Posted by: Trisha Leigh | November 3, 2010

Don’t Hate the Player Hate the Game

Oh, National Novel Writing Month. Each November folks decide whether or not to participate, agents and editors groan over the shoddy, unedited manuscripts that will surely come their way December 1, and the rest of us watch with varying degrees of interest from the sidelines.

Last year I was at a very different place in my writing development. I finished three manuscripts in 2009 and thought they were pretty awesome (I was totally wrong). In August I joined a local critique group, shared some of my work, and learned how far I had to go if I wanted to take the next step.

I put aside the three (mostly unedited) manuscripts in favor of a new idea, and dove into NaNoWriMo. I wrote a quirky, 1st person mystery. I left it alone, planning to edit it after a few weeks had gone by. Sometime in the middle of December I got the idea for In the Autumn and never looked back.

I recently re-read that NaNo book from last year and remembered how much I adored my main character. It needs work, but it’s not awful. I may revisit it one day.

Here’s my take on NaNo. There are good things about it. If you aren’t in the habit of writing every day, it teaches you the benefits of a schedule. It’s fun to have others to write with, to commiserate with, to bond with over first drafting. A writer on Twitter pointed out the other day that writing can be lonely – it’s a solitary endeavor, at least during the first draft period. This one month a year, though, writers can do it together. There’s merit in that.

The downside of NaNo is, of course, the poor saps who are (like I was, 18 months ago) under the impression that words spewed out during a first draft are genius and usable. Some of them are, sure. Most of them? Unlikely.

NaNo doesn’t fit into my timetable this year, but if I were undertaking a brand new 1st draft right now, I would take part. I like the feeling of community. Since January of 2009, however, I’ve completed 6 full length manuscripts. I write every day anyhow, so the word count or the discipline factors no longer help me.

This year I’ll cheer from the sidelines. I am working on a fun first draft at the moment, but I’m already 15K in. And that would be cheating.



  1. I’ll cheer from the sidelines with you. I’m not prepared to set aside my current WIP to start something new right now.

    Plus, I’m superstitious enough to believe Fate would somehow step in and keep me from finishing NaNo, anyway–like by sending the Zombie Apocalypse early. I’d hate to be responsible for bringing that down on the world.

    • It would not be cool if you caused the Zombie Apocalypse with your WIP. Or maybe it would…

  2. I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m determined to finish rewritng and editing my current WIP by the end of the year. So, instead, I too am watching from the sidelines cheering everyone else on.

    Of course there’s always next year ;p

    • True! I’ll gladly dive in if November falls in the right place next year!

  3. Last year I felt left out of NaNoWriMo. More than anything, I was drawn to the energy swirling around it and the community. I have a major revision to do on my first novel, but I decided to take November off and enjoy the madness, fun and pressure of NaNoWriMo. I have a book idea I like and we’ll see where it takes me. A few days in, I’m glad I’m here, but I know I’ll be happy to turn the calendar to December!

    • It is easy to feel left out, I know. I considered participating but managed to resist at the last moment. It’s hard! Will power is not my strong suit.

  4. Any book or method has aspects you can use or understand, and that are helpful at one stage of your learning curve but not necessarily at others. NaNo fits in to some people’s writing style and some learning curves, but it doesn’t solve every problem.

    One thing I haven’t heard people speak of, though, is the community support. If you want other people to read your work, at some point you have to go public with the fact that you’re writing, whether to a beta reader, critique group, or outright audience. Throwing yourself into the NaNo pool is a more fun (and more supportive) way to declare your intentions than many others.

    • Great comment, Ann Marie. I agree. Saying out loud that you’re writing a novel is an excellent first step to believing you can do it. Thanks.

  5. I’m doing NaNo, but I sure as shit won’t be submitting the 1st draft of whatever I end up with at the end of this month! lol

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