Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo - O - Rama

It's a big question this month, all over the Internet: are you nano-ing? Yes, once again it's National Novel Writing Month.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo, and never have, but I think it can be a useful tool for a writer, or for a non-writer who wants to become a writer. I think a lot depends on your expectations for the month. For example, 50,000 words is not always enough to be an entire novel. Most novels sold these days are in the 80,000 - 100,000 word range. However, some young adult and middle-grade novels might in fact be that length, as well as some category romances. If you chose a shorter length of novel, you could be entirely finished with a draft at the end of a month. An entirely-finished draft is nothing to sneeze at.

I'm a big advocate of the Zero Drafting method, as well. In zero drafting, you get down the basics of the story without obsessing over the details. It's a lot easier to revise and refine once you have a whole story. It helps you to see the forest, as it were, instead of the trees. I've never been fast enough, or willing enough to give up other activities, to write 50,000 words in one month. But if you are, and you are willing, then more power to you!

If you've never written before, or never written regularly, the challenge of writing so much in so short a time lends itself to developing consistency. I think consistency, discipline, rear end in chair, whatever you want to call it, is a major skill for a writer who wants to finish things. There's folk wisdom that doing anything for 21 days in a row can make it a habit. Getting the habit of writing every day, or nearly every day? Worth quite a lot if you're already a writer and don't have the habit. Worth just as much to a new writer, as a quick way to learn what's entailed in this business of putting words on paper.

Also, pushing so hard so fast to make wordcount sometimes has a strange effect on one's brain and the connections it makes, some conscious and some unconscious. Similar, perhaps, to marathoners who get a "second wind." The draft produced might not be perfect, but it might have the seeds that, after revision, will nudge writerly skills a bit higher or defeat a plateau. In other words, get you out of a rut.

And there's simply the fun of the challenge. If I, as someone who writes consistently anyway, were to ever participate in NaNoWriMo, I'd choose a novel of the approximate length, and then I would write something completely different than I usually write. It would be a month out of my usual schedule, a month out of time, just to stretch myself and see what I could produce.

Hey, I think now I'm tempted.

Related posts: Zero Drafting.
How To Learn To Write.
The Art of Letting Go: Finishing the Novel.
Pithy Writing Advice.
Learning Who Your Characters Are.
Caring About Your Characters – Or Not.


  1. I wrote 3 new short story drafts and 25k last year. It took me out of my safe zone and yes, my subconscious did some very cool things. I wasn't well prepared in 2008. I'm better prepared this year. And again, it's not a novel draft, but short story drafts. Why the heck not? It's about generating work outside my usual slow and methodical pace. It's about shutting down my internal critic for 30 days. These are all stories I want to write and never seem to have time to start. I'm always editing something else. So this month, I give myself permission to sit in the chair and generate words, even crap words. Heck, I cut about 50% of what I wrote for one of the drafts. But the core was solid, the plot, the arc, the characters. The editing was all tweaking. Heavy tweaking, but still tweaking.

    I think NaNo is great as long as someone doesn't think they've got a final draft at the end of the month. Zero draft is right.


  2. YES. I think I will try it sometime when I'm NOT on deadline and can take some vacation days, too. That would be so fun.

  3. Nano's not in the cards for me. November is just too hectic. I do write every day, but the pressure of Nano would kill me! I do like you're idea of choosing a different, shorter project and using Nano for that. Maybe sometime in the future,