NaNoWriMo

 By Shamus Dec 1, 2007 47 comments

So I see that National Novel Writing Month is over.

A lot of people criticize NaNoWriMo, saying that:

  1. 50,000 words (the NaNoWriMo target) isn’t really a novel.
  2. Writing all the time just for the sake of reaching a predetermined word count is a great way to force yourself to write crap.
  3. If you want to write, do so! Don’t wait for an arbitrary start / stop point just because everyone else is doing it.

Those are all fair points. Everyone works a little differently. Some people are goal-oriented: I want to be a published writer and therefore I need to sit down and crank out a book even though it’s a lot of work. Other people – like me – are more obsession oriented: I have this idea and I need to get it out of my system by writing it down, even if it never gets published. I’m most certainly the latter, and something like NaNoWriMo is useless to me. But the former sort of person can probably get a lot out of it.

I’ve already written a novel, and I don’t feel any strong desire to do so again. If an idea strikes me, then I’ll end up writing one whether I want to or not.

One thing I don’t understand is why NaNoWriMo is in November of all months. In the US November means Thanksgiving, with all the related chaos of guests, huge meals, Christmas shopping, etc. Rotten time to write a book. January, February or March would be a lot better. There aren’t any major holidays, and (in the northern hemisphere) the world is a dark, joyless ball of ice. Good time to stay inside and write a book.

I write between four and seven thousand words a week here on this site, which means I’d fall short of the NaNoWriMo goal even if I replaced all of my post-writing with novel-writing. Fifty thousand words, despite not being enough for a “full” novel, is still a huge honkin’ load of words to put together in the space of a month.

But I’m curious how it went for people. I wonder what percentage of participants reach their goal? What fraction of those people go on to write a “complete” book? What (miniscule) portion of those people go on to get published? What (even smaller) portion of those folks manage to sell enough to justify the time spent on it? It’s a tough gig.

Did you take part? How did you do?

20207Feeling chatty? There are 47 comments.


  1. BVB says:

    I didn’t personally take part, but your ideas (new months) are good. I don’t know who thought that November was good, but they were crazy :S

  2. Heather says:

    I agree. I HATE that it is in NOVEMBER of all months–I never actually get anywhere, though it does give me the kick in the butt I need to start writing fiction again –the kids are what keep me at it. Mine only hit 5,000 words but is almost finished and the kids will hold e accountable until I finish it because thy LOVE the story.

    For many people just writing 50,000 words is a goal in itself and helps them develop a plot and whatnot. Many just start writing, others use the snowflake method or some other device to get themselves on the right track. Still others use it as an opportunity to meet other writers in their area and get together with them throughout the month and then through the rest of the year. We have one of those groups even in our area–I think there are at least 25 NANOWRIMO in our small town. Which basically means a lot of bad books. Then there are the ones like us who prefer BEING ALONE to write and THAT is why we never get any writing done, that and all the distractions that come with being online.

  3. Ryan Speck says:

    It’s in November particularly because it’s kind of crappy outside and people are more inclined to stay in and write… I’ve never had a problem with the month.

    I was too busy packing and moving into a new house and didn’t write this year. In fact, the usable time I had was spent doing final edits and art for last year’s novel.

    If I had the time, I’d gladly do it, as I’m more goal-driven when I have an artificial goal to apply myself to. If I write just for myself, I’ll realize that I enjoy thinking of the ideas more and spend my time watching TV instead, which is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than writing 2000 words a day. Anything that keeps me working when people really don’t care, I guess…

  4. Dave Brown says:

    “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” is about 50,000 words long. 50,000 words is definitely novel-length.

  5. Telas says:

    Dave: IIRC, most modern publishers want at least 70,000 words for a novel. HGttG was published before the commoditization of fiction, and had the fame of the radio show to draw on.

    What I don’t get is why everything draws criticism these days. I respect the heck out of anyone sticking with NaNoWriMo; it’s about 49,000 words more than I’ve ever put together. Does belittling others really make people feel bigger?

    (And what the heck is up with that quasi-acronym? NNWM is so much easier to type, and NaNoWriMo always reminds me of a giant and a beanstalk.)

    Agree 100% with November being a horrible month for it; almost all of my gaming groups go through a shuffle or break in Nov-Dec as trips are taken, last minute things are done at work, parties are held, etc. January would be far better – it’s a time for new resolutions, it’s a whole day longer, the days are shorter (so there’s less time to spend outdoors), and it’s pretty danged cold (at least in the States).

  6. Phlux says:

    In response to point 2: Forcing yourself to write crap IS an excellent way to break writer’s block. There are many times when I’ve been writing, and I can’t seem to think my way around a particular section, so I sit and think and think and think and don’t write anything because I don’t want to write something BAD.

    Then I remember that I have the power of editing at my disposal. So I go allow myself to write something truly cringe-worthy knowing that I will go back and fix it up before anyone has a chance to see it. That keeps the blocks from becoming walls, and keeps my writing pace up.

    NaNoWriMo might be in a wierd time of year, may not be long enough, and may be arbitrary…but anything that succeeds in helping you write is OK in my book (no pun intended).

  7. The Gneech says:

    February, at least, is too short. But November is when college students have settled in, but before their classload gets completely ridiculous, so maybe that’s a factor?

    I like NaNo, just because it’s nice to see -culture- celebrated for a month (even in the form of rushed amateur novels), instead of the almighty dollah. :)

    -The Gneech

  8. william says:

    why are we bothering with books anymore? seriously guys, we have the TV for that stuff now
    ;)

  9. Freaky Dug says:

    I did it this year for the first time and managed to complete it a few hours before the deadline. Although i’d be the first to admit that most of what I’ve written is pretty poor that wasn’t really what it was about.

    Firstly, it’s a matter of motivation. If you can make yourself write 50,000 words in a month, you can apply that to lots of things. It gives you confidence. You can say “Well, I wrote a 50,000 word novel in a month so this should be easy.” I would never have managed it without the goal to work towards.

    Secondly, I have created a whole new universe in my mind, and on my computer, that I will enjoy expanding in the future. Making up my own worlds and imagining the stories that happen within them is one of my favourite hobbies and this has given me another one to work with, one that’s pretty much completely different to the ones I already write stories, draw pictures, etc. about.

    Thirdly even though I’ve written a lot of very low quality stuff, I know there are some chunks of goodness in there and I know my writing and story telling ability has improved because of it.

    As for the number of words, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is about 50k, and that’s one of my favourite books of all time so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that word count.

  10. Skjalm says:

    Personally, I like the idea behind NaNoWriMo as well as its interesting history. I also know enough about myself to have realised that if I ever want to write more than a very, very short story I have to do it in a way similar to NaNoWriMo – otherwise I would let myself get sidetracked by all the other things that suddenly come up.

    In addition to that it’s my experience that I get a far better “flow” in the story if I write fairly intensely (i.e. 1-3 hours per day) rather than once every few weeks. This is sort of the same, I guess, as why people will join various coding events such as the Demo Parties or the Nordic Game Jam. Do a lot of work in a very short time to be able to see a lot of result before you set the project aside because Real Life got in the way.

    As for what month to put it in my guess is that every month would be bad to some people and every month would be good for some other people. Living in Europe (Denmark, to be precise) makes November a fairly good month – if for no other reason than having a great excuse for NOT beginning the whole christmad (spelling mistake intentional!) circus before December ;-)

    And before someone else say it: yes, I know the “right” thing to do would to become structured or whatever and set aside time to write throughout the year or whatever. Those who’d say that are probably also the same people that would say something like “computer games are a waste of time” ;-)

    The website has a nice “About” page (and a looooong story about its history) as well as a list of published (NaNoWriMo) books:
    http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano
    http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/402675

  11. Snook says:

    “But November is when college students have settled in, but before their classload gets completely ridiculous, so maybe that’s a factor?”

    I don’t know where you went to College, but here, November is one of the worst months to have a project like this. If it was in, say, March, it’d be wonderful. February is too short for this, really…

    I have many friends who do/did this, and I’ve yet to be subjected to any of their writing. Then again, all of the stories I’ve written haven’t been all to great either. Maybe sometime I’ll organise my own little NNWM in March and crank out a novel on something.

    But I have no ideas for a story, at least not an original one.

  12. Jacob says:

    This was my first year participating as well, and I hit the mark about four hours before midnight. 50k is short compared with many novels, but it’s still longer than anything else I’ve written yet. The most interesting part of the experience was that my entire month seemed absorbed with the story and ideas I wrote about. Even during part of my day while I worked or attended to other matters, this writing project seemed to work its way into everything.

  13. Dev Null says:

    I think its a neat idea; if people need a little outside stimulation to motivate them, I say: go to.

    (But I’ll bet publishing houses dread December. They probably do it in November because its a good time of year in NorAm to have a good supply of firewood on-hand.)

  14. Davesnot says:

    I have 3 published guide books currently in print.. I have a number of novel starts that I am not currently obsessed with.. I’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo .. sounds like a great way to rid yourself of the passion of writing.. just what the world needs.. a few more monkeys at the keys.

    My brother writes with these sorts of goals.. his writing sounds like bad actors learning how to improv badly… or trying to learn how to improv badly and failing… but he sure is happy when he reaches his word count.. He accuses me of using big words to sound snobby and smart.. He considers words like considers, accuses, passion, obsessed to be big words.. I’m not sure what kinda words he uses in his writing.. I can’t seem to read more than a few hundred of them at a sitting.

    NaNoWriMo.. whatta world.. Thanks for pointing out a thing in my field that I can continue to happily ignore.

  15. Hamish says:

    “I don’t know where you went to College, but here, November is one of the worst months to have a project like this.”

    Exactly. November is crunch time for northern hemisphere college students. My students had write two essays this month, just in the class I TA for.

    I think the most important thing about NaNoWriMo (and I’ve never done it though I’d like to, time permitting) is that it gets you writing, and like anything, writing rewards practice. Even if the 50k words are garbage, the next 50k will be better, and so on.

  16. QE says:

    I attempted it in 2005 and failed (due in part to both my computers dying and me spending two weeks with nothing to write on). This year I finished it with a day to spare despite having wasted a week’s holiday in World of Warcraft.
    I published it online as I went and a few friends stopped by to say they were enjoying it and it wasn’t getting posted quickly enough, which helped motivate me.
    I must admit though that I only met the word target and didn’t finish the work. The story I intend to tell will probably come in around 70,000 words and I’m going to finish it, albeit at a less feverish pace.

    I accept the normal arguments against the event, but generally critics are trying to use their justifications for not bothering as reasons why nobody should take part.
    So 50,000 isn’t a novel: it’s a challenging but manageable target for a month’s writing, and that’s the point.
    Have I got a pile of trash because I was in a hurry? I don’t think so: I consider what I have so far to be a reasonable first draft. Will it be publishable? Probably not, but it’s better than much of my previous writing and for that it was valuable experience, even without proving that I can motivate myself to keep to that target.

    Many NaNoWriMo authors aren’t in it to publish (I’m not in it to publish _this_ work, although I do hope to publish something later), and I think worrying about the influx of tinder at publishing houses is a little mean. Encouraging people to get their inner novels off their chests is good for them, and I dare say that once in a while it’s even good for the publishing industry and subsequently readers of books.

    Ultimately I think it’s a shame that so many people dismiss it so readily (and I realise Shamus isn’t, entirely ;) ) rather than just letting others get on with what they want to do. Having failed it once and managed it this time I can tell you it’s not easy, and to decry the event as seems to be the vogue belittles the effort that thousands of successful (and tens of thousands of unsuccessful) participants have put in and the personal achievements they’ve made.

  17. Germelia says:

    This year was my second NaNoWriMo and the first time I finished it. In 2005 I started with two friends but lost track of nearly everything so I stopped at 16000 words. This year I took part because my boyfriend asked me to (he needed a writing buddy) and I managed to finish a couple of hours before midnight, half an hour before he finished.
    For me, this year’s nano is not so much about the story I’ve written (which is utter crap), but the fact that I finished something. (Though that is debatable because I didn’t actually finish the story, but I did get to those 50000 words) Also, it is something we did together, which makes this month, difficult though it may have been sometimes, special for me. For us.

  18. Snook says:

    That’s actually a neat (and hopelessly romantic :p) idea for a couple to do… Write novels together!

    And come to think of it, NNWM reminds me of a Monty Python sketch I have on CD. Public novel writing, which runs like a sports show.

  19. Davesnot says:

    Ok.. I’m awake now.. what a jerk I was.. This is probably a lot of fun.. one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to just write and not worry about the product.. and writing without editing is important too! This project would force you to leave the stuff you’ve already written alone and forge on.. and save the edits for later!

    I noticed someone above had nothing to write on for two weeks.. I’m a bit confused.. what did Shakespere use.. an Apple II+ ?? was Hemmingway slaving away on a TRS-80? .. The egyptions smashed a bunch of plants together to get paper.. you could burn the end of a stick to write with.. surely you had access to real paper and maybe even a pen.. surely much better writing supplies than .. oh.. George Orwell.. Robert Heinlein.. JRR Tolkien.. Ray Bradbury.. Paul.. Peter.. and the rest of the gospel gang.. The dudes that penned the Dead Sea Scrolls…

    I understand the trauma of losing a computer.. but a lot of writers would write better if they went back to the pen and paper, lost the thesaurus, and typed the thing in during the edit process.

    Maybe make January the NaNoWriMo.. but call it the Galaxical Story Writing Lunar Cycle .. write your complete story in how ever many words it takes.. then call the next lunar cycle the Planetary Editing Lunar Cycle.. then the following full moon could be the Assult Your Favorite Publisher Month… just don’t forget your SASE if you want a response.

  20. Craig says:

    I always wanted to write a novel. I spent a good deal of last year writing down all my ideas for plot, characters, symbolism, setting, etc. Maybe next NaNoWriMo I’ll make it a goal to force a comprehensive outline for myself.

    Davesnot: I definitely need to work on paper. I get nothing done if I try to draft on the computer. I need a huge ammount of pen and paper work before I even touch the keyboard. I think more writers should work this way, but I am ridiculously in the level of amateur here, so take that for what you will.

  21. Snook says:

    “I understand the trauma of losing a computer.. but a lot of writers would write better if they went back to the pen and paper, lost the thesaurus, and typed the thing in during the edit process.”

    I don’t know about others, but I know that after a year or so of writing nothing but equations and numbers by hand, and writing everything else by computer, my handwriting is *atrocious*. I have difficulty reading it myself, most of the time. And how many people use a thesaurus, I wonder… The best substitute is a large vocabulary gained from *gasp* reading! I never use a thesaurus, I just double-check the meaning of words I’m hazy on, to make sure I don’t use it wrongly. :p

    I do agree, though, that if nothing else you can easily find a pen and paper to write with.

  22. Laura says:

    This was the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, and I didn’t make it. I got about 9000 words into it, and a few things discouraged me and I didn’t keep it up. But the important thing was that I tried.

    I’ve been a writer since I knew the alphabet, and that’s always what I’ve wanted to do, and I think I’m fairly good at it. But I haven’t written seriously for a long time, though I’ve written literally millions of words in my lifetime, some better than others. NaNoWriMo, for me, was to make me write something, anything. And I did. And while it was going good, it was really good, and I loved it.

    So my new goal is to write 500 to 1000 words every day. That will definitely be more than I have been doing, and now I know I can.

    I don’t understand all the criticism. 50,000 words works out to about 1700 words a day, which is not that much. It’s not like participants are told to rush through everything and type random letters. Published novelists who talk about their craft, such as Stephen King, say that they try to write about 2000 words a day, or a chapter, or whatever. Yes, everyone’s writing process is different–some do it longhand, some on a typewriter, some in little pieces from throughout the book–but the important thing is to write regularly, and when you can’t write something good, write something bad, because you have to KEEP WRITING.

    THAT’S what NaNoWriMo is about. Not creating masterpieces, though that’s cool, too.

    And yeah, maybe it’s not quite novel-length by some standards. But who cares? It’s a goal, and it’s a good one. The publishing industry is just as commercial as everything else is. You write for yourself, first. 50,000 thousand words is a hecka lot, and knowing you can do it is pretty cool.

    You yourself, Shamus, say that you try to write one or two blog entries a day. Isn’t that similar? I’m sure you look back on some of them and think that they weren’t that good. But you still wrote them. And in the heat of writing, amazing things can happen.

    Anyway, just my little corner of perception. A couple of chapters from my stalled NaNo novel are on my livejournal, linked above. You can read them if you like and tell me if you think they’re crap. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that I wrote them at all.

  23. Ian says:

    NaNoWriMo has always intrigued me. I actually intended to enter this year but due to a lot of things going on in my life (namely, moving back to good ol’ Northeast Ohio after a brief stint in Maryland) I sort of missed most of November.

    Ah well, there’s always next year.

  24. Samrobb says:

    I’m thinking about participating (kind of) next year. I have some ideas about doing a short commentary on Christian leadership as presented in the pastoral epistles, but life always seems to get in the way of actually sitting down and writing :-) Having a deadline does wonders for helping me focus; maybe I should use NNWM as an excuse^H^H^H^H^H^H reason to block out time for my efforts next year. “Sorry, hon. Can’t fix that broken doorknob tonight. Gotta write, you know.”

  25. Rebecca says:

    I love criticizing NaNoWriMo because it gets people’s panties into a twist. The participants take it too seriously.

    I used to participate, but I couldn’t keep up with my classes and the wordcount. It’s less about the time it takes as the amount of concentration. Also, I find the Nano rules sort of arbitrary. If Nano was in the summer, I would probably try it again.

    “But November is when college students have settled in, but before their classload gets completely ridiculous, so maybe that’s a factor?”

    Dude, around here November the end of the semester.

  26. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice now. The first time, I wrote exactly what you’re talking about. The 50,000 words, craptastic, not worth of reading. That “novel” sits in a folder deep on my hard drive. I wrote that one entirely by myself, ignoring the NaNo-meets. But it did teach me that I was capable of actually doing an extended fiction piece. I’ve always been a writer, but short stories is as far as I took the craft.

    This year was a completely different run. I’ve been involved with my local group. And although we don’t get together to write, we do hang out and veg (which is necessary if you’re insane enough to throw 50,000 words onto your busy life schedule). We talk about our novels. What works, what doesn’t. It’s a very casual writing group, essentially. It really helped me to write something enjoyable (mostly for myself, but the few others who have read it say there is enjoyment. I could just have liars for friends :D).

    I wanted to hit the 50,000 word goal by December first because that’s the purpose of the event. But my novel is not over. Not even remotely. I’ve got another 30-40k before I can call the story over. I like my story enough to keep working at it. And I do plan on doing “something” with it. Whether that is publishing, self-publishing, or throwing it on the internet for free.

    For the record, the completion stats:

    2002: 16%
    2003: 14%
    2004: 14%
    2005: 17%
    2006: 16%

    The 2007 statistics will be released sometime next week. (I don’t know the publishing statistics, but there certainly have been some folks who have achieved such a goal)

    I can’t tell you why the thousands of other people did it. For me? It was something to do. Sure, I didn’t have the time (November is an awful month for University students). Sure, I could have just written a novel for fun without worrying about the time-frame. But NaNoWriMo is fun. It’s hectic, nerve-wracking, insane. But it is fun. And if you wanted me to boil my reasoning behind doing it to one word, that’d be it: fun.

  27. Snook says:

    Well, I’ve been struck by the desire to write. However, I’ll do it AFTER finals.

  28. Mark says:

    I managed to break 10,000 words. Most of these are very short summary segments for chapters which, fully expanded, would probably be quite respectably-sized. I discovered that I have a novel in me after all, but it’s quite comfortable there and doesn’t want to come out. That’s fine. I got to see it grow, I witnessed themes emerging that I hadn’t planned for, got to know my characters far better than I could have imagined, and I didn’t quit.

    The only worse time than November for NaNoWriMo would be December. I’ve been so busy that I don’t know what to do with myself. Maybe I’ll spend January and February finishing what I managed to start.

  29. RPharazon says:

    Ages ago, there was a Language Arts class that I had to take. It was nice, and our final assignment was to write a 1500 word story. Not a novel, but a short story nevertheless. You could do it about anything, anywhere, anytime, any perspective, whatever.

    I managed to make a story that was absolutely hilarious from start to finish, and was the only one who received applause when I finished reading it. It was in first-person, and was supposed to be a story that immerses the reader, and that said, no details about the main character was divulged.

    My teacher gave me a 5/10 because “There was no character development.”

    That turned me off storywriting for as long as I can remember.

    Now I write existential BS for whatever class requires it (Social Studies, Ethics) with a subject matter that barely touches what the actual homework was. I have never gotten a mark below a 9/10 in that area.

  30. Snook says:

    RPharazon: I know how you feel, any work which actually gets a positive response will automatically get a failing mark. It’s happened dozens of times to me, you just have to learn to work with the system.

  31. Avaz says:

    This has nothing really to do with the post, but:

    Shamus, you were asking about the ads that show up on the side bars there, and it just so happens you have one from double you x3 dot authorhouse dot com.

    Just wanted to let you know. :)

  32. DavidRM says:

    This was my second year to participate in Nanowrimo. Last year I did complete my novel within November, 63000 words. I even have it dusted up and ready to shop around.

    This year, I hit the 51K mark, but my novel is a long ways from finished. I plan to continue to work on it over the next couple months and get it finished.

    I don’t agree with some of the odd-er parts of Nanowrimo (like people not using contractions and always using the full name of their characters and just spewing out anything that comes to mind when “stuck”), but I think it provides a great incentive and outlet and can help someone who might otherwise never write a novel.

    It’s fun. :-)

    -David
    http://www.gunsandmagic.com

  33. Kristin says:

    I’ve been wanting to participate, but November sucks eggs on ice. First I was in college – there’s the Thanksgiving holiday, but around that there’s always essays, tests, lab finals, etc. due. Now I teach high school. I’m fair-skinned and overweight; summer sounds like a good time to stay inside… I may try this in June.

  34. “November is when college students have settled in, but before their classload gets completely ridiculous, so maybe that’s a factor?”

    No. That’s October.

    November is when Professors dial it up to hell.

    HELL I tell you. and if you think otherwise I have a long list of bowdlerized swears that you should receive in the mail.

  35. ArchU says:

    I hardly read novels these days, let alone write them! 1700 words per day seems like a lot of wasted time to me so I didn’t participate. For some crazy reason I think that I’ll be able to waste time making a comic. Ah, irony!

    I hope many participants got some benefit out of NaNoWriMo.

  36. DKellis says:

    Three year participant, two years successful. (Failed in 2004, due to personal matters, didn’t take part in 2005, due to release of City of Villains.)

    From what I heard, November was chosen at random, but kept/justified (in the same way writing 50,000 words of crap is justified) because it’s such a hectic month; the idea was that even with all the distractions and work and problems, one can still sit down and write two thousand words a day (technically 1,667).

    I participate because it’s a fun activity. I never actually need it; I’m more of the Inspiration Strikes kind of writer. But taking part allows me to talk to other participants without the uncomfortable question of “is what you’re writing any good?” It’s all crap, and nobody cares.

    This year I finished (as in, The End) in 56,285 words, and I might even be editing and expanding and working on the story in hopes of publication. Then again, there is, last I checked, damned little demand for speculative fiction here in Singapore.

  37. AngiePen says:

    I did NaNo for the second time this year. I didn’t finish, and actually made a rather poor showing — about 33K words and change. :/ I won last year, though, so I’m one and one I guess.

    Each time I’ve done this, I’ve learned something about myself as a person and a writer. I agree that 50K isn’t a novel, and that someone who wants to be a professional writer needs to write all the time. But for me (and many others) having that huge goal, and the support of millions of other people doing it too, does help in a psychological way. And for people who want to write but might have a hard time getting support from the people around them, being able to say, “Hey, it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I’m doing it now because it is now,” can help.

    Although a lot of published writers do NaNo, that’s not primarily who it’s for, and pros who sneer at NaNo just aren’t getting it. People who do NaNo aren’t hurting anyone, and if they feel it helps them then that’s great. It helps me, even this year when I didn’t finish. [wry smile]

    I definitely agree with you, though, that November’s an awful time to do it. :/ Someone once suggested “JuNoWriMo” in June, and I think that’s a great idea. Chris Baty picked November, though, so there we are.

    Angie

  38. Rob says:

    I did it on my second try. 51,155 words total.

  39. Deoxy says:

    OK, I don’t have time to read all the comments today (sad face emoticon here), but I rad a few, and there were some good points… the one about breaking through writer’s block, even if it means writing dreck and fixing it later, is probably the best one for me.

    I’ve got a novel going, and those who I’ve let read it so far have all been VERY enthusiastic about it (really, it’s weird – and several of them are VERY well read, which makes it weirder), but I’ve barely touched it in two years now (despite the time I’ve spent thinking about it), in part because of family time (I’ve got three kids now), in part because I’m a lazy bum (dude, why write when there are video games?), but in a significant part also because I’m stuck… so stuck that I started another whole branch of the story to let the writing out.

    Oh, and I just checked: I’m at about 31K words of actual writing, but I didn’t count the large Excel spreadsheet where I obsessively documented and created the world (including length of year, length of lunar cycle, major people groups and their languages, some population calculations with random variables, and two completely different calendars, complete with conversion from one to the other – why yes, I do admire Tolkien, why do you ask?), so maybe that counts…

    of course, this was primarily written over the course of 4-5 YEARS, not one month… heh.

  40. -Chipper says:

    My 17 Y.O. daughter participated this year. She reached about 2/3rd of the desired word count. She did employ some tricks to pad her word count, including giving people names that are 3-5 words long & including the full names often (but she admits it is just to pad the count & will trim those down later). From what I observed, it was a good thing for her for the following reasons: the target word count got her writing; the fellowship w/ other writers encouraged her to press on & gave her good ideas; the size of the target encouraged her to try stuff knowing some of it would fail & some would be lame. I think that is one of the most important things it teaches writers- it is OK to write stuff that MIGHT be lame because in trying you will eventually try something that works beautifully. I am reminded of a class-room experiment that was done: a pottery class was split into two groups at the start. One would be graded on the total # of pots made and the other would be graded only on their best pot by the semester’s end. The group making the most pots ended up with much better quality by the end of the semester because they tried so many things not caring about making mistakes that they were able to refine their skills much more.

  41. Burning says:

    This was the first time I participated. I got to about 14k, which satisfied me, but the big test is if I can keep working in December, January, etc.

    I think the criticisms Shamus listed are reasonable ones. On the other hand, my impression is that these drawbacks are recognized by a lot of the participants (I only have forum posts to go off of, so I don’t know perception the silent participants have).

    At any rate many, I daresay the majority of criticisms are reasoble observations about flaws in the process. And I think it’s entirely possible that a naive writer might finish Nanowrimo believing that he has something in saleable condition and be turned off when he discovers he doesn’t. I don’t think the Nano organizers try to hide the problems, but the more places they are addressed in a reasonable manner, the more participants will be able to approach Nano with realistic goals and be able to get benefit from the event.

    Some other people have very sad reasons for criticizing it, however. They seem to believe that the mere act of a group of amateurs attempting to write something (almost) novel length debases and mocks the work of those individuals who “take writing seriously.” It does not seem to matter to them whether these works are published, submitted and rejected, or merely lurk forgotten on the writer’s hard drive. People who are not disciplined and dedicated enough to make writing their full time job are writing, and that to them is bad. I can only pray that I am badly misunderstanding them, because I’m not deliberately making it up.

    If I haven’t tragically misunderstood these people, I can only presume they do not have hobbies, for surely they wouldn’t want to commit the crime of debasing someone else’s hard work by having fun dabbling in it.

  42. Browncoat says:

    2. Writing all the time just for the sake of reaching a predetermined word count is a great way to force yourself to write crap.

    Someone once told me to write a song every week, no matter how bad it is. At the end of a year, I may have 50 songs that are craptastic, and maybe two that are decent. (This actually sounds close to what certain artists do, except they publish the 50 craptastic songs. Brittany, Kanye–I’m looking at you.)

    As it turns out, it’s been 10 years since I’ve gotten that advice, and I have one song that’s not crap, and about five that are. (I didn’t follow the advice so well.) And the song that’s not crap is a parody (so I didn’t write the music), and the lyrics come from the 139th Psalm, so I didn’t really write the lyrics either.

    Oh well. At least I’ll be getting my Firefly DVDs back at the family Christmas party.

  43. Ravs says:

    Just so you know, Shamus, the link to your homepage from the site that your novel is posted (Free Radical) appears to be broken.

  44. -Chipper says:

    Browncoat said: “And the song that’s not crap is a parody (so I didn’t write the music), and the lyrics come from the 139th Psalm, so I didn’t really write the lyrics either.”

    Very nice. Reminds me of the Star Trek (Original Series) episode at a prison for the criminally insane. One prisoner said she’d just written a poem & started reciting it,
    “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate…” Another prisoner pointed out that it was actually written by a man named Shakespeare a long time ago. Her rejoinder was the classic, “Which does NOT alter the fact that I wrote it yesterday!”
    So perhaps there is hope for my writing as well. :-D

  45. Lunafysh says:

    Shamus,
    I surfed over to your novel at about 10:30 yesterday morning and started reading it in between work tasks.
    Then I started doing work tasks in between reading it.
    Then I stopped doing work tasks and had to eventually go home.
    Finally, at 11:15 last night (after breaks for dinner, putting the kids to bed and ONE show) I finished it.
    A truly engrossing and enjoyable tale. Execllent balance of mood, emotion, character growth and good old fashioned adrenaline.
    I’d say that your book is definitely print worthy, as I have slogged through MUCH worse.
    Thank you.

  46. Sharnuo says:

    What turns me off about NaNoWriMo is the fact that they implicitly state that they don’t care about quality, just quantity. Firstly, why write a novel if your not trying to make it good, and secondly… What the hell is this website going to do with a million crappy novelettes anyway?

  47. Nemo says:

    I write when I have something to write. I was taught that tight, concise writing is better than sloppy writing. Therefore, I think that NaNoWriMo is pure and utter bunk. What’s next? Howzabout National Tuba Month? We can charge out and buy tubas, blast away on ‘em for thirty days (with no professional supervision whatsoever), and then call ourselves tuba players. Or maybe National NASCAR Month…? We can whip down the byways at forty to fifty miles per hour over any posted speed limit, and that’ll make us NASCAR drivers-in-the-rough. And then there’s always National Brain Surgery Month… National Jet Pilots Month… National Chainsaw-Juggling Month…. Golly, the (moronic) possibilities are endless….

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