On Point Interview — NaNoWriMo

I was interviewed along with Lev Grossman (The Magicians) and Chris Baty (NaNoWriMo founder and a very persuasive advocate for the event) about the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo. You can hear my point of view at about halfway, right after the second break in the show.

Do You NaNoWriMo?

Spoiler alert: I was the “con” portion of the show. You’re shocked, I know.

NaNoWriMo 2013

If it’s October that means that it’s time for the annual NaNoWriMo post. In a nutshell, here is my approach to the event that consumes the writing community for the wacky month of November:

Don’t do it.

To recap: in 2009, I wrote a post entitled, Writing a Novel? Don’t Do NaNoWriMo.

Writing requires steady, consistent effort. Blasting through a novel at over 1000 words a day means that you will get a lot of crap and at the end of the experiment you will have 50,000 words, far too short for any market today.

You can read the rest at the link. Definitely read the comments. They’re the best part of the post.

I waded into the controversy again in 2010 (still more thoughtful commentary), and later the first post was picked up by TIME in 2012.

My stance has softened over the years. I still think that NaNoWriMo devalues the writing experience. It certainly devalues editing, if the number of raw manuscripts that cross agent and editor desks in December are any indication. However, plenty of writers use NaNoWriMo as a big celebratory jumping off point for a writing burst, and they know about editing and polishing.

So if you are facing NaNoWriMo for the first time, I still think you shouldn’t do it. But if you do, here’s the way to “win” at NaNoWriMo:

  • Turn off the internal (or infernal) editor.
  • Get the words down.
  • Don’t worry about making daily word count; but do work steadily each day.
  • When you reach November 30, and you have around 20,000-50,000 words, take a deep breath and realize that what you have isn’t a novel.

It’s a good start.

Even if you reach 50,000 words, that’s far too short for a standard novel in today’s world of publishing. This has changed with self-publishing and e-books of course, but in general, 50,000 words is less than novel length. So you will have to write more, and then you have to edit and polish and rework, draft after draft. You might have to cut some of those 50,000 words and add others that are the right words.

And when you reach The End on the first draft, remember: The End is just the beginning.

So Don’t Do NaNoWriMo.

But if you do, use it to jumpstart your writing, not as a sprint but as a a marathon.

Good luck!

NaNoWriMo one more time

I wasn’t going to mention NaNo this year. I swear. But TIME started it, by referencing my No No NaNoWriMo sentiments of previous years, so I guess you can blame the mainstream media.

NaNoWriMo: Is National Novel Writing Month a Literary Threat or Menace?

I’m not the only one who views NaNo with trepidation or a jaundiced eye. Check out some of the quotes from the other naysayers. Author Graeme McMillan comes out on the side of NaNo, despite it all. He’s wrong, of course. While I’ve mellowed and no longer think NaNo is a scourge upon the face of literature, I still think it’s a bad way to try to write a novel. And if you are doing NaNo, just stop it. Don’t kid yourself. Write your novel but don’t gimmick it up. Take it seriously, take joy in the work, create — you don’t need the NaNo hype.

So there you have it — the NaNo continues.

In other news, I was away last week and sick-ish* this week, hence the blog silence. I used my time away to get some quality writing time in along the Frio River in the Texas Hill Country. Let me tell you, there is something about writing on a porch overlooking the beautiful Frio, the trees changing color as faintly as they do here in Texas (it’s more subdued than in the north but is still lovely, like Lothlorien, all gold and fading green).

This trip is an annual one — one of my friends organizes it and calls it Mommy Camp. There is a “bad mommy” cabin and a “quiet” cabin. I had the best of both worlds. I roomed in the quiet cabin (and wrote on the porch there) and hung out at the bad mommy cabin, and all in all, it worked out well.

Now I’m feeling well, going to see Pagliacci tonight and so looking forward to it, you have no idea. This is Austin Lyric Opera‘s production.

*Not enough to keep from going to work, just enough to sap my energy