National Novel Writing Month (generally called NaNoWriMo – and of course it’s international, not national) happens in November each year. It is a heady and caffeinated time when thousands of writers around the world attempt to write an entire novel (or at least the first 50,000 words) in one month. That requires an average rate of over 1600 words a day.
I’ve done it myself, more than once – successfully, I might add – and I don’t think the resulting novels were any worse than the rest of my books (make of that what you will). But it is important to note that the massive emotional high of the winners (if you complete your 50,000 words, you win) has led to many headaches for agents and publishers around the world.
Kids, do NaNoWriMo. It’s awesome. But for the love of all that is pure and good in the world, don’t send it anywhere in December. Or January. Or February. Maybe by March (especially if you do National Novel Editing Month – fifty hours of editing in the month of March each year) it will be okay. MAYBE.
Never forget: Your odds of publishing your finished book with a reputable publisher are about 1 in 10,000. Don’t be such a moron that you think finishing a first draft means you’re some kind of genius and can defy the odds without any more work. NaNoWriMo is mostly good for giving you a sense of how long 50,000 words is (NB: a lot shorter than most books, unless it’s for children) – so you have a better sense of what you’re doing next time. It happens to work well for me, because I already spend 90% of my writing time editing. THINK about how many hours that 90% is, and you’ll have an idea of how unfinished your “finished” book is on December 1st.
Here‘s an article by the M-rated Chuck Wendig (who has a wicked way with words). And here’s the bit that I think is the most important:
The one flaw in NaNoWriMo (and why it sometimes earns the ire of professional writers) is that it kind of floods the marketplace a little bit. November 30th rolls around and suddenly you have a world with thousands of new novels birthed screaming into an unkind world, and while that remains a truly sublime act of creation, it also means that you have a lot of writers who don’t have the sense of a tree grub, and these writers decide to abdicate their own sense of work and responsibility by throwing their unformed fetal drafts into the world. They choke the inboxes of agents and editors with their protoplasmic snot-waffle novels and they think, “Gee golly gosh, I’m a real writer now!” Except, they’re not. They’re rosy-cheeked, empty-eyed shitheads. Don’t be that shithead. Don’t just loose your garbage onto an unsuspecting world (which creates more work for agents and editors who already have a hard time finding diamonds in a sewage tank). Take time. Polish your work. Give it six months. Give it a year. Give the novel the air it needs to breathe. Give yourself, as a self-serious novelist, time to realize when this book is ready to roll or (a bigger and more mature revelation) that this book just isn’t “the one” — and that it’s time to write another better book, a book that doesn’t beg to be written only from November 1st to November 30th, a book that can be written whenever your fluttering wordmonkey heart so desires.