Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 26: NaNoWriMo

Dan, Howard, and Jordo descended into the basement at Dragon’s Keep where members of the local NaNoWriMo chapter were attempting to bolster their word-counts for the day. We talked to them about National Novel Writing Month, and about the things that were getting them stuck. Good times!

Writing Prompt: Kill one of your characters with a shovel.

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37 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 26: NaNoWriMo”

  1. Ah, this comes just in time. Nanowrimo has been really kicking my butt. It’s not okay to only be at 17K on November 22nd. I know I don’t make it to 50K this time around, but I want to do my best. This will be my Monday morning pick-me-up for the final stretch.


    PS- Saw Brandon in NYC earlier this month, and he was awesome! (But I hope he gets to take a nap soon.)

  2. About to listen to this now, and as someone in the home stretch (I’m at 41.2k words or so right now) will be interesting to hear this discussion and what others were running into, though after having lost it 3 or 4 other times before winning last year I think I may know ;-).

  3. Eliyanna: Last year I only had 10k by the start of the last week of NaNoWriMo. I still made it. You can, too.

    (PS: Yes, I actually do have a life. Well, maybe not a LIFE. But I was juggling a part time job and full-time school career at the time, so there.)

  4. Looking forward to listening to this one; I’m doing NaNoWriMo and am currently at 49,000 words. I plan to finish tomorrow night, although I’m a long long way from actually finishing the complete novel. The novel I’m writing is an epic fantasy, which I knew wouldn’t fit in 50,000 words… what surprised me is how long it’s actually turning out to be. I can sort of divide the overall structure of the novel into 6 parts… my new goal is to finish the first 2 parts by the end of the month. Then over the next couple months I’ll keep working on the rest.

    This is the longest single piece of original fiction that I’ve ever written, and I’ve written it in about three weeks. It’s been a crazy, crazy journey, the so-far culmination of about a year and a half of writing… and Writing Excuses has helped a lot along the way. Cheers!

  5. It’s true, actually. Raethe cranked out 20,000 words in a single day during that one. She’s crazy ;)

    And if it makes you feel better, Eliyanna, I’m only at 15k right now. The sad thing is that’s pretty good for a monthly word count for me. Fortunately, I’m not doing anything over Thanksgiving, so I’ll just shovel some writing out somehow.

  6. Neither me or my any of my friends are were we should be for NaNoWriMo either. Still, I Shall prevail!

    A shove?!…*sniffs* poor Mr. Kitty…

  7. Thanks to the encouragement of my local writing group and the “Writing Excuses” team, I finished my novel and went to a “Wheel of Time” signing and thanked Brandon for the advice and encouragement of this pod-cast.

    You guys are the greatest!

  8. 20k in a day? I took two months to write 20k. Granted, I’ve only been going at it for 1-hour periods of solid writing. I need to work up to the neat 4-hour marathons that I’m supposed to be doing, then I should easily be able to do 50k words in a month.

    My problem is that I’m way too tempted to go back and re-write, because it’s using the part of my brain that I’m more comfortable with, and I’m good enough now to see when things are wrong and need another pass.

  9. @Matthew: I think more people than not have that problem, which is why NaNo is so great. I know it really has taught me to just buckle down and force myself to write and write and write some more.

    Although the best part may actually be the belief you gain from finally winning one of just how much you can pump out if you really try. It really changes the way you look at writing, or it did for me anyway.

  10. @Matthew: What Patrick said. And what we said in the ‘cast. You need to turn off your internal editor and let the words flow. It’s a valuable exercise for anybody who wants to write professionally.

  11. Had to ditch mine and start from scratch Brandon style. Hopefully I won’t have to re-write the beginning 5 or 10 times before I get it half-right. So much for NaNo this year, better luck in 2010.

  12. I discovered NaNo this year for the first time because of this podcast’s archives. Telling my internal editor to keep quiet (in somewhat less polite terms) has been magnificent. Prior to this I’ve suffered from the eternal first chapter … syndrome. I tell you what, I had some pretty good first chapters that I’d undoubtedly have to change yet again if I ever wrote past chapter 3 on those stories.

    @Eliyanna – It’s not that we don’t like our internal editors, it’s that there’s no place for them in the writing process until *after* we’ve actually written something. There’s no point in fixing chapter 1 after writing chapter 5 if we’ll only have to fix it again after we write chapter 10, 15, 20, etc. At some point you just run out of energy and enthusiasm for the story. Michael A. Stackpole’s advice on this matter is to just “make a note and move on.” (I might be paraphrasing).

  13. Awesome podcast gents! This is my first year doing nanowrimo and I’m using it to crank out my second novel. It was awesome to hear you guys address how to use Nano for your writing, excellent podcast!

  14. @bobman he’s got two parts I believe, one to make a note, and a second to write the rest of the story as though you already made that change in the first part.

    To anyone who wants more material while waiting for the Excuses crew to get more eps out each week, google for Stackpole ‘The Secrets’. He doesn’t post podcasts very often, but has some real gems in the archives for additional thoughts on writing.

  15. My novel started life as a NaNoWriMo. The published version barely resembles that first draft. Just keep doing what Howard and Dan said – keep writing and turn off that internal editor for now. Once you get that first draft down, then you have something to work with and fix.

    NaNoWriMo taught me a lot and I would not be the writer I am now without it. Before I discovered it, I suffered from two ailments: perfectionism in the form of first chapter syndrome, and world-builder’s disease. I was forced to turn both of those off in order to get to the 50K mark by the end. The biggest lesson, though, was that it taught me that I COULD write a book.

    NaNoWriMo is the best thing that ever happened to my writing. So, for those on the home stretch, keep your head up and continue moving forward.

  16. Patrick and Howard: Yeah, I totally got that point in the podcast and it’s a great one to make. In my case it’s a matter of needing to get motivated to sit down and do something like Nano, when I’m still working on being in a healthier headspace.

    That, and November is a really sucky writing month for those of us in the southern hemisphere. It’s allegedly summer, everyone is packing their schedules full as possible to try and avoid pre-christmas stress, getting the shopping out of the way, having surprise family visits, unexpected funerals, etc… It probably also has something to do that this novel is simply bigger than anything I’ve done before, and I’m not enjoying writing the middle of it so much any more. I’m kinda pleased that I’ve kept my earlier, way-too-slow pace throughout the month, rather than dropped back even further.

    I’ll probably give myself a 50k wordcount challenge early next year in Jan or Feb to try and work on my ability to sit down and write for decent periods of time without distracting myself too much. I think it might have been Brandon who said it at one point, but editing or re-writing is what I do when I’m not feeling like writing anything I’ve got outlined so that I don’t just sit there repeating “writer’s block!” to myself. Howard is absolutely right that I need to sit down and tell myself to do the hard part and get back to writing from an outline*. Filling up my schedule has given me too many excuses to be an undisciplined writer.

    * Discovery writing seems to be the easier type for me, but you need some sort of outline by the time you get to novel length or, at least in my experience, it seems to turn into one giant amorphous cliché.

  17. @Matthew: Sounds like you need to run your own version of NaNoWriMo in February.

    Consider: “National” Novel Writing Month isn’t nearly big enough to account for the variation in climate, schedule, and culture just within the United States, let alone the World. We need WoNoWriMo, and we need to be able to hold three of them per year. :-)

  18. Yeah November is a terrible month for me too, which is why it’s been a pleasant surprise I’m on pace to easily break 50k right now. Of course the real dream is to be writing a ton EVERY month ;-)

    And if you’re into script writing they have script frenzy in april, also by the Office of Lights and Letters, which is just the movie script version of NaNo.

  19. I cleared 51k yesterday. My original goal was 60k but I think I can make 65k by the end of the month. It’s disorganized as all get out — I’m going to have to shuffle chapters around — and I’m counting in-line notes-to-self in the wordcount. When this phase is done I’ll have a very detailed outline with a lot of scenes fleshed out.

    It took me a few days to turn off the internal editor. Actually it isn’t so much about turning it off as just ignoring it and bulling ahead anyway, typos, misphrasing and all. Making notes to self as to what to fix later. After a few days of being ignored, your internal editor gives up trying to just stop you and starts steering you instead; the writing just starts coming out better.

  20. I turned off the internal editor and wrote a short children’s story. Now
    I can’t turn it back on. The story is such a clutter that I get discouraged real fast when I sit down to work with it. shame, it’s really a cute story.

  21. Nano Rhinos: tiny horned land mammals that run around in your brain and try to knock good stories out onto the page. They are most active during their mating season, which lasts through November, and their only natural predator is the internal editor.

    That’s what this podcast was about, right?

  22. It was 25k, actually. (The frightening part? It needed some line editing, sure, but overall I was actually pretty happy with most of that stuff.)

    I actually wrote about 40k in that final week of NaNoWriMo last year. It had taken me about four YEARS to write my novel’s previous 40k.

    So, uh, you’d be surprised…

  23. Hey, yes this is the Stephen on the podcast. I just finished my incredibly fast paced second book of the trilogy. 50,174 words!

    Good luck to everyone else who is coming up in the wordcount. Let’s all finish strong!

  24. Yeah, I decided not to get into NaNoWriMo this year because I am finishing up school, and I knew there was no way I would be able to get in 50k words. I did manage to get 28k done, but then my hard drive blew itself up and I lost so about 5k words. That was a very depressing set back. And after getting that many words done, I felt like I was really getting into the flow of the book, and that my writing was improving with each day that I wrote. In any case, it has taken me a few days to get over my depression over losing that work and get back to writing.

  25. I think I’m one of the people that think it’s actually a good thing that NaNoWriMo comes in November. It is a busy month!

    I’ve learned that I can find time to write a lot even during a month when I have relatives visiting, family actiivties, and a host of other things to do. If I only waited to write during months when there wasn’t much going on, then I wouldn’t write much at all.

  26. I’ve never posted before because I’m just now (almost) catching up to “real time” on these, after listening to several a week for nearly a year.

    I’m dying on NaNoWriMo… I’m at 24k and still slogging it out, but realistically… yeah, yeah, good experience, blah blah, but there’s this voice inside saying “you’re going to be one of THE LOSERS!” It is more a depressing voice than a motivational “kick it in gear” one.

    I wanted to say what a big help these podcasts have been. Episode 22, which I listened to this morning before skipping ahead to this one, was a terrific help! Episode 19, however, with John Brown, may have saved my life. I’m reading Feeling Good (I’m a little shocked at how high I tested for depression, though I’m not at all suicidal) and I’m feeling a little better… I’m using the “write down negative thought and refute it” technique for catching myself at negative self-talk to try to quiet the internal editor, which helps me pump out words even though I was about ready to give it up. Now if I could just get the internal editor to put the sniper rifle down and come down off that water tower…

  27. I agree that November is a good month. There is no such month where there are not holidays (particularly if you take into account a diversity of religious groups). We have to learn to write no matter what is going on in our lives, that I know to be true. Learning to write around Thanksgiving (and, in my case, early November election season, since that’s my biz) is part of the challenge. Fitting in the writing. Developing the habit.

    I know a bunch of you wrote a million words in the last days of nano in previous years, but I will not be winning this year, I know that. I will probably get a little over halfway there (30K by Sunday night is my goal, and I am solidly booked Monday, so that’s my endpoint). I look at it like this. 1. I wrote almost every day. This is great. I wanna keep that up. 2. I have 30K of words I didn’t have before November 1st. This is great.

    So? Success, as far as I’m concerned. Glad I did it even if I didn’t/won’t technically “win.”

  28. I’m gonna agree with Eliyanna. I didn’t get even close to winning NaNoWriMo, but I’ve still produced output. That’s a win in my opinion.

    As for me, the college schedule does not make November the most effective month for cranking out stuff. I have finals a week from now. My novel understands that I paid money for college, and it’s not good to waste thousands of dollars :) I could do NaNo (ostensibly) in any other month EXCEPT November, holidays or no holidays.

    I’m going to crank out some more this weekend, but I think it would be much better for me if I created my own NaNoWriMo, in between my month-long winter break before Spring Semester.

    I can do that, right?

  29. Ayup… I’d say if the challenge of nanowrimo in November leads to more writing anytime, including a personal marathon session anytime of the year or even just some windsprints during November, then it has done its work. And like a certain well-known hero of the past, Nanowrimo 2009 will simply ride off into the sunset, with a hearty hi-ho Silver ringing over the herd of tiny horned land mammals running rampant through your brains… Incidentally, rumor says that they can be held off with a shovel, if you are desperate.

  30. My original comment was delayed so long I thought it was never going to see the light of day, which I would have been okay with. But it and a spam post (@ November 22, 2009 @ 9:47 pm) finally did come through, among others.

    My sincere apologies for implying that those who didn’t make 50k (myself included) are “losers” in any but a very strict, technical sense specific to not reaching this particular goal. Or, rather, for reporting that my internal editor was of that opinion.

    Thanks for the positive attitudes here. I’m trying desperately to look on the bright side. I can compare my NaNo 2009 26k words to my results in JulNoWriMo 2009, where I only had 723 words, and say that I’ve improved 3,600%! It’s a tough sell getting that past the internal editor, though.

    Mike, that would have to be a steam shovel… oh the inhumanity! Oh what a rhinoceros rampage!

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