Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9 of NaNoWriMo

All you participants should have at least 15,000 words written by the end of the day.

Are you going to reach it?

If not, don't freak out. It's really not the end of the world, and if you don't "win" NaNoWriMo, it doesn't mean you've failed. It might mean you weren't prepared for it, though.

There's a lot of different advice out there for completing this month of word vomiting, so I'm not going to bore you by repeating it all. For one, this is only my second year participating (and admittedly, I'm cheating this year because I'm just finishing something I'd already started--Yes, you can throw your pitchforks and flaming torches at me). So, I'm not an expert by any means. And two, a lot of that advice is just plain bad. Like, not using contractions? What's the point of that? Okay sure, if you're not really hoping to send this book to agents or editors some day, go ahead. Use those little tricks that will add minimally to your word count. But if you ARE planning to submit your work, don't make your life harder.

It is possible to come away with a decent first draft in a month.

Let me repeat that.

It is possible to come away with a decent first draft in a month.

There are arguments to the contrary, although I don't understand them. Professional writers complete first drafts in a month or two all the time, but because they don't do it during NaNoWriMo, it's taken seriously. Whatever.

The problem isn't going into NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing a book in a month. The problem is going into NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month, even if they're all bad. And let's face it, 50,000 words is overwhelming. Really, REALLY overwhelming. And it's way too tempting to just start putting down whatever you can think of to get to the end of that goal.

And really, going from beginning to end can be overwhelming, too. So don't do it. Instead, read Story Structure--Demystified, by Larry Brooks. Reading this book has literally changed the way I approach writing the first draft. Instead of writing beginning to end, I write beginning to first Plot Point, first PP to first Pinch Point, first Pinch Point to Midpoint, Midpoint to second Pinch Point, second Pinch Point to second Plot Point, second Plot Point to end. It looks like a lot, but each of those sections is only a few thousand words long (ranging from 7,000-15,000--depending on the projected length of your novel). And when you're done, you have a first draft that looks like this:

Got it from here

Instead of this:

And yes, I still consider myself a pantser. I may have all those points generally figured out, but I let the story shape itself to get to them. So no arguments from all of you who say you can't outline. It's not outlining. It's preparing the story.

Have you noticed that in the second picture there's some green and purple, and that the blue and red don't even touch each other? Some serious editing is required to get that one to even begin to resemble the final product. Because you can't get that to this:

Got it from here, too.

The first one is at least on it's way there. A first draft that has a complete story in mind with connecting parts just needs a little more fine tuning to finish. The lines need only some embellishment, some more connective tissue.

So if you're freaking out because you think you need to vomit out words to be successful this month, calm down and remember what you're really doing is writing a story. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Let the life of your characters be the goal, not the numbers.

So, with all that in mind, how are you guys doing with your writing? Are you in love with the story yet? 


  1. I learned this lesson the hard way. I started NaNo gung ho, but realized I only had a general idea of what was going to happen, but not a clear path of how to get there. So I'm going to start again and maybe do half a NaNo.

  2. Ah, great points. The best place is somewhere in between just vomiting up anything to be generating words, and taking way too long with getting stuff out. And yep, a lot of writers CAN and DO whip their first drafts out in 1-2 months anyway!!

  3. great points em!
    you are so right about the focus being on counts and not on story. and don't use contractions? that's just silly! along with, just type the song lyrics you're listening too... wtf?
    i think that if you're aiming at putting a story down instead of hitting a count, it's going to flow way easier than thinking numbers numbers numbers. the numbers serve a purpose, they hold us accountable and provide an edge to competition, but if you're cheating numbers what are you really winning in the end?
    cheaters may prosper, but they feel hollow.
    and that's meaningless.
    nano is an OPPORTUNITY.
    not to brag about how fast your fingers can fly, but to try new things with your writing. give yourself incentive to just word vomit. don't worry about sentence structure and misspellings and occasional info dumps. just write, and enjoy it, and love it.
    remember that joy you used to have before it became so much work and pressure.
    let the internal editor just take a breather for a moment, and spill those words out!
    nano is fun!
    it shouldn't be a stressor (hypocrite me!) but a habit developer. a chance to chunk out this daily time in your schedule to devote to the writing. UGH!
    you are so right about all this nano cheapness!
    i just don't get it!
    i really need to give that book a look sometime! maybe feed that internal editor a bit after he's had his break...

  4. Hi, I'd like to invite you to post your giveaways on our giveaway directory: Giveaway Scout ( Please submit your blog here: and once you receive our confirmation email you can post as many giveaways as you want. thanks, Josh

  5. Hello there,
    I am just popping over from Alex's blog hop. I have been trying to do a few a day or when I get some free time. I'm sorry it's taken me a while to get around to you, it's just that there are so many phew!! So "hello" and great blog. I will pop by as often as I can. Good to "meet" you.
    Eve :)

  6. I haven't been doing Nano, but I have been visiting blogs. I can't wait for your book. There's something about the cover that intrigues me lol. I can't tell you what it is...honestly I find the face on the cover a little unattractive...yet it is compelling in an odd way.

  7. I voted for you Emily. If I could vote twice I would. I'm so wanting you to zoom up the charts :)


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