Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Carnage

"I believe that the so-called 'writing block' is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance ... one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It's easy to write. You just shouldn't have standards that inhibit you from writing ... I can imagine a person beginning to feel he's not able to write up to that standard he imagines the world has set for him. But to me that's surrealistic. The only standard I can rationally have is the standard I'm meeting right now ... You should be more willing to forgive yourself. It doesn't make any difference if you are good or bad today. The assessment of the product is something that happens after you've done it."

William Stafford, poet

For many of you, today is the day of reckoning.

Got your 50k?

As many of you know, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. While I’m a prolific writer, writing most of my manuscripts in five or six weeks, my most recent one has had more stops while I’ve reflected. I don’t want the pressure of having to start by a certain date and churn out 50k words in 30-days.

And why November? It’s a really busy time of year. I’d rather choose February when it’s too cold to want to go anywhere. Of course, it’s a shorter month.

At the start of November, I wished my blogging friends who were participating well. And I’ve supported from the sidelines. Many bloggers still posted pretty frequently, which surprised me, though many were shorter and writing-related.

Facebook was where I noticed all the NaNo updates taking place. Since I don’t have a Twitter account, I can’t confirm it, but I’d imagine there was plenty of writing-related chatter there too. On Facebook I got to see in real time, how much progress (or lack thereof) writers were making.

One writer, who is also an agent, had most of her word-count completed within a week. How she did it, I have no idea. She reached her 50k goal early.

Others have finished as well. Those NaNoWriMo awards are popping up everywhere.

Last night, one poor soul put a post up:

“Got to the point with my nanowrimo project...about 30k words where the characters were going so far from the plan that I feel it ruined the story. And am losing all confidence in the project. I can't take characters derailing in a way that destroys plot, mitigates the tension...it gets to the point where I think..even if it's finished, it won't be serviable (sic).”

My heart broke a little for her.

Then the sympathetic and encouraging comments rolled in. She rallied, writing more. While I doubt she’ll make it to 50k by tonight, she’s hanging in there.

I find writing a manuscript (mostly) a joy. The idea comes to me, and I can’t wait to get it down on paper. My hands can’t type as fast as my thoughts. I think about my baby/manuscript all the time. Sometimes, I awake in the middle of the night after having a dream where a scene unfolds. I rush to my laptop to record it before the ideas evaporate. When I’m done, I’m satisfied.

Edits are another story.

And there are those droughts –

No new ideas.

No motivation.


Writing has always been in my control. Until I have an agent and editor, I answer to no one. I’m as prolific as I want to be.

Or not.

Then there’s NaNo…

NaNo has raised many questions for me:

Why do you writers do this to yourselves? (wink)

Do you have a salvageable manuscript when you’re done?

Does NaNo force you to complete a manuscript when you wouldn’t otherwise?

Do the edits take longer or the same after completing your NaNo manuscript?

What have you learned from NaNo?

Would you do it again?

For those of you who’ve met the NaNoWriMo Challenge and succeeded, CONGRATULATIONS!


  1. I've never done NaNo. But I think it is just a push to get something finished. Then you have something to 'fix' later. I guess you basically end up with a quick pizza base you can then add toppings to :o)

  2. I love the quote up top.

    November was a thinking and planning month for me. No NaNo frenzy. :)

  3. I think some writers work better with this kind of deadline, and find the time constraint helps to produce that wordcount. The finetuning comes later. I'm like you, supporting from the sidelines and working at a different pace.

  4. I applaud all those writers who took the challenge! I am with you, I support them from the sidelines.
    In the meantime, I will just write at my own speed.
    Have a great day!

  5. A definite YAY to all those nano-ers who participated whether or not they got to 50k or not - they are all winners!!!!

    And I would hope that what they have written is a start to a bigger brighter better novel/short story/ or at least the bare bones of either or all!!!

    Take care

  6. More power to the people who participated. I can't take the pressure.

    Love the Stafford quote. He's one of my favs.

  7. I did not participate either and I too wished everyone well. :) And BTW, I want to hear the answers to those questions. I wondered the same things. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  8. I'm impressed that you finished your other manuscripts in 5-6 weeks; good for you! I wish I could write like that. I didn't do Nanowrimo this year either, but I would like to try it. I think it definitely teaches people how to discipline themselves so that they'll commit to writing every day.

  9. Congrats to all those brave Nano writers.
    And another great challenge this month was Movember - do you do it in the States?
    Lots of men grow moustaches for the month of Nov, hence the Movember title in aid of cancer charities, my hubbie and work colleages did it this year and tonight at midnight the moustache disappears, all in a great cause.

  10. I never win NaNoWriMo because I just plain write too slowly. If I write fast, it's all crap, and I don't like any of it.

    But the idea of writing a novel in a month is really neat, and I'm glad it pushes people to write.


  11. I think we do it to ourselves because we want to raise ourselves up to the challenge--to aspire to a higher goal. At least, that's the reason I did NaNoWriMo.

    I think NaNo also made me write things I wouldn't have, under normal circumstances (as normal as writerly circumstances get, anyway), so that helped me realize some of the things I could do.

  12. Excellent post. I did my own version of Nano back in June. I found when I was done, I didn't love the book. In fact I had about 30 seconds of joy and then I was consumed by dread for the editing process. I wanted to cry, "But I don't want to spend another two years playing with these characters."

    Sometime I love editing, but my last novel, I'm not at all into it.

  13. Congrats to the NaMos! I wasnt tempted - first drafts fly out for me but if there was a "A figuring what your novel is about month" I'd sign up!

  14. This was my first NaNo, so I can't speak for past years, but I think what came out is okay. It did force me to complete a manuscript I was uncertain I should complete, and I'm glad it did, because I do like what came out.

    However, it will need some work, a little more than my non-NaNo MS's. I'm not sure if it's because I went so fast or if it's just how the story came out (the curse of not plotting is you have no idea what to expect), but I think I can make something of it. So I won in that sense, too.

  15. I didn't "win" NaNo, but doing it did motivate me to do a lot of writing this month. I'm up to 30,000-ish words, so that's pretty awesome for me. I guess it helped me realize that I am a really slow writer. I just don't have the ability to power through a draft in a month. I have to edit as I go or I can't work.

    I tend to think in scenes and move in chronological order. I will write a scene and then think it over, come back to it, revise, think, revise, think, revise, etc.

    I guess NaNo has helped me feel more like the quote. This is just the way I write, there's no sense in pushing myself to do something impossible.

  16. Ha ha. I LOVE Jessica Bell's answer. She is such a hoot! I don't NaNo either. It seems like too big a bite to chew in only thirty days! :-)

  17. I thot naNo was going to give me that extra oomph to get disciplined but nope I still wrote at my own whim and this story is no different in quality to my earlier works just because the real work comes in for me at the 2nd round that is when i infuse my plots into the story

  18. @ Jessica, great analogy. Got the pizza base and then it's all the "fixings".

    @ LR, a thinking and planning month sounds like a good idea. Normally I'm a panster, but this new one I've been thinking before I write each chapter. We'll see if it's in a better shape than the previous manuscripts.

    @ Judy, go, go, go!

    @ Joanne, it's good you do what's best for you. I feel like participating in NaNo would set me up for "failure".

    @ Choices, more than 2k per day is a big writing goal. It is best to do what works for you.

    @ Old Kitty, great perspective. To try is to win and hopefully they have some writing that works past November.

  19. I don't believe my first draft is sacrosanct, it's just a bunch of words on the page, no more than clay to be molded. NaNo is a quick way to get the clay ready to work. Now that I have my 50k, I will spend most of the next year adding to and shaping those words into what I hope is a unique and riveting story.

    We all have different processes and it's true NaNo is not for everybody, but any writer who perceives NaNo as solely an exercise in quantity over quality, or writing to a deadline, is missing its true value.

  20. @ Bossy Betty, I couldn't take the pressure either. I love the quote too.

    @ Jules, I hope I get more answers because I'm curious to hear how people feel after the fact.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, being disciplined to write everyday is a laudable goal.

    This new manuscript isn't getting churned out at the same speed. I don't know if that's bad or good yet. With work, it's basically at a standstill.

    @ Brigid, I've never heard of Movember. What a great idea! I wonder how much $ they raise.

    @ Aubrie, I'm impressed with those who can write 50k in a month too.

    I thought you did write fast!

    @ The Golden Eagle, it's sounds like NaNo was a success for you. Anytime we learn to do things we thought we couldn't do, we grow.

    Good luck with edits!

  21. @ Erinn, you are very disciplined to give yourself that kind of goal without the support that writers who participate in NaNo get in November.

    I'm sorry the editing isn't going as well as usual. Hope it gets better.

    @ Words A Day, how great you're normally prolific.

    Figuring out what your novel is about? Catchy!

    @ JEFritz, sounds like NaNo was a success for you. I hope the editing goes smoothly - or at least, as smooth as it can go. Congratulations!

    @ Lisa, 30k ain't too shabby - that's 1k per day!

    I work more like you now. It's good that NaNo taught you what works best for you.

    @ Shannon, I'm with you about Jessica and NaNo!

    @ Joanna, interesting that NaNo was no different for you. Good luck with edits!

    @ VR Barkowski, I like your perspective. I don't think it's quantity over quality either. Elana Johnson's manuscripts go as fast and she's publishing one of 'em.

    Yep - it's all in the editing.

  22. Love that quote up at the top. I had never really thought of it like that before.

    And I hope I don't sound too harsh, but... how, really, could anywrite write 50K words in a month and have a "serviceable" draft? I would think it would turn out to be a very ROUGH rough draft in need of 6 months worth of edits! Unless all they do is write... :p

    Congratulations to those who've done it, though!

  23. I've loved every minute of the story. For me, it was a fabulous tool and a great boost to my confidence. I would never have done it otherwise. It would have remained just a dream....

    Yep, there's a bit of editing to be done, but I have a great skeleton upon which to build a pretty decent body, (IMO).

    Nano provided the motivation (30 days) and accountability (published word counts on my blog and with my buddies). I seriously doubt I would ever have completed a manuscript without it. In fact, I still have to finish the story and now that nano is over, I worry I'll just lay it down.

    There has been some carnage, but every person I read about who got derailed had a fabulous perspective.

    I agree that November is a terrible month, though. June or July would be great for me-I hate the summer :)

    I would like to join you in congratulating all the winners, as well as everyone who gave it their best effort.

  24. I love NaNo. This is my 3rd year doing it. I wasn't going to this year, was supposed to be working on a rewrite, but when I started typing, a new story emerged.

    I like the chaos and nuttiness of nano. I think I have a pretty usable first draft when I'm done. Of course some of it will stink, but that's true of any first draft. I like my characters, my plot and my setting. I hope I still like them on the read through!! :)

  25. I didn't participate in NaNo either, but I agree - those that did deserve a huge congratulations!

    And I totally agree, why November? It's a busy enough month as it is.

  26. So I completed the 50k in 30 days, although as you know, I started mid October instead of November.

    The reason I started early was because that was when the fire struck, and just wouldn't let go. It's the best feeling in the world, but you're right, I AM wondering right now if I have a workable manuscript, and I'm terrified that I may have much more work during the editing process.

    Then again, I think because I wrote when I wanted to, rather than when I was forcing myself to, maybe it will be different?

    I don't know... I guess we'll see once I start the revision process. I still have about 5k left to complete the book :)

  27. Hi, Theresa, I'm with you, cheering from the sidelines. Congrats to all who've done a saleable manuscript from NaNoing!

  28. I was so pleased that the comments were mainly positive. IMO NaNo is great. Sure, it's a bad time of year, but they say a busy person gets things done.

    I may answer the questions you posed in a post.

    I finished for the second year. My last year's novel turned out pretty good. I'm still polishing. This year I wrote a story that I've been burning to write for years, so I'm pleased.

    I rushed over to tell you that the Thanksgiving Blogfeast is still running - you've got til Dec 7th to whip up a dish and a story.:)

  29. @ Amanda, I like the quote too.

    All rough drafts are really rough. Maybe it goes smoother for those who write fast anyway. Also, it seems some advanced planning is recommended, so maybe if the writer has a map of where they're going.

    I used to think the same thing as you, but Elana Johnson writes really fast and she's getting published.

    If only we had stats of how many Nano's get published. I'm curious.

    @ The Words Crafter, I'm so glad NaNo provided you with the motivation to get a manuscript completed even in the midst of November and a full-time job. Good luck with revisions!

    @ Jemi, three years - wow! Nuttiness and chaos of NaNo sounds 'bout right.

    @ Susan, to have Thanksgiving right near the end must be so hectic for NaNo participants.

    @ Writing Nut, I agree, when the mood to write strikes, go for it. November first would be hard for me to just say, "Go!"

    I've done six weeks, which I find manageable.

    Good luck with edits!

    @ Nas Dean, I hope there are some good manuscripts out of this. I may write a follow up post in six-months to ask how those manuscripts are doing.

    @ L'Aussie, glad NaNo works for you. Good luck with polishing your old and your new one.

    I don't know if I have a Blogfest in me now, but I'll check it out. Thanks!

  30. I personally like to end up with a good first draft where most of the story is well drafted. That means I could never try my hand at Nano...=( Im also a big, big reviser, and my stories usually change a LOT after revisions...but still, I could never do 50k in one month. Bravo for those who did!

  31. You pose some good questions about marathon writing. As a former English teacher I had a whole bag of tricks to motivate students to write. For some, the free write was just the panoramic voyage they needed.

  32. @ Clara, I like to revise as I go along too. What would really make me a bad NaNo candidate is that I underwrite my first draft, so it's rarely over 50k. The rewrites are where I layer and add scenes.

    @ Paul C, NaNo - another item in a writer's bag of tricks. Like that!

  33. I did Nano, reached 50k. I'm going to continue working on this ms this month. It will be salvageable after lots of rounds of editing.

    For me, Nano is a way to force myself to write. Too often during the rest of the year I get caught up with other things and let real life interfere. With Nano, I don't let myself make excuses. (although even during Nano I can't make myself write every day).

    I do have to edit longer with a Nano ms versus a regular ms but I have discovered (to my delight) that the amount of time required to edit a Nano ms is shortening.

  34. I participated in NaNo last year and got nowhere. What changed things for me this time around was rediscovering a genre I'm more comfortable in, and having a lot of my writer friends on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum participating - their daily motivations and the fact that we were all in it together helped a lot. Not to mention instand feedback on each other's random snips (which we posted in the forum). The timing was great too - I think NaNo would only work for me if it happened to come when I'd just started a story or, as it did this year, when I'm so close to finishing but need to write all the missing scenes (I'm a chunkster) and... the ending!
    Although the last two days, after I'd already reached 50K, I did so much editing that I cut out quite a lot of old words :-) Then I went and wrote some new ones...
    Hoping to have my full first/second draft by the end of the year!

  35. This year was my first NaNo experience and I loved it. I learned so much from it and it helped me focus. I wasn't going to spew out words for the sake of a word count so in the end I do have a servicable manuscript. Yay.

  36. Congratulations, Teresa! I just came from Tamara's blog! I'm soooo happy for you and soooo proud. Write on!!

  37. Hi Theresa! I haven't done NaNo. I think we're the same in the sense that I can write and write when an idea comes to me but I don't want to put pressure on myself to start by a certain date and finish 50K words in a month!!! This is why I take my hats off to the participants of NaNo for being able to do this! I agree with Jessica, maybe it's the push to finish something :)

  38. I do it because it makes me think about writing every day. It makes me accountable so I don't make excuses, I find time to write. Of course, with the story I'm working on, I didn't need the extra kick from NaNo. I'm in love with this story! I love that feeling!!

  39. @ Nicole, it was nice to get your perspective. Anything that gets you to write more can't be a bad thing. And how interesting that your editing time is shorter with each NaNo draft.

    Good luck with revisions.

    @ Deniz, the support system is probably the best thing about NaNo. I figured everyone would be squirreled away, having no time to communicate. But that wasn't the case. Last year, I didn't follow many writer blogs, so I didn't know what to expect from NaNoers this year.

    I'm glad you're happy with your draft.

    @ Lynda, congratulations! I hope edits go well.

    @ Kittie, thanks! It was nice to win such a great prize.

    @ Len, I can't imagine ever participating, but never say never.

    @ Solvang, you're the second person to say "No excuses". Makes sense.

    I love the feeling of being into a story too. Good luck as you work on it some more.

  40. I agree, February works as a much better writing month:)

    I failed epically at NaNo, but I'd probably do it again just for the kick in the butt to get a new project started.

  41. I would love to see some statistics on this too! :o

  42. I didn't participate in NaNo, but I tried to get into the spirit of it and wrap up a first draft of my WiP. I think everyone writes at their own pace, and mine is definitely not that fast! I wish I had dreams that revealed a new scene--that sounds amazing :)

  43. @ Erica, I'm glad you got a project started out of it. How's it going so far?

    @ Amanda, if either of us come across any, we'll have to share.

    @ Meredith, it's very weird to dream the next planned scene. And then you're afraid if you go back to bed you'll forget, so you have to write. One time, we had company sleeping in the living room, so I went in my kids' room and typed in the dark.

  44. It's going slow but good...It's the first time I've tried writing any literary fiction so I'm figuring it out:)

  45. I participated and reached 50k but my story isn't finished. I ha plotted which helped keep me on track. I kept it low pressure. If I won, great. If not, no worries. I love that quote at the beginning of your post!

  46. I might do NaNo again. Maybe. In a few years. It was wonderful to write everyday. At first. By the third week, with another cold, I was starting to burn out. There were days that I didn't crank out quality. I went for quantity. Did not like that. Author Laini Taylor said that NaNo completely killed one of her ideas one year. I would hate for that to happen. Sometimes it's better to pull the plug!

  47. @ Erica, it's great you're trying something new. Good luck as you go on.

    @ Julie, I found the quote on a NaNo blog. It's true - worry less and write more.

    From what I understand, NaNo wants some advance prep, which probably is helpful. I don't do much prep, so that would be another problem for me!

    @ Jennie, nothing kill creativity and momentum like a sickness. That's another problem with November. But I guess my theory about February is shot too. When are people healthy and not busy?