Monday, November 8, 2010

It's NaNoWriMo Time!

Yes, folks, it's that time again. November has arrived (I'm still scratching my head at that...where did August go?) and along with the eleventh month comes NaNoWriMo .

Haven't heard about it? Well, National Novel Writing Month is a project that was created in 1999 by Chris Baty, with the idea that the participants would attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel of their choice in one month. Yup, that's a five with four zeros after it. In 30 measley days. Well, twenty-one brave souls signed up, and NaNoWriMo was born. Every year attendance and participation has blossomed, and by 2009, 170,000 people took up the challenge. Now, as an official non-profit run by the Office of Letters and Light, National Novel Writing Month is a force to be reckoned with.

So, Nano sounds cool, but why am I talking about it? You see, back in 2004, I was noodling around the internet and stumbled across NaNoWriMo. The premise intrigued me, and, just like 87% of the population, I always thought it would be fun to try and crank out a book, but never put the thought into action. So I plotted and researched, outlined and re-outlined. November 1st came and I bolted from the starting gate and never looked back. By the time the 30th rolled around, I had typed my 50,000th word. I shocked myself. Holy cow, I'd written the better part of a real novel! That accomplishment led me to the Loft, here in Minneapolis, where I took a number of writing classes from Ellen Hart and Lori L. Lake.

November 2005 arrived, and I did NaNoWriMo again. I again surpassed that 50,000 word mark by the end of the month. Sheesh, in two years, I'd written two (albeit rather horrid) first drafts! I worked on revising and editing the two novels, and learned just how much I didn't know that I didn't know about writing. That little lesson about did me in, but was absolutely necessary. When NaNo 2006 came calling, I changed my groove entirely, and pumped out 50,000 words of what is now Bingo Barge Murder, the first book in my Shay O'Hanlon mystery series that Midnight Ink will be releasing in May of 2011. This effort was SO much better than the previous two, and I really found my voice. The book was funny and quirky, full of danger, chases, kidnappings, and of course, the Boxer dog named Dawg.

Really, I have National Novel Writing Month to thank for being the match that ignited my writing flame. Without having stumbled on, I wouldn't be be able to say the words, "I'm a writer," and really mean it. This is one lucky and incredibly fun phase of my life that I hope lasts a good, long time.

So, if you happen to know any wanna-be writers, someone who really would like to write that book one day but can't quite get around to it, send them on over to the NaNo site. You might just have a hand in creating the next John Sandford.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think you've mentioned the best thing about NaNo--the inspiration it can give to a writer...that spark. I've never been able to officially participate because I've been in the middle of a project, but I always lurk there and feed off the excitement. :)

Lois Winston said...

I never could understand why NaNo is in Nov. With the holidays fast approaching, it's a month filled with too many distractions. And for people with kids in school (not me, anymore), it's even worse because between Election Day, Veteran's Day, parent-teacher conferences, and the Teachers' Convention, there isn't a week in the month that the kids are in school a full 5 days. So I admire anyone with the fortitude to complete NaNo.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I just recommended NaNo to a friend is is starting to write. Recently, though, I've had my misgivings about it. Not the program and the discipline it teaches about keeping your butt in the chair to meet a deadline, but I'm sure come December, Amazon's Kindle program and print self-publishing venues will be flooded with and cranking out unedited and incomplete first drafts of manuscripts from folks who didn't take the time to learn there is more to being an author than just slapping 50,000 words down in 30 days. It's both a good and not-so-good thing.

Jessie, I'm glad you understood that and worked hard to make Bingo Barge Murder the delight it is.

Beth Groundwater said...

A very inspirational post, Jessie! My local writing group, the Pikes Peak Writers, runs a program in conjunction with NaNoWriMo that they call NaNoTRYMo, for writers like me who just can't pump out 50,000 words in one month. Instead, we set a realistic goal on our WiP that stretches us just a bit. In my case, my goal is to finish the rough draft that I began writing in August, which would require 20-25,000 words.

I hosted a write-in Friday to push myself and a few friends that day and was able to write a phenomenal (for me) 3,000 words that day. I agree with Sue Ann, though, that the manuscripts that result from NaNoWriMo should all go through extensive editing before they see the light of day, which is pretty much true for EVERY rough draft!

Darrell James said...

Jessie, it sounds like NaNo really cranked up your writing career. That's great! I don't know if I really want to write a novel that fast, however. I've always said that when I start a novel I set out with the goal of telling myself a really great story. I suppose I like to live in the process a while longer and really relish the discovery that only time can lend to it.

Jessie Chandler said...

Elizabeth: Inspiration it is...the last two years I haven't been able to NaNo because of revisions, but I have lurked indeed!

Lois: In one of the articles about NaNo I read, the organizers picked November because, in San Francisco, where this started, is dreary and ugly, so they went with that. I'm not sure they thought about the holiday implications. It certainly makes it one hell of a challenge.

Sue Ann: You're absolutely right in that Wrimos who spit out those 50,000 words and think it's a finished product are all washed up. It'll be interesting to see how the self-publishing stuff goes. It was an eye-opening lesson I had, for sure.

Beth: I love the name you guys came up with: NaNoTRYMo! I'm going to suggest it to one of the writing groups I belong to since almost all of us are doing the exact same thing, dedicating the month to adding on to/completing a WIP. Congrats on that 3000 word tear!

Darrell: I totally understand what you mean about taking time to make the story great. I wish I could work that seems so creative. Instead, I have to consider what I crank out at the start my very rough first draft, and then I add to it, subtract from it, and polish, polish, polish. It can wind up being ten or more revised drafts, and the final product hardly resembles those first 50,000 words, and usually winds up in the 60-65,000 range. It's kind of like the writers I admire who are able to sit down with a kernel of an idea and write this scene and that scene, link them all together, and end up with a great book. I, on the other hand, have to do serious research, outline my head off, and plan long and hard before I can put keystroke to blank computer screen. I think everybody's writing styles are like their fingerprints: unique to each individual. And I love hearing about other writer's working processes. It's absolutely fascinating!

Darrell James said...

Jessie- I think your way is totally more efficient. I throw away more then I keep because I have to "find" my way through the story as I go. If NoNO had been around when I first started my first novel, maybe it wouldn't have taken me three years to complete the rough draft. I'm thinking maybe it is a pretty good thing for beginning writers, and those who can invision a story all the way from the beginning. Maybe I'll learn how to do that one day. You think?

Jessie Chandler said...

Darrell, I'd love to share some of mine with you if you'd share some of yours with me! Maybe between the two of us we could find an efficient writing style LOL!

Jessica Lourey said...

Congrats, Jessie! That's a great NaNo story.

And speaking of boxers, I paid $5 last week to have my boxer's paw nails painted blue. I'm still taking grief for it, but I think it looks fantastic.

Now, I'm using your NaNo post to spur my writing. I need to get this first draft done by January 1!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences! I've never been drawn to participate in NaNo myself, but each year I'm amazed to see so many people taking up the challenge. And huge congrats on the upcoming release!

Clark said...

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo participants! I had never heard of the contest until reading this post so I'm glad I stumbled upon this.

I recently entered a similar contest and found the Thinker's Thesaurus to be a huge help. I discovered words I had never heard before and it allowed me to find that "spark" during many writing sessions. I just picked up the 2nd Edition which includes more than 15,000 entries and took over 15 years to make.

Might be something fun to check out if you're a NaNoWriMo contestant looking for an edge!

Deborah Sharp said...

Jessie, I love your stick-to-it-ness. I don't think I have what it takes to write so many words, so quickly, but I so admire those who do ... and then polish, polish and more polish to get a great finished product like Bingo Barge Murder. Congrats!
PS: I'm still trying to imagine Jess's dog with its nails painted blue ... ;-)

Jessie Chandler said...

Jess: Holy crap, blue Boxer nails! That's hilarious! What's your dog's name? My fingers are crossed for your push to Jan 1st!

Kathleen: thanks for the's the publicity push going for you? Hopefully well!

Clark: I can't wait to check out the Thinker's Thesarus! How cool is that?

Deborah: Thanks!! I'm not sure if it's desperation or what, but if I don't force myself to keep my nose to the grindstone, I'd never finish! And I'm trying to imagine blue Boxer nails too LOL