It's the month people all over the world sign up to write a book in a month. But is it always successful or can it prove soul-destroying? PHS editor Robyn Rychards and Columnists Nicole Locke and Liam Livings share their experiences of NanoWriMo.
The first time I heard about National Novel Writing Month was when I was an aspiring writer, writing about a chapter a month. The idea of writing a whole book in one month was rather mind-boggling. Still, every year it would roll around and I’d think, ‘Should I?’
Then PHS editor, Ali Williams, created a Facebook group called NaNoRomMo and invited me to join. It was the push over the edge I needed. After all, I had a story idea waiting to get out of my head. Characters who, with a little time spent figuring them out, could come to life. A storyline that could, if I spent some time pondering, be entertaining.
Surely joining a bunch of romance writers who were trying to do the same thing, plotting out my story, planning ahead, figuring out how much I needed to write each day and each week to meet the goal, and having everything ready by the time November first rolled around, I could write 50k words. Couldn’t I?
Not so much. I made it about halfway through, meeting my daily and weekly goals to keep me on track, but once Thanksgiving Break rolled around, and the kids were home for nine days straight, the novel came to a grinding halt. On top of that, once the story sat for a bit, I decided I hated it, so it sits to this day, unfinished.
Sounds like an epic fail to me…
Well, not really. I still contemplate, if only for a moment, doing it again every fall when the time gets near. I learned a lot about myself and my writing process, as well as the writing process in general, participating in NaNoWriMo. It was the first time I’d planned a book so thoroughly, since I’m a mostly a pants-er, and the planning, though not extensive, was a big help getting words on the page on a daily basis. I do need some sort of motivator to force me into doing something, and the lure of having a book finished by the end of a month really helped with that. It also helped me appreciate what plotters like about plotting out a story before actually writing it.
Mind you, I’ll never be a plotter, it just sounds like werk to me, but I did find it helpful to have my characters fleshed out and a basic outline of what I wanted the story to do. I realized that having that kind of info ready ahead of time made it easier to write the story. Therefore, in the end, not actually werk. So, really, even though I didn’t finish the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo—or even have a story I could finish and use—I’m glad I did it.
Would I do it again? Most likely not, I don’t work well under pressure and getting a book written in a month is a lot of pressure. For me anyway. Still, never say never, right? I may end up deciding I need to get a story written and the goal of doing it in a month may just be the thing.
Yay it’s NaNo time! In case you don’t know what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where millions of writers from around the world sign up to write 50k words in one month. Yes, this truly exists. And yes, it is millions of participants. It wasn’t when I started. I’ve been a fan of NaNoWriMo since I entered in 2008.
I’m famous in my house for entering NaNo. For instance, the time I entered and nothing happened. Entered and stumbled. Entered again and made it! Tried again and failed.
I’m entering again this year. The entering part I have down. The finishing…?
I have doubts. The moving from one country to another, the settling of kids in their schools, and one horrendous disagreement between me and my only writing love, Scrivener (we broke up afterwards…it’s not reconcilable), have made for a rough writing year.
But NaNo is now, and I can feel that familiar feeling welling up. That maybe I can make the 50k word count. Maybe 2017 doesn’t have to be a complete wordless wasteland.
However, given my track record with NaNo, shouldn’t I be worried? This is a tough year and in the past, I failed. How could I possibly succeed now when the odds aren’t in my favour?
I have a secret to my success. Something I’ve learned along the way of entering all those NaNos.
It’s the entering that counts.
I’m not talking about the familiar feeling of hope to write the story in your head. Because when you enter, something more happens than simply a wish.
You’ve committed to your story.
Sure, Life could happen and get in the way or you could stand on your own fingers and not type a word. I’m a perfect example of that. I entered NaNo in 2008. My first book was released in 2015. I’d like to say I started that book in 2014, but that would be a lie. I started the seeds to that story in…1999. Along the way, I moved around, had kids and a career, travelled, watched films and sunsets.
But also along the way, I entered NaNo because I didn’t want to only wish, I wanted commitment. And by entering NaNoYou’ve announced it., you make a contract to that story.Something binding and clear.
Why do I know this? Because NaNo’s never failed me, even in the years I didn’t complete in time. I made a commitment to the story, and once you do that, the story won’t leave you alone. You’ve announced it. It has to be told.
And NaNo has the writing community to announce it to.You’re not alone with your commitment. There are other writers making the same binding wish as you.
I bet they are famous in their households for entering it as well. I bet most of them have faltered along the way. If you have doubts or worries on whether you can accomplish NaNo, wipe them away. Remember, your story will become more than a wish simply by entering.
So you can join me, here’s the link: https://nanowrimo.org.I’m the one with fingers on the keyboard and pencil pompoms for cheering.
Have you tried NaNoWriMo?
I’ did NaNoWriMo in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and I’m likely to do it in 2017. And actually, in October I’m going to have written from start to finish a 50,000 word novel too because that’s how things worked out and how I am as a writer.
Have you succeeded or failed?
Every time I won.
My numbers were:
2013 – 77,000 – The Guardian Angel http://www.liamlivings.com/blog/how-i-prepared-for-my-first-nanowrimo
2014 – 61,254 – Kev book 2 http://www.liamlivings.com/blog/how-i-won-nanowrimo-2014-in-13-days
2015 – 53,479 – I Should Be So Lucky http://www.liamlivings.com/blog/how-i-won-nanowrimo-2015-in-15-days
I didn’t do it in 2016 because I’d set myself a target of writing first drafts of 3 novels between September and the end of December, after finishing my MA in creative writing. During that sequence, November was a month of editing and self publishing my Xmas story which had an unmoveable deadline.
What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
1. It’s something I knew about myself, but this confirmed it. I respond well to a deadline. When needed, I can be very focused to deliver something by deadline.
2. I find it easier to write a book quickly than slowly because I'm much less likely to lose the thread and the main point of the story. When I write a story over 3 months – which I did last year, I honestly couldn’t remember who was what and what it was all about by the end.
3. A weekly word target is more flexible and I find helpful, than a daily one. I can have days when I write nothing because of life, work, socialising. However if I have the weekly target in my head I can juggle things around on other days and still meet the weekly target.
4. Having days of rest during the month is important too. I am not someone who believes a writer must write every day. See previous point why.
5. Write through the anxiety that it’s the worse thing ever. When I re-read it I couldn’t tell the difference between the scenes that had flowed out of my fingers and those where I was writing it thinking it was total and utter bilge. That’s not to say they didn’t all need a good edit before being sent anywhere!
Have you sold the book at the end?
The first book – after a beta read, and a serious edit, was sold to Love Lane Books as The Guardian Angel. I’ve since got the rights back so I’ll be indie publishing that next year once I’ve sorted a new cover.
The second book was accepted by my editor of the publisher where I’d written the original series, of which this was a spin-off, but then the publisher went into financial difficulties and stopped contracting new books. The publisher has since closed. At the moment, the first in the Kev trilogy has been contracted by Nine Star Press and the second – the one I wrote in NANOWRIMO 2014 - is being reviewed by my editor as I’d like the whole series to be in one place.
The third book’s first 5500 words was used as one of my MA creative writing assignments. With a lot of editing and applied learning from the course obviously. I got 68% for that assignment which was my highest grade overall. The tutor said *trumped blowing klaxon* ‘The prose is fresh and lively and you drew me into the story immediately...some very good writing here, much of which was of distinction grade.’ I will self-edit the whole story and submit it all to publishers early next year.
Would I recommend it to other authors?
Absolutely. In a heart beat. If you write full time it can be a good way to focus on completing for a deadline. If you write around a full time job, caring commitments etc, this is a good way to reset how much procrastination you have built around your writing. And focus on writing all the words instead!
If you like the Christmas film, The Holiday, then you should love Liam's Christmas novella, A New Life For Christmas. It’s a male male romance life swap story set in England and America with two gorgeous couples and a big festive happy ever after and is on promotion for only 99p or 99c until December when it will go up to full price. To find out more you can visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you done it in the past and succeeded or failed? Let us know in the comments or use #NaNoWriMo to join the #PHS fun in progress. And don't forget our NanoRomMo Facebook group where you'll find lots of support from like minded writers who are aiming to write a Romance novel this month!