I Don’t Need Another 50,000-word Novel

So, NaNoWriMo is lurking around the bend. If you’re a writer and you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here to learn more.

I first stumbled upon NaNo in 2010. Three 50,000-word novels later, I decided I’m not participating in NaNo this year. At least, not in the traditional sense.

You see, I have this book that I started this past spring. I wrote a rough draft, put it aside in April-ish. Wrote a new rough draft (‘cuz the first one had the wrong antagonist in it), put it aside in June-ish. Wrote a first draft (to me, rough and first are NOT the same drafts), put it aside at the end of August. Wrote a second draft, put it aside until October 31.

Belatedly, I realized that NaNo starts on November 1st. Either I join in on the NaNo festivities and write another story idea that I have, OR I stick to my plan of working on the third draft to my WIP. Doing both in November is impossible due to Life.

After meditating on this (not really, I paced my house with a beer in hand), I figured, “I don’t need another 50,000-word novel.” Deciding to work on the third draft of my WIP during one of the most popular writing fests of the year was actually a major growth spurt for me.

You see, I tend to avoid. I love writing and creating new worlds and characters. However, I have only committed myself twice to stories all the way to the proofread, query-ready, final draft. And I have half a dozen stories that I want to write. They’re not stories that I have given up on, but they are stories that challenge me in the simple way that they need to be finished.

I love NaNo for its positive energy, emotional support, and encouragement. I am proud of myself for “winning” NaNo three times, proud of myself for giving life to three story ideas. But there is a certain safety in this venture if that is all a writer does.

That’s when I came up with the perfect solution. Why not use NaNo’s positive energy and support to help me write my third draft?

This could be considered sacrilege, or breaking NaNo laws, or abusing the system. But frankly, dear reader, I don’t give a damn. I work my tail off just so I can have one hour of writing a day (and it’s a freakishly early hour!). I should be able to use NaNo the way I see fit.

Seriously though, when it really comes down to it, I think that NaNoWriMo isn’t just about a crazed 30 days of writing. Sure, that’s the hype and the marketing tool. But, really, NaNo is about supporting writers who want to write a story. The bottom line for some of us isn’t 50,000 words– it’s writing, period. I just want to get my stories written.

NaNoWriMo is beneficial to any writer who:

Works well with deadlines.

Thrives in a supportive community.

Schedules specific writing time.

Wants to write a story.

I can safely say I have no trouble putting down 50,000 words for any given story idea. So, I don’t need NaNo for that anymore. However, I can make use of NaNo for other aspects of my writing. I could use it to help me develop characters, shape my dialogue exchanges, reconstruct a weak beginning, OR write the third draft to my WIP.

I won’t be using the NaNo site to record my progress only because I’m past the point of word counting. But I will be joining in on NaNo discussions and cheerleading on Facebook and Twitter and blogs.

What’s key about NaNo is that writing comes first. So, why not make use of this gold mine of writing support and opportunity and use it the way you see fit.

What are you doing this NaNo?

64 thoughts on “I Don’t Need Another 50,000-word Novel

  1. I’ve never done NaNo – I write because I love it, and often write 2000 words a day, but if I felt I had to, day after day, I’m sure I’d stare at the screen and cry. Good luck to everyone having a go – if it works for you, then that’s fab. I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines.

    • Yes, I write because I love it too. And with my crazy schedule, it was fun to use NaNo as a way of getting a story down. I didn’t mind “having to” write because I like writing challenges. But I need to take these stories to the next level.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. You go girl!!!!

    Sorry that felt like a you go girl moment :)

    I say write write write and why break a motivation streak when you can get to buckling down on that draft. I think there’s a forum on the Nano site for nano site. :D

    • I am looking forward to feeding off the energy of everyone doing NaNo, so yes, I think it will be productive. NaNo isn’t for everyone, that’s true, but I am glad that I tried it.

      Thanks for swinging by!

  3. I’ve never done NaNo. I have participated in ROW80 several times. It’s a great way to set goals and be held accountable, plus awesome support group and incredible flexibility.

    • Hey Kathi,

      I have seen the ROW80 widget on a lot of blogs, including yours. I think writing challenges are great for those of us who benefit from the writing support. In some ways it can really help us learn how to meet nasty writing deadlines, which once we’re published and rocking the fame and fortune, we’ll need to meet many deadlines. ;)

  4. I’m using NaNo for some of my rebuild goals for Death Out of Time. I really feel that I need to truly finish a WIP before moving on to new ideas. That may be one reason Meghan’s novel planning has lagged. But this means that before November 1st, I need to figure out some major components for Death so I can write the needed scenes. And the “whys and wherefors” aren’t exactly springing to mind. They’ve only got 9 days left….

    Like you, I’ll be cheering on those who participate—and blog buddies like you who are working on the harder tasks of refining and polishing a story. Now have fun with that third draft! :)

    • Hey JM,

      Good for you! This will be your first foray into NaNo, right? Typically, I don’t do well with multiple writing projects (regardless of Life), because I totally throw myself into each story and think about it when I’m not actively writing. This is one reason why I haven’t been able to focus on those other books, because of how much energy is needed to really commit to a story. It was always easier to just start a new one–that way at least I’m still writing.

      However, I am getting restless with all of those half-written stories. I definitely think I have turned a corner in my writing journey. It feels good, actually.

      Good luck with your rebuild goals. I hope you’ll blog about your progress!

      • Oh, no, not a formal entry into NaNo! I’m just using November and “that buzz” of activity as a spur for my rebuild. I’m hoping some of the writing energy in the atmosphere will help me, too. ;) It’s time to focus on answering some major “whys” of the story so I can actually write it—hopefully beginning in November and meeting some modest word count goals for it.

  5. A great thought expressed by great words, Kate. I’m with you 100%! Last year, my husband asked me why I was participating in NaNo (which I’d already “won” 4 times in the past): “You already know you can write to those deadlines.” But, I was in a rut with my 2012 project, and – like you mention, I think – I wanted a bit of an escape. But, you’re correct: the real point of NaNo is making time for our writing, learning how to fit writing into our already-busy lives. You already do a great job of that. From this post, I think you can move past the race itself into a coach’s or judge’s seat. You’ve been there, done that. Now, you’re using that winner’s experience to move up to the critical expert/supporter role. Kind of like the Michael Phelps of writing (minus the early controversy).

    I think you’ve helped me decide, too. I know how to write hard and fast. Now, it’s time for thoughtful and well.

    Great post!

    • I love how you put it, Mayumi – “I know how to write hard and fast. Now, it’s time for thoughtful and well.” Very true, and more to the point, to have the courage to move on from one project to another. I talk about safety and my tendency to avoid, and I believe one of the reasons I start new stories is because it’s safe and I can avoid the shark tank of querying.

      But as I mentioned to JM above, I have grown restless. It’s time to take my writing journey to the next level.

      I’m glad that this post helped you decide. I look forward to hearing more about your own writing goals!

  6. As you know, I did NaNo last year, it was my first time, and I’m really glad I did it because I’d never seen a novel through to the end – I know obviously it isn’t the end if you want to do something with the novel, but in terms of seeing a novel story through to the story’s end, it was my first time (hopefully you understand what I’m saying somewhere in there!). The point being, it proved to me that I can write volume if I set my mind to it. I definitely can’t do it this year with my MA studies, but I’ll be cheering those that do. What you are using it for sounds perfect, like you say, using the aspects of it that will help move your WIP on is a great thing to do. Good luck with it!

    • I get you! And I felt that way in my earlier NaNo’s, because there is an end goal — 50,000 words in 30 days. So, theoretically, we are writing to the end. And there are a lot of people who take those stories and develop them into final drafts. NaNo is really a great writing outlet, and it can be used in different ways so that we can get the most out of it.

      Good luck with your MA!

      • Yes, I did actually do something more with my NaNo story last year. I developed the first three chapters more fully, and submitted them to a pocket novel publisher – they declined it, but gave me some constructive feedback (I posted about it on Limebird several months back). So even though I haven’t done any more with it since, I still felt pleased with myself that I had done SOMETHING with it. I still believe in the story I wrote, but it needs an awful lot more work. Maybe after the MA I’ll go back to it!

  7. Good for you!

    I’m not doing NaNo this time as I’m still recovering from July’s Camp NaNo, but I agree that it’s about getting you into the writing zone for what you want to write. Happy November writing :)

  8. Not sure if I’m going to do nano this year or not – am thinking of using it to completely redo the novel I wrote last year. They say keep writing, keep going even if you mess up, you can cut that out later, etc. I’m left with three large novel chunks and an ending that is not at all what I had wanted. So I’m going to redo the entire thing. I will try to work some of the first into it, but not very much actually.
    As far as Facebook and the nano site, there IS a powerful kinship between nano folks, they are eager and fast to help one another!

    • I think using NaNo to redo the novel is a great idea! I agree that sometimes writing just to write can create problems. I feel like it is more important sometimes to take our time and be careful with our stories. I guess it all depends on our relationship with the story. Good luck with it!

  9. I have never done NaNo and not sure I will, but I think it’s great for everyone who does participate! It does show growth on your part to recognize you don’t need another 50,000 story – but to move your current story to the next level. It sounds like you’ve followed a great schedule of writing and rewriting and it looks like you are right on track for that next draft. Good luck!! I hope the momentum and positive energy of NaNo helps get you through it! Can’t wait to hear how it goes :)

  10. I’m doing NaNo again. I have like five different projects that I’m going to be working on, even though I told myself that I would be editing a different novel instead. So, good for you to sticking with your plan! Really, I should be doing what you’re doing. I have so many drafts and not one of them is really query-ready. One is almost there, but I guess I’ll be working on that in December.

    But yeah, like someone else said, there’s a rebel forum on the NaNo forums page for people who are doing stuff other than writing a new first draft at the start of the month. And I think it’s great that you found a way to use NaNo to accomplish your other goals. Good luck! :)

  11. I’ve always wondered why NaNo had to be a new novel idea. Why not take a WIP and add 50K words to that. I just commented on a friend’s blog that in the end, it’s the words that count, not the word count. If the atmosphere is what it takes to get someone motivated then the outcome will be good whether they hit the ‘magic’ number of words or not. I think your idea to work on your third draft is an excellent way to use the system. Good luck to you.

  12. I think it makes perfect sense to work on your third draft during NaNo. After all, isn’t the purpose to commit and write daily? It shouldn’t matter what form that takes as long as the work is done. I did my own flurry of writing over the summer. It’s amazing what working every day, whether one feels like it or not, can achieve. Good luck!

    • Right, writing every day – regardless of word count is really what helps us progress with our projects. I am thankful for the experiences I had in NaNo, but I am ready to move on.

  13. I loved doing Nano a few years ago and whenever November comes around now, I think maybe I’ll do it again but then I don’t for the same reasons. That’s a great idea to tap into that environment and support. Maybe I’ll try it your way this time around by at least committing to writing every day, which I don’t do anymore but really should try to get back into (not counting blogging)! I love your way of meditating. I’ll have to try that too. :)

    • Writing every day is easy for me only because I do it at such a crazy time of day. Well, that plus I love writing, so getting up early to write is no big deal. Now, getting up at 4 to work out? Nope.

      I think you should try to use the energy of NaNo to write daily, Sheila. It is a great way to get sucked into a project, because so many other people are eager to accomplish goals. It is easier to write in a positive atmosphere.

  14. I love NaNo, but I’ve also been having the same feelings as you describe. I haven’t touched last year’s project and the one I wrote before that is in second draft form. I have a tendency to use NaNo as a break from my current projects, or to get stories I can work on “someday” when I finish what I’m working on. But I’ve got a bit of a break around November. Sort of. So I’m saying I’m going to do NaNo, but I will wait until the last minute to see whether or not I commit. :)

    • It is nice to have a break from working on one project, yet write something else. I do believe writing every day is extremely beneficial. And what’s nice in that respect is that you can plan your Novembers around current writing projects. For instance, setting a deadline for a draft before November 1 and putting it aside for the month of November and do NaNo.

      Well, if you decide to do NaNo, good luck!

  15. Going to give nano a go this year! Writing about a girl growing up during the Cold War who has some special…shall we say…insights? …oh n I totally think you can meditate with a beer in your hand!…I just prefer a funky monkey…;)

    • Hi Andrea,

      Ooh, your story sounds intriguing. I like the word ‘insights’. Should make for an interesting read! I’m so glad you think that’s a form of meditation. I’ll use that term from now on. ;) And I’ll have to try meditating with a funky monkey, that might produce more creative thought processes!

      Thanks for swinging by and commenting!

  16. Ha! Contemplating with a beer in hand totally counts as meditation as far as I’m concerned.

    Well, I just heard about NaNo last year, around the time I was publishing novel two. It’s here again, but I’m knee deep in you-know-what with this editing business for novel three. Kind of thinking I’m one of those NaNo rebels…I tend to dance to my own beat.

    • Then I meditate frequently. ;)

      I really am glad that I tried NaNo a few times because I got three novel ideas on paper with some sort of potential. Of course, they all have to be completely rewritten for them to even serve up anything substantial but I proved to myself that I can write more than one book. That’s kinda important. :)

  17. I also don’t think I will be doing NaNo this year. Every time I write something, and it’s always never good enough to make into anything useful, so I feel like I’ll save myself the time! :) I’ll be on the sidelines cheering everyone on though! xx

  18. NaNo is not for people who have a wedding to plan and pull off in November. I doubt I’ll get hardly any writing done this next month. But kudos who all those writers who do. I’m a wee bit jealous of them right now.

  19. I’ve signed up again this year and can’t wait to give myself over to this crazy time of writing. With every NaNo challenge, I’ve grown as a writer. I love that result much more than the 50k words I produce. Yet, I do have a story idea that I’ll be bringing to life using the great NaNoWriMo machine. Maybe this time it’ll be the novel that I polish into a salable manuscript. We shall see! In any case, I’ll have an excuse to have excess amounts of coffee, chocolate, and Red Vines near my laptop for a month.

    • I completely agree, Darla — NaNo is a great source of inspiration for writers and offers the potential to grow and develop. That is why I love it, too. And that is why I’ll turn to that positive atmosphere to help me write the third draft. I really do get a kick out of seeing and reading about writers coming together over turning an idea into a story. Good luck with your NaNo story!

  20. I have great respect for NaNo, but I have never participated. I set my own deadlines and work on projects as they need to be moved forward. I’ve never tried to align things so that November is the time to draft a new project. I think if you can set deadlines and adhere to them, you can honor the spirit of NaNo in November without actually drafting from scratch. ;)

    • Setting and adhering to deadlines is really an important skill for writers, and NaNo is a great tool in that regard. Before NaNo, I never really tried to write something to a deadline. So, that challenge was helpful for me and showed me what I am capable of. I think you are exactly right – we can honor the spirit of NaNo without actually participating in the traditional sense.

    • Hi D.G.,
      The more and more I think about it, I feel less and less regretful that I’m bypassing the 50,000 word novel. :) I so love the energy of NaNo though, and already I have felt the positive push to get working on that third draft. I hope you’re enjoying your writing, too!

  21. I think you should be proud of doing it 3 times. And maybe you’ll decide to join again. I didn’t do it last year because it wasn’t the right time. I agree with you about taking what one has already written through the final polish and pitch.

    And BTW – you inspired me earlier this year. I had a long-term film gig and had no time to write. After a few months I asked myself if I was going to complain or do something about it, so I started getting up at 5:30 AM to write. I’ve never done that before. Sure, I came home even more tired, but I was much happier. And proud. So, thanks!

    • I think third drafts are fun but intimidating in that you can really see if you have a worthwhile book or not. I am excited to work on the WIP and time will tell how it all goes down.

      That’s awesome you pushed yourself to write! 5:30 am is early, really, and most people simply can’t get their brains to function at that hour. That obviously speaks to your determination to get your story written, that’s really the key. Books don’t write themselves, so we have to make it happen.

      I’m proud of you, too. You’re welcome. :)

  22. Where did this post go in my reader? I didn’t see it, so when I clicked on your “popular” post in the “like” email I got from you, I found this post. hmmmm…clearly, I don’t know how to set preferences, or my delete button found it’s way to the wrong email. Anyway, I fully support your decision. It seems very clear-headed and well though through, despite the beer. Perhaps if you had been drinking champagne-in-a-can, you would have come to a different conclusion. :o)
    To the keyboard, no matter the WIP!

    • Rumors abound that WP notifications were lost or some such thing around the time this post went live. There were a couple of days I didn’t receive any email notifications from anyone, which actually made me happy. I was so far behind with my blogging that I thought I could catch up if no one was posting as often! No such luck. I received a triple whammy of emails a couple of days later.

      I am already missing NaNo, but I don’t regret my decision. I feel more energized because I’m challenging myself on a higher level.

      I save the champagne-in-a-can for special occasions, Jilanne. This didn’t quite qualify. ;)

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