Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

A few years ago, I completed a NaNoWriMo novel. While the product remains (rightfully) in a file
drawer, it was an intense month and an exhilarating experience to pass that 50k word mark in 30 days. I learned lot about myself as a writer. Since then, I've published two novels with Viking, been battered around a bit by the industry, and continue to work with other writers who have books in the pipeline. And I've got a few thoughts and tips to share about the NaNo experience.

1. NaNo is like boot. It's amazing to move your muscles way more than usual, learn your limits, your aptitudes and your optimal style of exercising/drafting.

2. NaNo forces you to avoid line-edits, ignore your inner critic and write with a wonderful amount of freedom.

3. NaNo, like an intense gym work-out, can leave your manuscript (like your muscles) a little sore, imperfect and longing for a slower, more measured pace of work.

4. Please stick the manuscript in a drawer for at least a week (or possible until New Year's) and allow your brain to rest and regain some perspective. While it's marinating, search the web for your favorite 10 (or more) "How to Revise Your NaNo Novel" articles. Print them out. If it's gonna take time, print out your novel, too, so it's ready to read on whatever date you have selected.

5. Trust me. Your NaNo manuscript is not a finished product and does not represent your best work. It may have great potential but SEE #s 3 & 4 above. Do not send this unrevised baby to an agent or editor.

6. Seriously, don't.

7. Be aware that agents and editors get thousands and pages of NaNo novel submissions in December, just before they take a holiday vacation. (Heard any good "Editor walks into a NaNo Write-In... jokes?) They do not enjoy this and it nearly assures your work a nap in the slush pile.

8. Waiting to have a truly ready-to-submit manuscript probably won't slow down your path to publication. Submitting a weak, unedited manuscript will very probably slow down your path to publication. (Not gonna say definitely. I mean, we all know crap gets published sometimes.)

NOW...GOGOGOGOGO and get all you can out of this writing adventure.

It's like broccoli--good for you and someday you may like it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rewarding Courage with a Long Nap

Following up on my previous CHICKEN-HEART post, I am happy to report that last night, after many days of angsting, rereading and tweaking, I sent my completed ms, along with a synopsis and opening chapters of something new, to my editor with the note: 

"Yes, you can read this now." 

This morning, I woke up early, made breakfast for the kids, packed lunches, loaded the dishwasher and...went back to bed for an hour. 

It was a delightful treat and a necessary break from thinking about the fact that I have again let pages fly out into the universe which I find awfully stressful. I am not alone. Scrolling through the social media portals of writers, you will find... 
  • laments over weight gained while revising
  • opuses on the struggle to stay physically active while committing to daily word counts
  • worries about giving up paying jobs to take a risk on one's own fiction
  • panic Tweets about being out on sub
  • and general musings on the tension between writer-life and, well, life.

Being a writer takes courage, people.

In sum, I'm just saying I think I earned my nap. And it was faaaantastic.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Do you know what I did this week?

Sent a manuscript to my agent. Threw up. Emailed her not to read it. Printed it out (again). 

All 356 pages now sit on my kitchen table waiting for me to feel ready to give it one more read and find the courage to email Catherine again to say "go ahead."

Have I mentioned I've done this before with other manuscripts? It's kind of getting to be a pattern.

Any amateur shrinks out there have any thoughts on this? Comments always open.