To NaNo, or Not To NaNo…

that is the question.

tree-bark-2685376_1280.Chesna Pixabay

Photo credit: Chesna at Pixabay

In spring, my fancy may lightly turn to thoughts of love, but in October, my fancy turns to thoughts of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, NaNo is National Novel Writing Month.  There’s tons of information online about it, but here’s the brief scoop: every November, writers across the world sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and pledge to write at least 50,000 new words of their novel during the 30 days of November.  You create a profile, submit a name for the story you’re working on, and keep track of how many words you’ve written each day.  The site gives you a helpful graph of how you’re doing relative to your goal, and there are various types of tips and social support to help keep you going.  If you succeed in reaching 50,000 words on or before November 30, you submit what you’ve written to the automated system that counts the words (don’t worry, nobody’s reading it) to get credit for your “win”!

The first question is:

Do I have something good to write?

Of course, writers should always be writing, and writing good things. However, you aren’t always in the position of needing to add 50,000 words to your current project.  And if you don’t have a good idea of what you want to write, you might end up halfway through November horribly frustrated that you still don’t know what to write.

I did NaNo for the first time in 2015.  I’d been working on my first novel (still unfinished), Corwallen Manor.  I had what I thought was a good outline and had written the first half or so of the book.  During NaNo I added another 60,000 words, and still hadn’t finished it.

When NaNo 2016 came around, I was still writing and revising Corwallen Manor, but I didn’t have another 50,000 new words to add to it, so I didn’t participate in NaNo.

By NaNo 2017, I still wasn’t making much progress on Corwallen Manor.  In fact, it was a total mess.  To be fair, this is my classic First Novel, where I’m determined to make every novice mistake in the book, sometimes multiple times in different ways.  I’d been getting more serious about writing short stories and those needed revising too. I felt stuck in Revision Land, like I was churning and not getting anywhere.

So I decided I’d tap into the exciting spirit of NaNo and start a brand new novel. A simple novel, without the myriad problems that I’d discovered in my first one.  A bright shiny happy fresh new novel.

That was that time when I wrote a whole book’s worth of scenes and got less than 1/4 of the way through my outline.  Turns out I need more practice figuring out how many words are needed for each sentence in my outline!  In other words, I’d accidentally started a trilogy. Worse, I struggled with revising that Book 1 off and on for a year, unable to get the character and plot and theme to work. I finally realized last week (see Inspirational Hiatus) that it was fundamentally broken and the entire structure had to be leveled to the foundations.  Luckily, I think I can rebuild it.

We can rebuild him.

(What, no Six Million Dollar Man fans out there?)

I have some intriguing new ideas on where to take that story — tentatively called Dar’s Story until I can figure out something better — but I need more time to work through some of the world-building first.

So, what would I write if I entered NaNo 2018?  The good news is that in the last year, I’ve had Corwallen Manor sitting on my mental back burner simmering, and have experienced several major breakthroughs. I finally feel like I understand the core themes and the character arcs.  I also realized that part of the problem with the initial version was that I started far too late in the story, skipping almost the entire first act and starting with the inciting incident, followed in the next chapter by the second act.  Kaboom, let’s go!

I’m excited about the story again, and looking forward to sitting down and focusing on it again.  I’d need to put some serious time into a new outline first, though.

But if I start talking about outlining, this post will get far too long, so I’ll end with this conclusion:

IF I do NaNo this year,
I would start my complete rewrite of Corwallen Manor.

Whew, at least one question answered!

If you’re considering or already committed to doing NaNo this year, what are you planning to write? Is it a new project, or something you’ve been tossing around for quite a while already?

I’d love to hear from you!


29 thoughts on “To NaNo, or Not To NaNo…

  1. No NaNo for me, I’m far too busy with revisions. But I will say this, if you’ll allow. I’ve been writing novels since I was 9 years old. Okay, nothing published. But, with the exception of one novel, every one of them I have finished. My point? Stop worrying about the market, about plot points and character arcs. Get the damn thing written first. And then go back over and apply relevant structure. That’s not to say not to plan it. One of the joys of writing a new story is all that planning that goes on before you ever start. But you do have to start, else it will never be written.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I did start both novels. And then I got to a point where I realized I didn’t like how they were working. It had nothing to do with “the market” — heavens, I’m so far away from thinking about that! For Corwallen, I had most of it written, just missing some in-between chapters in the middle (I thought), but the overall thing wasn’t good, so I wanted to step back and reconsider it before revising. I’m totally happy with my decision to do that, because it allowed me a fresh perspective, and ideas for how I can make major changes that will substantially improve the story. For the other one, I got 60,000 words into it, stalled, and eventually realized it was fundamentally flawed and not worth continuing. If I’d forced myself to forge ahead with a bad plot and bad characters just to be able say “I finished,” that would have been an extraordinary waste of time. I consider this a huge leap forward, to realize I was going down the wrong path and to avoid all those wasted months beating a dead horse.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have a friend who only hand-writes, and the process sounds totally daunting. He’s not starting from scratch with each revision, though. He has the last version next to him, marked up, and then writes the new one on fresh paper. With my handwriting, I’d get about three pages in before (1) my hand cramped up horribly and (2) the words became utterly illegible. Thank goodness for computers!


  2. I’m debating whether or not to do NaNo this year, and if I do, what I will write. I’m almost certain I will join in, but what my focus will be has yet to be determined. I’ve just written a crazy long blog post about it, and funnily enough, opened it with the same words as your post…”To NaNo or not to NaNo…that is the question.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • It certainly does look like I copied you. Eek! Not a great position for a writer to be in. And as I started reading your post, I just thought, “Oh dear.” But you’re right, the question seems very appropriate when pondering NaNo 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It makes me want to search to see how many other bloggers have used the same title for their posts on NaNo. I’m sure we’re not the only ones by a long shot! But that sounds like yet another “online time-waster” and I have too many of those as it is…


  3. It sounds like a conundrum and a half! I think the biggest issue with NaNo is project motivation, isn’t it? Having something you’re excited enough about to spend that much time ‘alone’ with – but that’s the case whether you write a novel in November or at any other time of the year. Does your indecision come from not feeling quite ready to launch into any of these projects? That’s frustrating, having a project but knowing more groundwork needs to be done before the scribbling can begin in earnest. And there’s always the time element – job, home life, family and friend responsibilities … it all makes that commitment harder to take.
    Hope the answer comes to you soon and good luck with it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, the biggest issue with NaNo is always time. This year, that’s worse than ever. By the time I wrote this post, I’d decided that I would start Corwallen Manor up again if I did NaNo, and I’m chomping at the bit to do it. But that dratted time thing is killing me…

      I’m okay with knowing that I need more groundwork for the new Dar’s Story. I’ve also been itching to sit down and work more consistently on world-building for a while now, and this gives me an excellent excuse! When I have the time, that is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I always feel busy and yet I don’t seem to get anything DONE. Although part of that is how many tasks just repeat: you can’t be “done” with housework or emailing or blogging or writing book reviews, because there’s always more. Still, I really need to work on prioritizing and time management. You know, when I get the time. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, yes, all of that is so true – when will they invent a self cleaning house and clothes? That would be so useful. And yes, blogging is a love but also something that cuts into your time. It’s why I’ve not been doing FF so much recently – so many take part now, I just don’t seem to have time to read half the submissions and it’s not fair to produce a story and not read and comment in return. I’d like 48 extra hours in a day for one day in the week – maybe a Monday. I’m sure I could catch up with things then 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been doing Friday Fictioneers lately too — I just can’t spare the time to read so many other stories. But also it’s because it’s during the week, and that makes it harder too. Although really, I should be pushing all my blogging activities to weekday mornings and evenings so that I can keep the weekends free for writing. If you figure out how to get 48 hours out of one day, let me know!


  4. Some stories do write themselves, so it seems; others require surgery. A few require a fireplace and a glass of scotch to drink as you watch your precious ideas go up in flames. My own first required a major rewrite in the middle of it; on the other hand, I banged out 47,000 words over 22 days on my blog to write one story from beginning to end, first draft. It’s better than that first novel.

    The problem with longer fiction is that it always has more possibilities than you can ever write, what you write will never capture everything you could say about that story, and you can always think of a way to “improve” it if you change the focus. So, at some point, not necessarily up front, settle on that focus! It may take a draft or two just to find it. But that’s what you ultimately want to structure the story you’ll tell others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the image of watching the idea go up in flames from the perspective of a glass of scotch. I’ve never had a story I felt wrote itself, although I have written 60k straight through in less than a month, twice — and it felt easy at the time. However, one of those resulted in the Heart in a Box story, which turned out not to be a story I wanted to tell at all, from any perspective. It’s incredibly liberating to be able to let go of that original idea and allow myself to completely renew it into something else that might actually work. My younger self would have insisted on making the original idea work somehow, banging my head against the wall and being too stubborn to even look for the underlying problem, much less see it. I had heard this from other artists and creative types, that being able to admit that your stuff sucks and letting it go is a crucial stepping stone, but I never really got it until now.

      Liked by 1 person

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