Going Beyond National Novel Writing Month

I’ve got two shiny new badges in my sidebar. One is the JuNoWriMo Winner’s badge and the other is the CampNaNoWriMo Winner’s Badge. That’s right. I did it. I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Actually, I wrote 53,137 of a novel in 29 days, but who’s counting? Answer: Me, because that’s kind of the point. It’s about the numbers.

I’ve got the numbers. I had the numbers in November for the official National Novel Writing Month. What I don’t have is a completed novel. I have 50,000 words (give or take a few) of two novels and neither one of them is even close to finished. That, my friends, is not the point of National Novel Writing Month. I’m supposed to complete a novel. Problem is, I don’t know if I can.

If I’ve learned anything from the NaNoWriMo experience, it’s that vomiting words on a page is not how a novel gets written. Not for me, at least. It takes me a good 30,000 words to even find the heart of the story and those first 30,000 words? Are mostly garbage and completely unsalvageable. It’s probably my fault. I don’t outline before I start the word purge and nothing good comes from writing on the fly, hoping something that someone might actually want to read spews forth at 3 AM when the only thing keeping me awake is copious amounts of tobacco and coffee. Substitute alcohol for the coffee, and maybe. Isn’t that how Hemingway did it?

Hemingway drinking and writing

I love him.

I’m kidding, of course. Not about Hemingway. That’s true. But I’m no Hemingway, neither in writing ability nor in alcohol tolerance. And I’m never going to Spain to watch bull fighting.

Point is, I need to find a new way–a better way–my way– to write a novel. It will involve planning and dedication and hard work and patience and a basic grasp of punctuation and grammar usage–none of which are my strong points. Seriously, the odds aren’t good. Thing is, I’m not a math person. I’m a words person. And I have those in droves.

Now, to take these two pieces of a novel and decide which has more “viability”( By “viability,” I mean “which sucks less”) and devote myself to it. Get it in my head that a novel is not written in a month. It will take time and sweat and a schedule and learning how to use commas.

I can do it. I will do it. Otherwise, I’m a wannabe novelist. That’s unacceptable. I’m aiming for the big prize: The Unpublished Novelist. Because that is a title I can be proud of.

Coincidentally, I learned something new this week. Did you know that it is incorrect to use two spaces after a period? No, I’m not kidding. It’s a rule. The Chicago Manual of Style says so. That blows my mind. Anyway, in my endeavor to follow grammar and punctuation rules, this post was written using only a single-space after each period.

That is progress.

Related Posts:

NaNoWriMo Dropout
NaNoWriMo Week One: Six Lessons 
NaNoWriMo: The Last Three Days 


23 thoughts on “Going Beyond National Novel Writing Month

  1. NaNo definitely doesn’t have to be the antithesis of planning, even though some people make it seem like that. I’ve done NaNo four times, always with meticulous planning, research and outlining, as my first four non-NaNo novels taught me that writing without an outline is very bad, at least for me. My #2 NaNo novel was published last year and the #3 will be out this fall.

    (In Finnish 50,000 words is more like 75,000 of English, so in all cases I’ve managed to write “The End” during the actual last scene of the book, I guess that’s quite rewarding. My biggest problem used to be “stretching” the story to 50,000 words.)

    • Yes, outlining beforehand would help. Problem is, when I decided to do these (my first) it was a last-minute decision. I’ll know better next time.

      Congratulations on publishing your novels. That is very cool.

  2. I enjoy Nanowrimo too and I have manage to write two unpublished novels. One of which placed in the top 25 of a national contest. I, however, think that that club is just as lonely as the unfinished novel club. The unpublished novel club faces rejection after rejection every day, Best of luck in completing yours. I hope you find a method that works for you.

  3. I think it’s amazing that you DID it. The quality of the words may not be satisfying, but the exercise in writing is intense. I signed up but didn’t complete my novel during Nanowrimo last year… maybe next year!

    • It is very satisfying to see that “Winner!” when you validate your word count the first time. Now that I’ve done it twice, I’m ready to finish one. FYI, there is another CampNaNoWriMo in August, if you’re interested.

  4. Conversely, in my typing training we were taught to always use two spaces after a full stop. I have since met this advice in other places too. But back to the main body of your post, I don’t draft, outline or plan either and I have never, ever, ever finished. Maybe there’s a correlation there! Thanks for sharing. 😉

  5. You’ve already proven that you have the perseverance to write. I think that you will do fine on the proofreading and editing. We have to take the positives that we can, right?

  6. I understand. I have 100K words sitting on one of my blogs just waiting for me to do more than keep punching out more content.

    I am thinking about creating an outline for my stories. Until now I have resisted doing so, but I am beginning to think that it might be a useful way to try to get past the challenges the current way presents.

    Have you ever tried that?

    • I haven’t, but I think it’s a good idea. A friend of mine is an avid outliner. She likens it to a puzzle. She gets the major plot points down and then has fun trying to connect the dots. Might as well give it a try. The current way isn’t working out too well.

      Sorry it took so long for me to answer this. Akismet gets overly enthusiastic and sends perfectly good comments to my spam folder. It takes me a while to see the legit comments buried underneath all the male enhancement and diet pill ads.

  7. I just barely finished Camp Nanowrimo this month. But, like I told my sister who didn’t make it, the bottom line point is to write. I challenge you NOT to go back and edit yet. Take one of those unfinished pieces and finish it from here. Get it done in the next month or so and to heck with word counts. I find if I go back and start to edit before I’m done I’ll never reach the end. That being said, I’ve done a grand total of 2 Nanowrimos. The first I had a vague outline and the second I didn’t. The first did go smoother than the second.

    • That really is the kiss of death. I read over the first NaNoWriMo novel and alternated between laughing and crying. Some of it was so, so bad. There was some solid writing but the other stuff was really disheartening and I couldn’t get back into it. I’m not making the same mistake with the second. I haven’t looked it over and I’m going to keep working on it until the story is finished. Once that’s accomplished, I’ll work on rewrites and editing. Hopefully, having a whole story will make me want to finish it. All that work for nothing? I don’t think so.

      Thanks for the advice and congratulations on finishing. Good luck with the editing and so forth.

  8. Pingback: What to write? The clock is ticking. | In other words

  9. I’m not an outliner either. I don’t believe it’s necessary, but I am thinking that I may try it on my next piece. The best thing I got out of this month was the habit of writing every day. Carolyn See suggests writing 1000 words every day. When I write each day, more good stuff starts to come out.

    I recently heard about that one space after a period thing too, maybe last year, from a librarian friend of mine who hadn’t know it either. And I had always felt so superior for my two spaces. The two space trend had something to do with unstandard printing practices.

    Oh, and Congratulations!!!

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