A novel in a month? Why not?

I’ll be the first to admit that the whole community of writers’ groups never appealed to me. Maybe it’s because of my journalism background, which required me to write quickly and accurately without a great deal of attachment to the words. Or because I managed to write a number of non-fiction business books without support groups or reading circles. Maybe I’m really just not the “writerly” type. Or I’m ornery. Whatever.

But I’m doing NaNoWriMo next month. For the uninitiated, that’s the National Novel Writing Month. The deal is this: Starting Nov. 1, you write for a full month. If you reach 50,000 words by midnight Nov. 30, you “win.” It’s totally quantity over quality, and it’s designed to get would-be novelists off their collective butts, using peer pressure to finally get their dreams on the page. All you win is bragging rights and the rough draft that you might not have otherwise written.

When I first heard of this, I dismissed it out of hand. I’ve already written a novel that’s gotten me an agent and is now out on submission. The sequel is well past the planning stages. And I don’t really need a sense of community to get writing, with all due respect to the community that, um, I just joined by signing up for NaNoWriMo. But I signed up nonetheless and, starting Nov. 1, I’m going to try to pound out a full draft of a book.

Why? Because it’s not part of the whole Spacebuckler continuum that I’ve put together. This new novel idea really intrigues me, it’s actually tied in to the upcoming holidays, and my agent responded to the idea with unabashed, unequivocal enthusiasm. (Seriously. I thought her e-mail would spontaneously erupt into rainbows and confetti.) I want to jump-start this idea and get it onto the page before some editor out there hopefully acquires Spacebuckler and asks if there’s a sequel.  NaNoWriMo is a great excuse for me to get this new idea rolling. Plus, by officially announcing it to all of my Twitter and blog followers — all several dozen of you — I’m locked in to getting it done.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be finishing up the characterizations and outlining — you know how I love my Excel — so that by Nov. 1, I’ll be ready to start writing. I hope to get at least 1,500 to 2,000 words a day in the can so that, by Nov. 30, I’ll have a (very) rough draft done.

The nature of that end-of-November draft is something I hope all NaNoWriMo participants remember. You just pounded out a draft, not a finished novel. Revision is incredibly important, and I’d suggest revising at least twice before you go for an agent or publisher. Not even Stephen King writes a quality novel this fast, and even if he did, none of us are Stephen King. Which is good because, you know, he’s a dark fellow. Plus he lives in Maine, and it’s cold there this time of year.


Filed under Books, Writing

2 responses to “A novel in a month? Why not?

  1. Alessandra

    Why not, indeed. My decision to participate in NNWM this year are along those lines as well!

  2. My second biggest concern (the biggest being the people that don’t revise and flood agents’ inboxes) is that people construct a story in 50,000 words that doesn’t work for most markets. I find it challenging to add a significant amount of text after the story is finished. Maybe 10k at best. I’m much better at cutting. So the 50k benchmark seems rigged against the author when they need something more like 80k+ to have a worthwhile first draft.

    Unless of course you’re one of those people that writes a small first draft and then fleshes it out.

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