Tuesday, December 1, 2009

To NaNo or Not to NaNo -- That is the Question

So I didn’t “win” NaNowriMo. I finished the month just shy of 20,000 words, which is not significantly more than I would have in a normal month of solid writing.

The difference is, I completed those 20,000 words in two weeks, not four. And most of those words bore me to tears.

Let me be honest. I was a NaNo cheater. I didn’t care if I wrote 50,000 words. I wanted to complete a novel that was already a third of the way into a first draft; I had 25,000 words under my belt before the month began. But when November rolled onto my calendar, I needed to finish revisions for my middle grade novel. I couldn’t start NaNo until week two. And a freelance load kept me away during week three.

So, how did I like this frantic writing pace? Not much.

I got a lot of words onto paper, but I didn't feel very good about them. With the focus on output, there was no time to think things though. My plot completely stalled. My characters talked about everything and nothing. They bored me.

All was not bad. Writing quickly did make me connect more with my main character’s internal thought. He told me how he felt about everything. And I mean everything. It’s important information, but information I’d rather gather through journaling.

So would I do it again? Maybe. But only under the right conditions. I would have to begin with a tight, chapter-by-chapter outline and completed character sketches. I would spend a significant amount of time journaling as my main characters (and that counts toward NaNo totals). And I would spend a few minutes thinking through what I wanted to accomplish with each writing session before my fingers hit the keyboard.

But one thing about NaNo that has changed me forever! Scrivener. If you write on a Mac, buy this program today. It makes writing and revising so much easier.

So tell me, fellow NaNo-ers. Did you "win?" Did you like it? Do you use Scrivener?


  1. Scrivener = LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.

  2. I didn't win either. I got about 20,000 words in two weeks as well, and then week three everything came to a grinding halt because I had special family occasions to deal with in addition to Thanksgiving, traveling, and just life in general.

    As for the "nano" pace - I still think November is a particularly hard month to write in and revising in December? Does anyone shop or deocorate for Christmas? lol.

    What I did love about Nano is that it forced me to silence my inner editor. I sometimes have an agonizingly slow pace and while I firmly believe in the "shitty first draft" I often don't let myself do it. And to my surprise a completely new character hijacked my story - that was fun. I'm not sure I would have let that happen if it weren't for Nano's wild abandon.

    I have to work on another project right now, but when January rolls around I'm going back to my Nano WIP and finishing my shitty first draft. Then maybe I'll revise in February. A short month yes, but full of short days and long nights full of NOT MUCH else. Perfect.

  3. I could never do NaNo - simply because of Thanksgiving. My life comes to a turkey halt the week of Thanksgiving with baking, house guests, shopping, and more baking. I love it, though, so I'm not complaining. But I do wish they did NaNo in March.

  4. I "won" for the second time this year, but I echo most of your complaints - I don't like much of what I wrote. Some good things came out of it, and I think I have a better idea of what my plot should be now, but I don't know if it was the best use of my time other than to get me (and my family) into a regular writing habit.

  5. I wasn't "officially" participating- I too wanted to finish a new ms that I had started over the summer.
    I did write 45,000 words, and not all of it is crap. The rewrites will keep me busy for a few months, but I know I'll have something to send out next year.

  6. I won, the second time. I had a basic chapter outline, I knew my characters, I knew what the problem was and how I wanted it resolved. I was surprised at how smoothly it went, even when I stopped to do research. I'm pretty pleased with it. Actually I had a blast writing it. But I have no idea if it's any good. But I'm going to let it sit for a month or two then I'll know more.

    I think NaNo's a good way to prime the pump. Even if you're not pleased with the overall work, you've got something down that can be fine tuned later on. And if you decide you don't like the overall story, maybe there are things in it you can use in something else.

  7. Joanna -- you were a writing MACHINE in Nano. You'll have fun revising with Scrivener!

    Robin -- I agree about Nano silencing the inner editor, but I wish my inner editor had broken out a few times!

    Meg -- you can do Nano in March. Maybe I'll do it with you...or maybe not!

    ReadWriteGo --It is a toss-up, isn't it? Work got done, but is it the best work you could do?

    Lily -- You go, girl! I prefer revising to drafting, myself.

    Bish -- I totally agree. I think it's possible to come out of Nano with a good, crappy first draft as opposed to a crappy, crappy first draft. But my work was tangents all over. Most of it is on the way to the morgue.

  8. Scrivener looks fantastic. Thanks for the link. I finished complicated drafts of two MGs, so I didn't do NaNo but I spent a lot of time writing. It was wonderful.

  9. MG - I honestly think my time would have been better spent writing as I usually do. I would have had fewer words, but better direction.

  10. MG -- that is a great accomplishment -- finishing two drafts!

  11. I didn't win either but I wrote more than I ever have before in November. Great job!