November 7, 2009

Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

According to, the first NaNoWriMo event took place in 1999 with 21 participants, a “literary marathon” that got bigger and bigger every year until it became the phenomenon it is today. For those non-writers among my three readers (hi, Mom!), NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Beginning on November 1st and ending on the 30th, wannabe authors all over the world knuckle down and write, write, write, pounding out a minimum of 50,000 words in order to “win.” The prize, of course, being the rough draft of an actual book, something a lot of people dream about, but can’t always find the inner wherewithal to accomplish.

I’ve participated several times, but this year I chose to pass, watching wistfully from the sidelines as a good portion of my writer friends and online acquaintances entered the fray. I had a lot of reasons for forgoing the “fun,” not the least of which was the demanding task of setting up a writer’s alliance book review blog ( with several outstanding writers. Plus, my WIP (work in progress) is the second in a series—the first of which, The Gossamer Sphere, is with my agent right now, making the rounds of editors at honest-to-goodness publishing houses.

I started The Gossamer Sphere last year on November 1st.

On their website, the good folks at NaNoWriMo have this to say about what to expect:

“Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

“Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”

That’s why I didn’t win last year, and the final reason why I chose to set aside my writing shoes this year. I’m way too OCE (obsessive/compulsive editor) for the official doctrine of “write your brains out and ignore that your manuscript is likely chock full of glaring errors.” On November 30th last year, I had only written 10,000 words on The Gossamer Sphere, so unless you count the fact that I went on to finish it within six months, secured an awesome agent and it’s actually (actually!) being considered by the folks who can Make It Happen for me, then, no, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo.

But I miss the excitement, the feeling of satisfaction when I’d eked out 1000 or more words in a day. I miss the feeling of accomplishment, and the mounting belief that this time the words on my screen were something the powers-that-be just might lean forward in their ergonomic chairs to take note of. The Gossamer Sphere is a fantasy/sci-fi, so I often hit the old “research” roadblock, which, along with my OCE, really prevented me from whipping that particular horse across the NaNoWriMo finish line.

I’m not participating this year, but I’m so glad I did last year. I consider myself a NaNoWriMo success story.

If you’re in the thick of it this month, what are you doing here wasting your time reading my silly blog? Get back to your writing space! Make this your year.