NaNoWriMo and the Grinding Halt of Sighing Agents

If you’re online at all, then you’ve seen writers saying they’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo. It’s that time of the year when writers everywhere set a rock solid goal for themselves and chug forward on the motivation of NaNoWriMo, competitive spirit, and the knowledge they can go back to just talking about writing very soon.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is an annual event, wherein writers are challenged to register and then write for 30 days. The goal is to get 50,000 words by midnight Nov 30th, after only just beginning the manuscript on November 1st. If you register at the official site, you will receive planning tools, encouragement and fun widgets to help count words. Those who finish get to upload their finished project and be listed with others who met their goals.

Why this is good:

  • NaNoWriMo is good for writers who enjoy the added camaraderie. There’s something to be said for clicking with and making friends who write. Writers are like that. We like each other LOL.
  • NaNoWriMo gets procrastinators moving. Peer pressure, competition, whatever it is…writers will write in effort to finish successfully. Also a very good thing. We must write if we are to improve.
  • If used properly, NaNoWriMo can be a useful tool for getting writers into good habits, like writing every day even if it’s not polish perfect. Getting it out of our heads and onto paper is the first step. The polishing comes later.

Why NaNoWriMo is not for me:

  • I write every day already. In two years, I’ve written 5 complete novels at 80,000 each plus I have at least three to five chapters of five more. Two of my complete novels are with agents. If you’re like me, there is simply no time for this event. It’s a little sad because I want to participate in EVERYTHING, but I’m not in a position for starting something new. I have much to do already. If you’re already maxed out on commitments and other projects, this will only stress you out. Focus on what you are already committed to. You can register next year. I promise.
  • NaNoWriMo can give some participants a cold slap in the face come December 1st. I’ve been reading/researching this topic for a week in preparation for this post. Agents cringe when you say you are querying a NaNo baby. Participants are so excited to have their novel saved in Word that they begin to query December 1st and the whole publishing machine grinds to a halt. Let’s face it publishing is the slowest moving industry on earth already. When agents get hit with the avalanche of NaNo projects in December it makes a creeping process stop. Yes, many NaNo projects have become published works, but not as is after a 30 day writing frenzy alone.

It is important to accept NaNoWriMo for what it is- A great start…And what it isn’t -enough time to polish a manuscript to query standards.

Advice from an admitted writing addict: Me.

If you need structure or motivation to get you writing, sign up today! Get started! If you have a writer’s heart and the task of completing a novel length manuscript is daunting. Register and get moving. You will never realize your goal by talking about it. Go for it! It’s only one little month. You can do anything for one little month right?

Be warned: once you unleash your inner writer, you may find it hard to stop!

If you like a challenge, want to meet other writers, think it will be fun…REGISTER!

If you already have unpolished work, or pieces parts, or want to query in December…think it through again. Even NaNoWriMo’s “About Page” says its not about quality. It’s about quantity and some of what you write will stink, but write it anyway. Agents care about quality. They don’t want your first draft of anything – ever. Period. NaNo is a good START. The work comes when the manuscript is down. You then still face the task of evaluating every single word. Is it necessary to the story? Does it communicate a detail important to the plot? Does it move the story forward, help unravel a character’s persona or deepen them? If not, cut it. Contract contraction-ables, compound compound-ables. Eliminate 98% occurrences of any form of “to be” and  “have been” etc, delete filler words like “that” “then,” “and” etc. etc.  Now, read again for places where you can show not tell. Hammer out your plot bumps and fill holes, check POV consistency, then read it again for flow and pacing. Give it to a beta reader or a critique group.

Breathe. Then, query.

NaNoWriMo is a very exciting event and participants are into it BIGTIME, but if you’re new, I say “Take it for what it is. It’s a fabulous experience, a great time of fun and a super challenge.

It’s a super start!

24 comments to NaNoWriMo and the Grinding Halt of Sighing Agents

  • Thanks for the post, Julie. Now that I know what NaNoWriMo is, I know it’s not for me.

    And I’m paying SERIOUS attention to the last part about the editing. I promise not to send you anything else until I’ve done this. Might take me a while so enjoy your break! Thanks so much for teaching me!!! Squeeeeeee for your agents!!!!!! It’s all I could talk about last night. My hubby said I was as excited as if I’D gotten the agent! He’s happy for you too.

  • Valerie! Thank you!! NaNo is one of those things I would LOVE to do because I love to finish something, throw my hands up and do a victory “in your face” dance to all those times I told myself I couldn’t do it. But, yes, I read so many agent interviews this week saying how they are buried in NaNos in December and they just aren’t ready for querying.

    Thank you for being happy for me! I’m a blessed and lucky girl!! I hope to pay close attention to everything that comes my way and share it here. When I started this blog in June, my admin suggested I do a format like this, but I thought “Who am I to advise anyone?” Hey you CAN do ANYTHING you set your mind to. It’s like I told the agent at my pitch session….”You can be an astronaut!” I. Am. Such. A. Dork. (but its still true.)

  • Julie,

    I’ve been actively doing NaNo for the last three years, and will say this for it: you’re absolutely right (Oh how I was tempted to use write as a pun there). NaNo is a great start, and it can be lots of fun doing it. And after doing it for so many years and hanging out with my local NaNo group, I also know something else. A lot of these people will never make it to publishing. The editing skills aren’t there, the plots are the same old, same old, and for many there’s an attitude that after they finish 50k, they’re done. I think there’s a real aspect of the weekend writer there where they believe they just need to write 50k and whatever it is will be publishable.

    Like you, I’m writing all the time, and I was tempted not to do NaNo this year as I’m already in a project, but I do have another idea that’s been itching to get out of late, so I figured I’d do it one more year and see what happens. However, I know I need to get my batch of queries out pronto before December, now. And what I’m querying is not a NaNo novel.

  • Well, it’s nice to see you again A3writer! NaNo sounds like a lot of fun. Agreed! Congrats on your fourth year at it as well! I also think it’s fun that you have a local group to meet with. Having fresh eyes to read our words can make such a difference.
    Writing is definitely addictive for me, and I know how you feel there! I can’t wait to hear more about the new idea you have trying to get out! Keep us posted. Maybe an interview is in order come December when you’ve completed your fourth year at this event!

  • I am soooo incredibly jealous that you write every day. I write in my blog, but unfortunately that is the only thing I have time for…with my current job. Hoping to change that soon and have a little more freedom to work on more projects. I’ve heard of Nano before, but I’m not one for deadlines looming over me like that. (I have enough as an attorney..ha) But I do see how it gets you going and gets you motivated. Maybe some year I’ll participate and see where it leads me…

  • Alaina! I am lucky to be able to write everyday. I admit it. So many of my writer friends work 40 or more hours a week plus juggle the family. It’s amazing to me. I have so much respect for those like you who maintain everything else, PLUS make time to pursue your dreams. BTW being an attorney is pretty darn impressive Alaina! Woot!

  • Excellent post – very well balanced. I do write daily, but I got my start in serious writing with NaNo (this will be my 7th year), so it’s unfathomable to me to miss out. I just love the energy and extra motivation a month of writing with everyone else gives me. But obviously it’s not for everyone.

    I self-publish so no bugging agents for me, but even so, no first draft is ever ready to just toss out there for sale, IMO. I’m just finishing up revisions to last year’s NaNo project, and it will spend November with the editor so I can do final edits and proofreading before publishing it in January. There are no shortcuts to creating good books.

    That said – last year’s was the first NaNo draft I deemed worth editing and publishing. All the previous ones are “trunk novels” – and that’s okay too. Best way to learn to write is to do a lot of it, and NaNo is good for that too. ;-)

  • A good and well-reason post. You’re right about Nanowrimo being very much just a start. But at times I think it gets a bad rap among “serious writers” for being “for hobbyists only” and not for “real writers.” To be clear, I don’t think that’s what you’re trying to say here, but, well, I’m still participating and I’d like to think I’m serious about publishing. Hence the disconnect. :)

    Back when I first started in on Nanowrimo, I didn’t write every day. I wrote every couple of weeks, and that was it. But over time, it’s helped me develop a routine for daily writing and revising, and that’s fantastic.

    But I still plan on doing Nanowrimo. I use it as my yearly excuse to break out of my shell a little bit and write something that I might not have chosen to do otherwise. The camaraderie, accountability, and general good-will of the writing community (professional, serious, and hobbyist) that comes out from October to December is enough to encourage me on a project that might never otherwise have seen the light of day.

    So while I do have a writing schedule I stick to, I’ll be ceasing all work on my current new WIP for November while I try my hand at something else. And then Dec. 1, it’s back to the grindstone. I’ll put my Nano project away and think about revising it later.

    Though I’m not sure I’d ever tell an agent that I was querying a Nano project, no matter how much editing it’s received, just because of the stigma. Even if you spend a year revising through multiple drafts, an agent might still see “Nanowrimo project” and instinctively cringe.

  • A well-reasoned* post. I clearly don’t spend enough time editing my blog replies. :)

  • Josh! What an awesome response, thank you! I seriously need to get a panel of NaNo enthusiasts on here! NaNoWriMo is a fabulous way to do all the things you say, get motivated, get busy writing and establish consistency in writing, not to mention have a great time and meet other writer friends! I hope to see you join the list of NaNo writers who can say their Nano baby got an agent! Sound like you’re right on target with your planning, editing and general enjoyment! Best of luck and thank you so much for your input on this!!!

  • Jamie! Seven years of NaNoWriMo! I’m so excited to get feedback on this topic from those who have enjoyed it year after year!! You’re honestly getting me thinking of starting something new just so I can participate. (Reigning myself in is not a strong-suit of mine). I’m so glad that you enjoy it and keep going back. It certainly asy a lot of wonderful things about the event adn the participants! Thank you!!

  • If I have a polished work ready (written long before NaNo), and it will be close to Dec. 1, might it be better to start queries a while after, just to not get stuck in the mire? If so, is Jan. 15th long enough, or do you folks think it takes longer than that to get back to “normal”?

  • Ben! Thanks for your question and congrats on having a manuscript at this stage! It’s a ton of work and it deserves a pat on the back. I think we are all so submerged in writing and surrounded with other writers that we often forget what an amazing feat it is to just finish the writing!!
    Now, I did a little research (aka me and Google had a date) about querying and the holidays. It looks like many agencies are closed to submissions for a set amount of time around the holidays and it varies. Even if the agents are in, their editor contacts may be out, whatever the comment, the bottom line was always the same- it is backed up at Christmas. So, my opinion is this: Send your query when you’re ready to send it. If you send in December, you may have to wait longer to hear back. Maybe. If you wait till January, will it make a significant difference? Maybe. I say, just research your agents and read their submissions policy right before you query to be certain they are in and accepting, then have some eggnog and relax. No matter when you submit (if you’re like me) it’ll feel like a thousand years before you hear back LOL! Remember, agents want to find the next top seller as much as we want to write it! They rally are looking at everything that comes in, so do your thing and then get comfy for a while:) Thanks for commenting on my blog! Love meeting other writers!

  • Thanks! That sounds sensible. Of course you are right, it will feel like forever no matter when I query.

    In the meantime, I just might write something for NaNo so that I have a raw, quivering mess to work on after I send out my query for the polished one.

  • I’ve done NaNo the last three years, and the novella I have coming out with Carina in February actually started (in a completely different form) as last year’s NaNo project.

    For myself, I write or edit every day normally, but I thrive on a challenge. That’s the real reason I do NaNo. It’s the “can I do this…again?” I’ve “won” every year I’ve participated, but I agree with everything you said about querying. Revise. (Or in my case re-envision.) Get a crit group if you don’t have one. Polish the hell out of it. THEN query, if you really think it’s good enough. If time and distance says it’s not then start planning something better.

    Great post though, very fair :)

  • Seleste! Thanks for this comment! NaNoWriMo is such a big event. It’s exciting to hear about your project coming out with Carina! Congratulations! You’ll have to stop back when it gets closer and be my writer Wednesday …little promo :) Thanks again for the comment!

  • Oh your blog ate my comment. Cries.

    I was telling you how I am doing nano for the first this year. Simply because I am hoping it will help me become a more disciplined writer, and for no other reason. Except it took a lot more words than that.

  • Can’t believe I’ve never heard of this ‘NaNoWriMo” before…see why I’m so glad to have found your blog? I’m like you, tho. I already write everyday and can’t do more -certainly not a polished novel in a month without having to get serious treatment afterwards. Again great blog and good advice…

  • Mimi, it’s not about writing a *polished* novel in a month. NaNo is about establishing or encouraging a daily writing habit and challenging yourself to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Like Julie says, it’s a great start.

    This will be my fifth year doing NaNo. Last year was the first time I took it really seriously (and I still didn’t win) and came up with a story I love and intend to finish. For this year, though, I’m doing a comic mystery that’s lightyears away from the things I’ve tried before. And I *will* win this year!

    (Great post, Julie!)

  • Crystal! I just laughed so hard I think I scared my husband! I am SO sorry my site ate your post LOL! I’d love to hear more when its over. PLEASE come back and let me know what you think afterwards. Did you get it done? Do you have good habits, make new friends etc. I am so intrigued by this event!

    Mimi! SO glad to be bringing you useful deets like this LOL!!! I think it takes a certain personality and then they LOVE it. I manage to stay crazy-busy by my own doings, though I may try NaNo next year for fun. I love a challenge!

  • Genia! Thanks for the comment! I am so thankful for the NaNoWriMos who have taken the time to post today. This has been a lot of fun on my end. Thank you!

  • I start Nano every year with great enthusiasm, which then fizzles out by the end of the first week when I don’t have the requisite word count in my doc. Then I just get around to finishing the novel later in the year. Let’s see if I give it a go again this year, but somehow I think not!

    I’m so envious of you being able to write every day. It is no mean achievement! I look forward to the day I can say the same for my writing schedule.

  • Great post! I write every day too, fiction as well as articles so I can pay the bills. I looked at NaNo when I started writing ‘seriously’ and I just couldn’t see how I could grind everything to a halt to do it. My kids, my work, my life…no, I can’t do it. I do commend anyone who can go at this with enthusiasm. It’s a lot of commitment and hard work. However, as you said, a novel written in 30 days in not publishable. It’s a first draft. Eventually, it might be worth sending out, but I can’t imagine sending something I’d written in 30 days to anyone, not even beta readers.

    I’ve completed 7 manuscripts in just over two years and one is what another commenter called a ‘trunk novel’. It was my first and man, it’s awful. I have 3 that are polished and I’m querying at the moment, the rest are still in editing.

    What a long rambling comment. Sorry. Best of luck to anyone who is participating in NaNo and don’t let the naysayers get you down. If you’re committed to writing, it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you, well, do it.

  • A comment written in 30 seconds is also not publishable. Darn typos.

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