Thursday, November 5, 2009


Whenever I read that little abbreviated copy, I immediately think of Robin Williams as Mork in the old show Mork and Mindy. His trademark expression, "Nano nano" helped make him a star.

But participating writers know the above abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal: write a novel in a month. I've given it a shot for the past two years. The first time around, being a NaNo virgin, I didn't make the required 50,000 words by the end of November. It was much harder than I imagined. And I tried to do the unthinkable--write a good novel, one with a plot, character development, scenes that made sense, and sparkling prose. I edited as I went along, as I usually do when I'm writing. I guess that abbreviation should be more like "Nuh uh, nuh uh", as in "don't even try that." Why? Because stopping to edit and change things around takes time. In order to write 50,000 words by the end of the month a writer has to write approximately 1,666 words per day. Who has time to think, plan, and edit on a schedule like that?

So I failed at my first attempt. But I did learn some things. Sitting down to write each night requires dedication. I turned off the TV and secluded myself from my family members. No matter how much I wanted to run into the living room to find out what was so funny or what they were talking about, I didn't budge from my chair. And I found that the words flowed along, night after night, or usually did. Sometimes I got stuck. Then I got panicky. How was I supposed to complete my 1,666 words for the day if no words popped into my head? Sometimes I skipped scenes too hard to write. I'd go back to them later. Can't think of an interesting way to describe a character? I just threw in some "blah blah blahs" to fill the paragraph.

The second time around I believe I was dealing with illness and then family stuff. I still didn't complete the 50,000 words.

This time around I'm staying on track. I'll get this sucker written one way or another. It will be very hard to avoid fixing things since I was trained to do that in my job as an editor. I'll just have to shut one eye and keep typing.

The words will not be gems, but more like rocks. That's it--a bag of rocks.

So excuse me now. I've got some rocks to collect.


  1. Rocks can be considerably more interesting than gems. Gems just shine, rocks have stuff in 'em!


  2. Ooh, nice way to look at it.


  3. Sounds like you're doing great. Your post reminds me of running races. The tendency is to glance over your shoulder to see who's behind you but really you'd run a better race if you don't look back.

  4. I edit as I go too. It's a nasty habit. Best of luck.

  5. Paul: Good idea. I won't look back.

    Susan: Thanks!

  6. After reading everybody's blogs about how they're doing, and there's some incredible progress, I'm a little sorry I didn't do it this year. But, life got in the way.

    There's always next year.

    Unless I'm doing revisions for an agent or editor :)

  7. I will now and forever envision Robin Williams in rainbow-hued shirts every single time someone brings this up.