Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Posted by: Jody W. and Meankitty
A Conversation between Cindy Spencer Pape and Jody Wallace

Cindy: So, Jody, I'm actually doing NaNo this year for the first time since 2006. What about you? Thinking about making yourself crazy this November?

Jody: NaNoHellNo.

Cindy: I know. It's kind of crazy, right? Trying to write like a maniac right in the middle of the maniacal holiday-prep time? Because it's not like I obsess about that or anything.

Jody: I hear some people are more inspired when they're under pressure. While writing a whole book during November does sound like enough pressure to make you, ehm, poop out a diamond, I'd be more worried about ending up with a bad case of literary hemorrhoids.

(BECAUSE I HAD TO GO THERE IN MY SECOND COMMENT. God. Do you hate doing this article with me yet?)


Cindy: I tend to be one of the pressure people. (Grumble) I did NaNo once.

Once. It worked like a charm. First sequel to first sale written, sent off & was immediately acquired. Then for the next few years, I didn't need to. My normal output was right up there. These last few years, I've kind of slacked off. So doing NaNo is me, kicking myself in the butt. (Foot going in. Not diamonds coming out.)

Jody: I did NaNo never. Maybe when my children are old enough to feed themselves? Nah, who am I kidding? My writing process simply doesn't lend itself to upchucking a first draft in a short period of time, unless it's a novella or short story.

The challenge I have is that a lot of...let's just call them self-appointed gurus...seem to enjoy critizing writers who don't upchuck their first drafts, writers who have a different process. I've even seen gurus intimate that writer-parents use children as an "excuse" not to write. However, since I'd love for my output to be faster, it's hard not to internalize the proselytizing just a little.

Cindy: Gah. No argument there. Self-appointed gurus tend to make me want to upchuck in a much more colorful manner than words on a page. Everyone's process is different. No argument. Mine tends to be fast, and I'll revise, but I don't do drafts. What I've been doing lately, though, is dawdle. And that's why I'm doing this. To give myself some accountability to stay the hell off Facebook and Amazon and Buzzfeed and the stupid solitaire games and actually get some stinking work done. Weirdly, I was faster when my kids were still in jr. high and high school than I am now that they're in college.

Jody: I do think it's important not to let other writers shame you if you don't thrive using their preferred writing process. Then again, it's also important to be accountable. Having been in small press and independent publishing most of my career, accountability for me has had to come almost completely from within. It's tough to carve out writing time when you don't have the income or contracts to offset your family's loss of attention, clean clothes, meals, and so on. I can see how dedicating a single month to NaNo might be more manageable than every month of every year, especially when you have a ready-made peer group to commiserate with you and cheer you on.

So it's not that I don't respect NaNo'ers. NaNoites. NaNoWriters. NaNoNaNoShazbats. What do you call yourselves anyway?

Cindy: Heck if I know. I just call myself a writer with a word count goal.

I absolutely agree about the not shaming part. Among my crit group, I'm an oddity for not outlining every little detail--and for not writing successive drafts, and for a while, at least one friend took that to mean I wasn't serious about my writing. And being in small press is a whole different thing, where the income level doesn't correspond to the work load.

I tend to think of NaNo as a thing to get people who say they want to write a book but never have, out there, putting words on a paper and using the charts, etc. on NaNo to give themselves encouragement. That's one reason I never did it again, even though I knew I could. To me, once you've proven you can, the month is kind of moot. I just wanted to do it again, to reestablish consistent habits in my brain.

My kids are grown, which puts me in a good position to write, and I don't have a day job. Those aren't excuses, they're reasons that you might not get to write 40 hours a week. Other jobs are other jobs, and it's no shame, or shouldn't be. Kids take time and they're more important than pretty much anything else. Send the shamers to me for a good smack upside the head. For me, though, lately, it's just been about motivation and discipline. That's all in my head and I'm using NaNo as a tool to help me keep myself in line.

Not for once a year, but to get those habits back on a regular basis.

Jody: So how do you plan to deal with your proven one-draft method versus all the advice out there that you should never submit in December what you upchucked in November?

Cindy (Shrug.) I'll figure something out. I think the point comes down to this. For me, NaNo was a useful tool when I needed to focus on my first sequel, my first quasi-deadline. It worked. (And yes, I do some revisions and self-editing before I submit, just not a whole new draft.) I'm hoping that this year, it will help me renew my writing habits and get my fingers back on the keyboard more often. But as to the hype? It should never outweigh the work. I'll meet my goal or not, and it won't make much difference either way. It's just a tool. And tools really aren't meant to be used for koshing people over the head. (Though some do a pretty good job.) It's the same way with NaNo. Used properly, it can be helpful. But I really don't think it should ever be used to shame someone.

Jody: I tell you what, Cindy. During our discussion these past few days, you've managed to change my mind about NaNo, which is pretty amazing! But because I don't like pressure, I'm going to join in the frenzy my way, with CatNoWriMo -- Cat Novel Writing Month. In fact, I already posted the first episode at my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JodyWallaceAuthor?ref=hl and FB told me it was too profane and hate-filled to run as an ad, so it's pretty much on par with everything I write.

Why don't you share the link(s) to your NaNo novels and/or account so we can stalk you too?

Cindy: Since I'm already behind, you may have actually won the argument. Here's my NaNo link though, if anyone wants a writing buddy who may or may not remember to check in! http://nanowrimo.org/participants/c-s-pape

For what it's worth, I think our mutual answer is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Right? And if anybody gives you crap, sic Meankitty on 'em.


Happy Writing, all, no matter how you do it!
Cindy Spencer Pape and Jody Wallace


  1. I do the NaNo scurrying. But I do it for the fun with others. Whatever numbers come, come. And Gets a rough idea I haven't put time into out in the open for myself. I use Nano as an excuse as well. My family and all the blog people know that November I take off from blogging/reading, and sit in the chair clicking at keys.

    I would never torment anyone into doing it though. It doesn't work for everyone, and I have friends that it doesn't work for. That's okay. As you mentioned, whatever works for you US IT! It's all about words, and at your pacing. :)

  2. I've never done NaNo because I've never needed anymore pressure. I have my own process and my crit partner and I keep a running count when we're both trying to finish a project but other than that, I don't obsess. I've done a couple of Book in a Week/Month projects that turned out well, but I had the work outlined and just wrote scenes instead of trying to write in a linear (read sane) fashion. I say do what ever works for you:)

  3. I can't do NaNo this year with my current work load of teaching full time, working on edits and owner of a publishing house with three books coming out in Nov. and Dec. :) Maybe some day, but I have a hard time with following other people's amounts and not feeling bad about myself.


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