Tag Archives: nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo Recap

So it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo and I did not make it to 50,000 words. Not even close. This isn’t surprising, considering I only wrote maybe two hours a week the entire month. Ordinarily I’d be feeling like a failure, but this time around it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t have a plot for which I was dying to complete a first draft. I don’t feel empty inside if I don’t scratch out a few lines of dialog or description daily. Sure, if I was a serious writer I’d write even when I don’t feel like it, but lately I haven’t been all that interested in being a serious writer. I mean, I’ve been writing up a storm – in general – just not fiction. This month I’ve churned out loads of blog posts and diary entries and emails and assorted random notes. And, I’ve found, those are all good outlets for the writing bug as well. Yes, I enjoy telling stories, but lately I’ve been more in the mood to draw or collage or journal than weave plots or develop characters. In short, my original intentions for NaNo were satisfied: I increased my creative output. Perhaps eventually I’ll get back into the writing game, but for now, I’m content to be doing other things.

How did your November challenges go?

November is Official Crazy Online Challenges Month

This year I return to National Novel Writing Month for the first time since 2006. I’ve won three of the four times I participated, so I have high hopes for this year. After my last attempt, I wrote a lengthy essay on what I’d learned from this annual writing challenge. At that point I expected not to ever participate again. After all, in 2005 I worked full-time and got married and still found time to win NaNo. In 2006, even without any huge 10k-word writing binges, I finished within two weeks. Clearly, blathering on for pages is not my problem. However, I realized a few weeks ago that I hadn’t written any fiction in months, and thought perhaps this might be a good way to get the old creative faucet running again. After all, creativity begets creativity. I have no idea if this will impact how often I blog. I guess we’ll see.

If writing is not your thing, you could also participate in National Blog Posting Month, Art Every Day Month, or NaNoJouMo (for art journaling). November is a popular month to host creative challenges, most likely because of the popularity of NaNoWriMo. So get creating!

Or just sport a mustache.

Pet Peeves

Everyone has little things in books that bug them, ranging in reaction from minor irritation to a full-on “if this is there I will stop reading immediately.” Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

  • A man falling in love with a prostitute (a.k.a. the hooker with the heart of gold). It’s been done, people. Done to death.
  • Conflict/drama caused entirely by people not telling each other things. This drives me insane. Yes, I get that people have secrets, but too often characters hold back because (1) they have a martyrdom complex and don’t want to burden anyone with their problems, or (2) they think people just wouldn’t understand, and don’t even give them the chance to decide. It’s dumb, and it’s even worse when it’s the entire reason pretty much everything in the plot happens. If I can read a book and think “if they’d only told each other everything from the start, we could have avoided pretty much the entire story,” it really irritates me, and it’s a sign of weak writing.
  • Large amounts of foreign language. I was going to say it only bugs me when it’s not translated, but it also bothers me when people say things in a foreign language and it’s immediately translated into English. The occasional word is fine, but paragraphs or entire conversations get very tiresome. It’s a great word-padding trick for NaNoWriMo but I’d rather it were left out of published novels.
  • Conversations that are described instead of printed. Jane Austen was particularly bad about this, but she’s far from the only offender. The only exception to this is if the information would be a repeat of what the reader already knows.
  • Stories that don’t end. Now, I don’t need all the loose ends to be tied up, but I do need a story to have a satisfying (though not necessarily happy) ending. When it just stops and it’s left totally up to the reader to decide what happens (such as in The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber), I feel like I’ve completely wasted my time reading it. If I wanted to write my own ending, I would have written my own story. Finish what you start!
  • Authors that don’t do basic research. I’m not talking about little anachronisms in historical fiction; I mean truly basic information that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the topic would know. James Patterson is a good example. He sets many of his novels in the DC metro area (which happens to be where I live) and then makes such glaring mistakes as inventing a mysterious city in Virginia called Church Falls and asserting that locals refer to the Smithsonian Institution as “The Smithy”. (We don’t. Seriously, nobody says that.) If you want to make up stuff, don’t set it in a real place. All you’re doing is irritating the natives.

I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of. What are your pet peeves in books?

Write on Wednesday

Okay, so it’s not Wednesday, but I just discovered this blog and I’ve decided to participate here and there. This week’s Write on Wednesday talks about – what else? – NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. I’ve blogged about this before, how it’s a month-long challenge every November to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I’ve participated four times (2003-2006) and won the latter three times. In 2004 it was a Real Accomplishment. In 2005 I won and got married in the same month. In 2006 I finished in only 13 days. After that I decided that my problem is clearly not blathering on for pages and pages. You see, I have yet to actually read any of my NaNovel manuscripts. I haven’t done any rewriting or editing, and though those stories may conclude with “The End”, they are far from finished.

Do I feel that NaNoWriMo is a waste of time? Of course not! Writing practice is terribly important. The more you write, the better you become. I write pretty much every day, even if it’s just some random scribblings in one of the beat-up old notebooks I drag around with me everywhere. One of these days I may decide to buckle down and churn out a real novel, and I may even use a NaNoWriMo-like schedule to get a first draft. But for now, I think I’m happier doing my own thing. Good luck to all you NaNoers, though. Writing with wild abandon is fun.

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty: The idea behind this book is identical to that of the internet phenomenon also founded by Baty: National Novel Writing Month, that is, writing 50,000 words of a novel in the span of a single month. There are no quality standards, and indeed you are discouraged from editing, rereading, or anything else besides increasing your wordcount. This book would more accurately be called The Joy of Writing. It’s not exactly a how-to book, but rather an embrace-the-fun book, full of light-hearted encouragement and amusing asides. I will say that I never would have picked up this book had I never participated in NaNoWriMo. Its very subtitle sounds like a scam: “A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.” The thing is, this book is not about writing a polished, ready-for-publication novel in 30 days (though there are a few pages at the end on revising and rewriting after the month is over). It’s about writing with wild abandon and how much fun it is. You won’t learn much about writing in general, but you will learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t in terms of your own writing habits. If you’re fairly new to the writing scene and have always wanted to try your hand at a novel just for fun, pick this one up. On the other hand, if you are a serious writer who is looking for serious writing advice, you probably won’t find much of use in here.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

In defense of NaNoWriMo

A common question was brought up recently on the NaNoWriMo forums. First off, NaNo is a worldwide writing challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. That’s all. They don’t have to be brilliant and nobody has to read them. “Winning” NaNo (the only physical prize is a certificate you print off your computer) requires completing those 50,000 words, crappy or not, which are counted by a computer. The question was, of course, along the same lines as what my mother asked me last year: “Why don’t you write something of quality and send it to a *real* contest?” I wrote a response on the forums this afternoon which actually goes beyond the standard reply I usually give, which is, “the first step to writing well is writing at all.” I felt like reposting it here.

I’ve heard many many people scoff at the whole “quantity over quality” requirement, but I think those are the same people who have never left something perpetually unfinished simply because it did not turn out perfect that first go round. That right there is what NaNo helps fight. Stopping to agonize over every single sentence as you write stifles the creative process and lets loose your most heinous inner critic, so nothing ever gets done. Sure, there are people out there who go for the highest quality no matter what and don’t see the point of just getting a quick first draft DONE so all that’s left is editing. Those people don’t need second drafts. More power to ’em but I am not personally one of them. I need the deadline and I need the rough draft to work from. Stopping to doubt myself is self-defeating. Allowing myself to write crap ultimately also allows me to write beauty.

Really, that last sentence is everything. It all comes from the same spigot, after all. I can’t stop the cold water without stopping the hot as well. Just gotta let it flow. I’ll pick through it later.


November is National Novel Writing Month. The official challenge is to begin writing at 12:00:00am November 1 and have 50,000 words written by 11:59:59pm November 30. I’m participating for the first time this year, mostly from a need to get me writing in general rather than any delusions of creating some kind of a masterpiece. To my readership (who are probably merely my own fictional creation): email me if you’re interested in reading my novel as it develops, and I shall send you the URL. Unless you’re a scary stalker or a story thief. Then you can piss off.

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