Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gigi's NaNoWriMo Tips and Timeline

by Gigi

Here's my secret for finally managing to finish that novel I wanted to write "someday": NaNoWriMo.

I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month 5 years ago, in 2004. I had been bouncing around ideas for mystery novels for years, having fun with it along with the rest of my creative pursuits. But while I got better at art, photography, and the guitar, I never seemed to get further on a novel than than jotting down ideas and over-editing a few scenes to death.

I'd come close to finishing a novel during college, but with all my rewriting, I could never quite get to THE END.

That's the beauty of NaNoWriMo. It asks you to throw editing out the window. In accepting that charge, it forces you to let go of your inner editor. And what a freeing force that can be.

Don't get me wrong--editing has its place. And if you're going to do it right, editing will probably take longer than writing that first draft. But you cannot get to that place until you finish that first draft.

By signing up to write 50,000 words in a month, you make a deal with yourself to avoid the temptation to go back and read what you've just written. You move forward, rushing to get 50,000 words down on paper. Much of it will be nonsense you'll never use, but you'll also have brilliant ideas you never would have thought of if you hadn't gone through the exercise.

I loved reading Sophie's NaNo timeline, so I thought I'd share mine:

November 2004: I discovered NaNoWriMo and wrote a whole book. THE ROSE didn't fit into any genre (was it a mystery? a ghost story? a YA book? a paranormal romance???) but it taught me that I could write a whole book. Not a good book, but a complete book. What fun! Now back to regular life.

November 2005: I wrote over 50,000 words of a mystery novel, ARTIFACT. When I stepped back and read it a few months later, I thought for the first time that I might actually have something with what I'd written. I decided it might be worth editing this book.

November 2006:
I didn't win NaNoWriMo this year. I used this November to furiously edit that 2005 book.

In December, I submitted it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished mystery writers. A few months later, in early 2007, I found out I'd won one of their two 2007 grants. Excited about this validation of my writing, I queried a few agents. I subsequently learned that 1 month of editing isn't enough. I needed to learn how to edit a book.

November 2007: I wrote what I thought would be Book 2 in the mystery series. (Yeah, it's much more fun to write a new book than to edit an old one.)

I had such fun with this caper that I decided to hunker down and put in the work to edit Book 1. I knew that was what I needed to do if I ever wanted either book to see the light of day. I joined local writers groups, bought some writing craft books, and got to be a better writer this year.

November 2008: I got my creative juices flowing by writing something completely different: a YA ghost story.

Simultaneously, I submitted ARTIFACT to a bigger mystery competition--one that gave the winner a publishing deal. I found out a few months later that I was a finalist. I didn't end up winning, but I knew then that my book was ready to send out. I queried agents, and this time there was a lot more interest. I signed with a wonderful agent.

November 2009: My agent thought my idea for Book 3 in my mystery series was much stronger than Book 2 (she's right), so I'm currently writing Book 3--which is now Book 2--tentatively titled PIRATE. I passed the 20,000 word mark yesterday.

Whew! It's been a fun few years.

p.s. If you want to read even more about what I have to say about NaNoWriMo, you can check out the guest blog post I did on the NaNoWriMo blog last year.


Unknown said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your timeline!!! I'm newly inspired to really let go of internal editor (sometimes I wonder if this is harder for recovering tech writers/journalists, since we edit as we go 8 hours a day, 5 days a week...).


Hailey.Juliet said...

Love that timeline! Can't wait to go to your first book signing...I'll be standing in line with multiple copies!

Sophie Littlefield said...

you're just one of those people plagued with an abundance of talents...but i'm glad you chose writing for now!

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