Here’s Lookin’ At You, NaNoWriMo


For those of you just warming up your keyboards, ready to start pounding out your novels for National Novel Writing Month, I wanted to do a little retrospective of my NaNoWriMo novel experience.

It was January, 2007. Nope, I didn’t do it in the proper month. Nor did I even register with NaNoWriMo. But I did finish the book in the month of January! My writer friend Sara (also mentioned in Jan’s post) challenged us to join her online, as we all wrote a book in a month. Jan helpfully broke down the math side of things for me, which looked like this:

Day 1-Write 1,613 words
Day 2-You’re up to 3,226 words
Day 3-You’re up to 4,839 words…
And so on and so forth until on day 31, you’re at 50,000 words.

This worked well for me, because I knew exactly what day my plot needed to take fateful twists and what day I needed to wrap it up with the epilogue.

I wrote in the freezing cold basement, constantly swathed in a plush red robe and slippers up to my knees. Since my husband didn’t find this look particularly attractive, I had plenty of uninterrupted time with the keyboard and the three cats, who loved me so much they thoughtfully waited until I was in the basement with them to use their litter box.

Because my book dealt with the supernatural, I spent the entire month praying over what I wrote and over our house. I didn’t want to open the doors to any unwanted visitors.

If you’ve read some of my completed book, Otherworld, you know it’s paranormal fiction, in which the main character, a redhead named Aurora, can’t stop hunting the ghost next door. Lately, I’ve considered just posting the rest of the novel on here for those of you who were a little addicted to it.

Why have I given up on getting Otherworld published? I learned some things from NaNoWriMo, and here they are:

1) Agents and publishers do NOT want adult fiction novels that come in at 50,000 words. It’s too short. They’ve told me so, in no uncertain terms. Unless you’re doing a short romance, it just won’t work. 75,000 words is minimum for an adult fiction novel. But Young Adult and Middle Grade novels can be 50,000 words. Something to bear in mind when writing your NaNoWriMo.

2) It’s not easy to simply add 30,000 words to a finished novel. You already have the plot wrapped up, you’ve told what you wanted to tell. Yes, you can change it somewhat and add scenes, but it’s very difficult if you like to write straight through, like I do.

3) NaNoWriMo is the best way to motivate yourself to actually FINISH a novel. IF you like to write quickly. If you take longer to plan out every bit of your plot, it’s only going to frustrate the living daylights out of you by day seven.

4) If you have something you feel strongly about and you’re ready to work into a book form, NaNoWriMo is a great jumping-off point. But the process doesn’t end there. You’ll need to get a handle on how to write a great query and proposal for future agents, and joining a critique group in your genre is a great way to polish up your work. But posting all your chapters for critique, as well as critiquing others’ chapters in return, can take months.

I used to think I would be a reclusive writer, holed up in a corner somewhere, only to emerge with a book ready for publication. But the more I write, the more I realize that writing is a COMMUNITY. Reading other writers’ blogs has been encouraging, as I see others who’ve gone through this process on the road to publication. One of my favorites is http://www.novelrocket.com
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Bottom line for NaNoWriMos out there–you’re going to love the writing process, as a book takes shape in your mind! I loved it so much I named my blog after it! (Now I realize that doesn’t look great when agents/pubs think I only took one month to write my current book.)

NaNoWriMos of the future, I wish you a very productive month of learning, growing, and realizing how a book can take over your life for a little while. And I hope to see you published someday! You’re always welcome to do a guest blog here about your NaNoWriMo experience!

–Heather

8 thoughts on “Here’s Lookin’ At You, NaNoWriMo

  1. Really like the new look of the blog! And I enjoyed this post…but I will not be taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge! A husband, 2 kids, and a job prevent me from writing as I would like to right now. 🙂 I have a non-fiction book in my head though and it will get written one of these days!

  2. I thought about participating, but at this stage in my life that is not possible. While I am a stay at home mom, my little crawler keeps me too busy. Hopefully next year I will have more time to devote. Thanks for sharing your experience, it has given me some things to ponder. Your book sounds interesting, I would love to read it! You had mentioned you would be willing to read my query, I would love to take you up on that but am not sure how to send it to you.

  3. And now, to everyone's shock and amazement (most of all, mine!), I'm going to haphazardly NaNo my way through November. You see, there's this YA novel that's been kicking around in the back of my mind for awhile…And YA can be 50k words! YEAH!

  4. Are you really doing it, Heather? Yay! Good for you. 🙂 We should be buddies.This is a great post and I love your advice at the end, too.I wrote a novel in a month before, too, but this is my first November attempt. The last time I did it, my husband was home for the summer, so I had a little more time on my hands. We'll see how this goes. 🙂 So far, so good though! But, then again, it's only Day 2. LOL! Better not count my chickens quite yet!Amy

  5. Hi Heather!Thanks for visiting and following my blog! Are you resigned to never seeing Otherworld in print? You can self-pub through Amazon, but I'd rethink about adding to the word count. I wrote a 55k romance that I've decided to up to 75k and so far I've added over 10k. Going in and fleshing out points of view-going deeper into the characters thoughts, has opened up new diaglogue, scene descriptions, and even more scenes. Little by little, I think I'll reach my 75k goal. Plus, a critique group had a great idea for a new scene at the beginning which will definitely add some numbers. I thought I had said all I wanted to say, but my characters are taking on more life-plus Dr. Stanley Williams "The Moral Premise" workshop helped A TON in getting more out of my story. -Just a thought 🙂

  6. Yes, I'm pretty resigned right now…I did try to rethink things (getting deeper into her life story, etc) but it was a very fast-paced trajectory from start to finish on that one, I think since I wrote it in a month and was determined to wrap things up at that point. Thus, I wrote another book–my Viking historical fiction novel. And NOW, since that isn't flying, I've started something that would be more "commercial" and "publishable" in Christian pub. circles, I HOPE!Thanks for your advice! You've definitely done your homework on writing! I do agree that a critique group for Otherworld would've been helpful. I'll have to check into Dr. Stanley Williams!

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