Sunday, November 3, 2013

Welcome to NaNoWriMo week!

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Hi and welcome to the Here Be Magic NaNoWriMo Week! Several of us here on the Here Be Magic blog are going to present to you a series of posts all about NaNoWrimo, our own experiences with it, and various bits of advice on how to make it through.

First and foremost, for those of you who don't already know what NaNoWriMo is, it's short for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every year in November. The idea arose in response to how many, many people in life often say, "Well, gosh, I'd like to write a novel!" NaNoWriMo is intended to give you a chance to do exactly that. The basic goal of the exercise is to write 50,000 words--not even a complete novel, by most modern genre standards. The NaNoWriMo site provides you a system by which you can report your final word count, but it's still mostly on you to get those words out of your head and into your manuscript.

Many NaNoWriMo participants have the goal of writing something that'll eventually be publishable. Many others just like the social aspects of it, and the support of knowing that their peers are going through the same mad dash that they are. The NaNoWriMo site itself features forums where you can hook up with your fellow writers, as well as pointers to local events--but all over the Net, really, you can find a lot of NaNoWriMo support groups. There are, in short, countless ways to participate in the event.

Now, a lot of people in publishing find NaNoWriMo can cause more harm than good, since many people who come out of November with their 50,000 or more words immediately try to query what they've produced to publishers or agents. Which leads me into what I want to talk about in my post today: how I did NaNoWriMo the first time, and how it got me started on seriously pursuing writing.

My first novel Faerie Blood was the product of the 2003 NaNoWriMo. I had completed novels before, but not in some time, and I wanted to see if I could meet the challenge of 50,000 words in a month. I worked out the math and saw that it came to 1,667 words a day, give or take a word or two as you rounded off. Given that I had a full-time day job at the time, that was a lot of words to try to produce in a day.

So to try to make it as easy on myself as possible, I did some outline work in the last couple of weeks of October, laying down a rough idea of what I wanted to write about. I had a tiny germ of an idea that had started in a scene I'd written, and I took that scene and expanded it out into a full cast of characters and a roughly sketched out plot. And I threw a lot of things I loved into it, to motivate myself: elves, Seattle, computer geekery, biking, magic, and most of all, music. In particular, my two main male characters are a bouzouki player from Newfoundland (and anybody who knows anything about my musical tastes will know that Great Big Sea totally inspired that) and, of all things, an Unseelie Elvis impersonator (again, pretty obvious to anyone familiar with my musical background).

And it worked. About halfway through the month I ran out of outline, so had to regroup and plot out the rest of the story. Then I barely squeaked over the line by November 30th.

I wasn't done with the story yet, though. So I kept writing, although I'd figured out fast that nearly 1,700 words a day was pushing it for how much I could comfortably produce. So in December 2003 I kicked down to 500 words a day instead, and by January of 2004, I finally had a complete novel.

The process taught me two things:

  1. The importance of writing something on a daily basis. A lot of people say they'd like to write a novel, but if you don't actually allocate time to put your fingers to the keyboard and do it, it's not going to happen.
  2.  It's okay to write words that aren't perfect the first time. Before I did NaNoWriMo for the first time, I worried a lot about getting every single word and sentence right. I'd ask people for feedback and become far more worried about fixing what problems they reported than I was about actually writing new words.
Want an example? Here! Have some chapter comparisons! Both of these are PDF files.
Because here's the thing that I see a lot of publishing people lamenting about: that NaNoWriMo novel you produce is, in fact, probably not going to be publishable the instant you're done with it. You're going to need to give it to beta readers. And you're going to need to edit it, probably several times, before you've got something worth an editor's or agent's time and trouble.

It took me a while to get Faerie Blood into a state where it finally got me a publishing offer--2008, in fact. And by then, the book had been through several edit passes.

I haven't done NaNoWriMo officially since 2003 for a few reasons. Some of them were medical, since in some years I've been through too many medical stresses to be up to the task of producing that high a daily word count. Others, though, were a lot more practical. I'd learned that I could in fact write a novel, and by the time Faerie Blood was published I had in fact finished another novel--what eventually became Valor of the Healer, now available from Carina.

But I still appreciate the social aspects of NaNoWriMo. There's something very encouraging in knowing that your fellow writers are joining you in the goal of producing a novel.

And if you're one of the many who're tackling it this year, I wish you good luck and happy writing!

Angela Korra'ti, a.k.a. Angela Highland, is the author of both the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series and the Rebels of Adalonia high fantasy series. Come say hi to her at, and if you want to buy Faerie Blood, all the ways you can do so are right over here!

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