Monday, November 11, 2013

All the Feels: On NaNoQuirMo and Making November Work for You

Before I get to today's post, I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't say Happy Veterans' Day to my dad and to all the other men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America's freedom. Thank you for all that you do. 

NaNoWriMo isn't for everyone. It's not kind to many pantsers, or to people who don't do well under a time crunch or to people who are intimidated by word count goals. For people like me, who live or die by word counts, who plot the hell out of a project before writing a single sentence, NaNoWriMo is awesome. It fuels my motivation and encourages me to tackle the blank page, which is always daunting since I'm much more at home during revision than drafting.

But I feel like it's something every writer should attempt at least once, because it's a great lesson in what kind of writer you are and what process works (or doesn't work) for you.

Two years ago, I did NaNoWriMo in the throes of first trimester pregnancy symptoms. It was rough, but I made it to 50,009 words, after which I promptly stopped and surrendered to the Stitch. That book sits in my TBF (to be finished) pile along with one other NaNo project, but for a good reason. I feel like I'm not strong enough at world-building to tackle writing fantasy yet. That was a big lesson for me, and one I don't think I would have learned if I hadn't attempted to write that project during NaNo.

Last year I learned another important lesson--sometimes November just isn't the right time to WriMo.

November has been my drafting month since 2010. So during the last week of October, I started sifting through my "idea" file, looking for inspiration. There were a couple kernels I liked, that I might be able to take somewhere, but as I started to consider characters and inciting incidents and snarky bits of dialogue, my mind kept drifting back to IMPERFECTLY FINE. To my query. And my synopsis.

I'd spent the last six months dusting off an old drafty thing I wrote a few years back in less than thirty days as well. I'd edited, critiqued, beta'ed, edited, critiqued again, and I was ready to query. Just in time for NaNoWriMo.

Then a friend of mine tweeted a link to an outdated Terrible Minds blog post called "25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing." Among Chuck Wendig's 24 other invaluable bits of wisdom, this really hit home:


"Life rewards action, not inertia. What the fuck are you waiting for? To reap the rewards of the future, you must take action in the present. Do so now."

I made the decision to rebel against the NaNoWriMo tradition of frantically punching out as many words of new, non sequitur prose as I could fit in my brain in 30 days. Instead of 50,000 words, I decided to write (and more importantly send) 50 queries.

So, that's what I did.

While I waited and tallied up the rejections on Query Tracker and tried not to pee myself when I got requests, I got to coach and support all my lovely writer friends who were sprinting and chugging coffee like writerly bosses, some of them for the first time.

Which was pretty damn inspirational, too.

Did I win NaNoWriMo? Well, not according to the rules. But I did send my 50 queries. And I did get some fantastic feedback.

A year later, I have an agent, and the book I queried last November is on submission. So, I'm NaNo-ing again, basking in the inspiration that comes from joining together with writers I love to accomplish feats of fiction that others claim are impossible. I'm drinking up the inspirational posts from people like Rainbow Rowell, whose NaNo projects have turned into bestselling novels. And I'm waiting to see what I'll learn about myself as a writer this year.

And that is what NaNoWriMo is really about as far as I'm concerned.

What does NaNoWriMo mean to you? What lessons have you learned about yourself as a writer because of it? 

Dannie Morin is an author, blogger, and freelance editor. She's currently contemplating seeking help for her social media addiction. In the meantime, you can find her on Blogger, Facebook, Goodreads, & Twitter. If you've got suggestions for a future All the Feels post, contact Dannie via the contact form on her blog. She is repped by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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