Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | November 30, 2012

On Not Winning NaNoWriMo

For all you normal, non-insane folks out there who have never heard of it, November is something called National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I have actually succeeded at this endeavor in the past. Three times, to be exact. 2005, 2006, and 2007, to be nauseatingly exact.

But not this year.

This year, although I participated in the hypercaffeinated writing frenzy that is the month of November to us insane WriMos, I did not “win”. That is, I did not record 50,000 words over the last 30 days.

I did something a little different. And I am thrilled with the outcome.

As of November 1st, I was in the middle of a novel. Technically, I was in the middle of a major re-write of an already completed novel. A novel that had already been presented to my agent, whose response was, “We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.” She used many words to tell me how to fix the thing (expressing her confidence in me by telling me I was at least as good a writer as John Grisham), however in writerly terms, what she told me was that I needed to raise the stakes.

So what I did was rip the thing completely apart, and start over. I was able to re-use many pieces (scenes, characters), some in very different ways. I had it all outlined. The problem was finding the time to sit down and do the actual writing. I’d get to it on weekends, slogging through a chapter or two. It was at 35,000 words.

I decided to use the NaNoWriMo writing mojo of November to buckle down and get the thing done. No more excuses. Weeknights I’d write for an hour, getting in a few hundred words. Weekends were great. I managed to write between 5000 and 8000 words a day.

Guess what: I got to write every novelist’s favorite two words: THE END.

It came in at just about 70,000 words, which is just right. Fully 35,000 of them completed in the first three weeks of November.

I know I didn’t exactly play by the rules, but I had a blast, and I got a finished novel out of it. So thanks for the mojo, NaNoWriMo. See you again next year.



  1. Your agent has some of the best analytical skills I’ve ever seen in an agent. If she says raise the stakes, then you can take that to the bank. And good luck!

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