fashion requirements. While there are many adjectives used to describe first drafts, the most popular are ugly and/or sloppy. The dialogue is awkward, the characters are bi-polar and inconsistent, typos, misspellings, punctuation is cursory, and locations change mid-story. There isn’t time to pretty it up, give it a shower and shave, and pick out an appropriate outfit. Yes, your first draft is dressed in ratty sweats and has its dirty hair pulled up in a ponytail – but since nobody sees it, that’s okay.

3. Judgment free. Except for you, (possibly) no one will judge your first draft. Because it’s so ugly the very thought of showing anyone mortifies you. And during the draft, the only critic of the work is you. Tip: try not to judge, adopt the attitude that you’re free at this point to write any darn thing you want. The judging and editing comes later.

4. The discovery zone. The first draft is where you discover things. If you outline, you may discover that all your carefully crafted ideas don’t translate once you start putting them down on paper. Or that a character name is wrong. Or there is a completely new character that you never thought of, rearing its pretty little head. For me, the first draft is where I discover the story and the characters. I go in with an idea and finish with sometimes surprising and delightful new directions.

5. Rule free. There are lots of rules in the game of writing. Sentence structure, punctuation, correct spelling, plotting – blah, blah, blah, blah. When writing a first draft you can ignore the rules. Love fragments? Go crazy? Want your character to snarl with obscenities throughout? Go ahead, nobody’s watching. Take things over the top and to the edge. Editing will handle any mis-steps. For now, throw open your literary arms and embrace whatever comes into your deviant little head.

6. Nothing is written in stone. A first draft is like an exploratory mission. You go in with goals of what you want to achieve but those goals are predicated on what you’ll find. And subject to change. You’ll write scenes that may not end up in the final draft. You’ll kill characters you didn’t expect to. Or characters will appear out of thin air, like rare alien flowers you didn’t know existed. Even if you’re an outliner as opposed to a pantster, you may find that things you never thought of pop up. It’s fine. Just keep going. You can make all the missteps you want. That’s what erasers and delete buttons were made for, right?

7. Characters make themselves known. No matter how much time you spend on writing character profiles, or how many facts you know about your characters, they will still surprise you. Once they’ve taken their first breath, they start to show you who they are, what they believe and how they feel about things – even the story you’ve put them in. You will try to insist that they walk down a certain path only to find they absolutely refuse. They have minds and motivations of their own. And you may find, you’re simply following them and writing down what they do, rather than leading them and putting words in their mouths.

First drafts are loud, rowdy, have lousy hygiene and possess no social graces. They’re like that crazy friend you met in sophomore gym class who brought out the crazy in you. And you liked it. Embrace the draft, go where it leads you and worry about bail money, explaining things to the authorities and fixing the flat tire later. Have fun.

How about you? Do you love first drafts or hate them? Are they fun or drudgery? What do you think is the best thing about first drafts? Feel free to regale or damn first drafts in the comments below.

All NaNo All the Time


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is quickly approaching and since I’m participating this year, it’s on my mind. So, I’ve gathered up some good posts that give tips, tricks and methods for surviving NaNo. If you want to join in the insanity, you can sign up here.

And now for the secrets of the NaNo universe:

The Glorious Insanity that is Nanowrimo

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days

5 Tips for #NaNoWriMo I’ve Learned from My 464-Day Writing Streak

How to Survive NaNoWriMo: Tricks, Tools and Tips

And as a bonus I’ll throw in my tips:

  1. NaNo is not about completing a totally polished, ready for publication novel. It is about (at best) completing a first draft of a hopefully future totally polished, ready for publication novel.
  2. First drafts are butt ugly. They have typos, they have crude dialogue, undeveloped characters and subplots that meander and get lost in Cleveland. This is okay. This is how first drafts are.
  3. Editing, revising, and rewriting comes after NaNo
  4. Your competition is you and you alone, the other participants are not competing with you.
  5. There are no losers in NaNo. You give it your best shot, improve your discipline and resolve. If you  hit that 50,000 word mark. Bravo. If you hit something less, bravo! The win is in the words, not the count.
  6. Have fun. Challenge yourself. And who knows, you might end up with a butt ugly first draft that you can then skillfully mold into a great reading experience for total strangers who may even pay you money for the pleasure.

Have fun!